Saturday, 30 January 2010

Aje…native strokes in the Diaspora

YESTERDAY, the US-based Nigerian artist, Jide Aje, opened his solo show, New Mixed Media, at Gallery: 2739 Edwin, Hamtramck, Michigan.
Scheduled to end on February 27, the show also incorporates Artist’s Talk and Gallery Tour holding on Saturday February 20.
According to Aje, his work reflects a deep interest in African culture and a constant experimentation with new creative processes.
He says, “its content, primarily, but not exclusively, is from Yoruba traditional sources and derives from a background that contrasts rural and urban, traditional and modern, African and Western.”
Most of the works available on soft copies are untitled. But in such work as Pupa, Dudu ati Funfun: (Red, Black and White) the art of his native Yoruba culture is explored.
He explains that it is about the use of colour in pre-industrial times and in traditional societies. “My work is inspired by a wide variety of themes and influences. I use African iconography, especially West African decorative motifs as the jumping-off point.”
However, the abstract expressionism content of his native art boldly adapted in most of the works, perhaps, create a balance for the mixed tastes.
“Sometimes, I incorporate traditional colour schemes as well. Working from the viewpoint that culture is dynamic, I attempt to re-work the symbols to fit modern context,” he says.
The artist’s leaning towards highly textured surface is pronounced in some of the works.
He states: “I would say my work is simply the result of constant search and experimentation or the product of creative freedom in which the process is more important than the outcome. I’m a product of the convergence of several influences, experiences and traditions. For example; the African and the European/Western; traditional and modern; formal and informal; urban and rural. We can therefore conclude from my experiences that I am many things in different contexts: an American raised in Africa and at the same time an African artist living and working in the Diaspora.”

AJE’s career started with a degree in Painting from the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife, Osun State. He later studied Industrial Design at the Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, US.
He says, pursuing careers as artist has been nomadic, sometimes interrupted “by movement: Ile-Ife to Lagos; Lagos to Kansas City; Kansas City to Detroit.”
From painting, he ventured into industrial design, working in an auto industry in the U.S.
“My devotion to regular studio works started about 10 years ago. I moved to Detroit to pursue a career in the automotive industry and eventually ended up moving to the City of Hamtramck,” Aje explains.

LIKE most artists, his early exposure to drawings at elementary school years, Aje explains, was a foundation period that later helped his art, “under the tutelage of Prof. Rowland Abiodun, Prof. Moyo Okediji and Prof. Bolaji Campbell of the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art (Painting major).”
Some of his past exhibitions are Jide Aje: 75th Anniversary All Media Show Detroit Artist’s Market (2007); 11th Annual Black Fine Art Show, New York City, (2007); Heritage: Brilliance Part 2 at the National Conference of Artists, (2007); Exquisite Corpse at Hamtramck Art Collective (Hatch); Cafe 1923, Hamtramck.
Others include National Conference of Artists, Michigan Annual Fund Raiser; Embrace-2007: Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora.

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