By Godwin Okondo
RENOUNED mixed media artist Olu Amoda is currently holding his fourth solo exhibition, ‘Carte Blanche’ at Art Twenty One, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. The exhibition runs till January 29, 2022 and presents the artist’s body of work created over the past three years that addresses the diverse expressions in contemporary sculpture portrayed in the use of material, techniques, technologies, forms, and style in today’s Nigeria.
Combining repurposed materials, mild steel objects, nails, rods, aluminum and wood, the artist invites audiences to engage with sculptural works clad in social and political layers that are not easily deciphered as the viewer encounters them.
The exhibition brings together Amoda’s recent experimentation as an environmental scientist and thematically focuses on banditry, state-sponsored execution, and brutal acts against humanity. Amoda embraces the world as his living theatre and places Nigeria at the centre stage for observing the many crimes that have remained unsolved and press freedom globally.
According to Amoda, “The threat to urban dispositions is now endemic, as evident in power structures in government and the private sector – every class, household, school, association, and business. The revered civility in our collective consciousness has gone over time. It appears the proverbial village has given up on raising the kid. The use of art as a tool for social discourse has created an inflection where artists are interceding for the art— no more art for art’s sake.
“The “about” has become more significant than the “on” comfort zone for most art critics. Significant numbers of art critics and journalists now thrive on the “about,” thus negating the discourse of art history interception to contemporary art-making. One of the strategies explored in this body of work is using the familiar to uncover the unknown where each piece challenges what is seen and expressed as artwork. They are complex in composition but mirror today’s society’s organized chaos, the eternal desire to accumulate more than we need. The ants in their colony will marvel at how humans have managed so far and not extinct themselves. Today’s challenge is about one’s ability to disrupt.”
Amoda explained that some of the artworks being exhibited are gigantic because it is choice that an artist has and it is an expression of what best brings my intent out.
“The scale of the artworks depicts the magnitude of problems that we are going through. If you have a space where you can exhibit large artworks, then why don’t you do it? Though most of these works are created in Lagos, the challenge of moving them from the studio to this place is very minimal.
“So, I could make the artworks big but also there are small works being exhibited as well which is a choice that I have. I did the works either large or small because that is the best way that I can express what I have in mind.
“Every work that you see has contact with human beings and there are things that I bring into my work and when I do in that case, it is to bring the latent energy of the object itself that has contact with human beings into my works.”
He further explained, “When I am creating an artwork, I have three or more strategies that I use in my creative process. I use the forensic aspect which means that you look at the crime scene, every time an object is thrown away or you pick it from the scrap yard, it looks like a crime scene because it’s there for you to uncover.
“People tend to use found objects as one of the descriptions for their works. A lot of people have come across that same object; they passed by it but you are the only one that will stop by to pick it.
“What I’m saying in effect is that every work you see here, there is collaboration with that material. I respect the material integrity whatever the material holds and I bring it into my creative work because there is so much about creativity.
“Taking literary works and bringing them into sculpture is also like taking your story about end users and bringing it into your work. In that case, what I was doing is not to be too serious but at the same time deal with issues that are very serious. What I did in one of the works is to take the play, and ascribe objects to the character. I looked at Prof. Wole Soyinka’s plays and brought their characters into the artworks.
“What I have done is by using objects as characters and also reversed the traditional role of fear-sell. When you go to see a play, the audience is quiet and you are static and so the actors move and gesticulate while the audience is static. So, I reversed the role where the characters are static and the voice in the play is your own interpretation. The key point in all these elements is that something that is serious can be made as a joke but the artworks you cannot dismiss.”
Some of the artworks exhibited include ‘Atite FunFun I & II,’ ‘Alternative Facts Twisted,’ ‘Concentri Love Feast,’ ‘Sweet $ Sour I & II,’ ‘Iris,’ ‘Black Calabash,’ ‘Allure,’ ‘Nkechi I & II,’ ‘Street Vendor,’ ‘Monsura Agbo I & II,’ ‘Eleshin Obasi III’, ‘Glee’ (Footballers), ‘Girl IV,’ ‘New Normal – The Divide Between Good and Evil’, among others.
Olu Amoda (Nigeria, b. Okere, Warri; 1959) has worked consistently over the past three decades to create a sculptural language that has unique character and beauty. Working as a sculptor, muralist, furniture designer, and multimedia artist, Amoda is best known for using repurposed materials found from the detritus of consumer culture. His works often incorporate rusty nails, metal plates, bolts, pipes and rods that are welded together to create figures, animals, flora and ambiguous forms.
Amoda uses these materials to explore socio-political issues relating to Nigerian culture today, from sex, politics, race and conflict to consumerism and economic distribution. His seminal body of work, ‘Sunflower,’ explores the connection between mass industry and the organic that won him top prize at the DAK’ART Biennale in Dakar, Senegal in 2014.
More recently, Amoda has experimented with new materials and processes as he examines issues of privacy, surveillance, and voyeurism in the Nigerian urban environment.
Amoda graduated in sculpture from Auchi Polytechnic, Nigeria, and received a Master’s Degree of Fine Arts from Georgia Southern University, USA. Amoda has participated in exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), the Museum of Art and Design (New York), Skoto Gallery (New York), Georgia Southern University (USA), Didi Museum (Nigeria), WIPO Headquarters (Switzerland), and Art Twenty One (Nigeria), among others. He has completed residencies at Villa Arson (France), The Bag Factory (South Africa), Appalachian State University (North Carolina), and the New York Design Museum.
His work is included in many prestigious art collections including the Newark Museum and Fondation Blachère. Amoda has taught Sculpture and Drawing at the School of Art, Design and Printing. Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, since 1987.