• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Ayoola Gbolahan: Master artist, expressing craft beyond painting


If you are wondering what it means to be an experimental artist, there is someone who aptly fits into that description, amid thoroughness and depth in his work.

From taking on bold works that challenge his creative ingenuity, trying his hands on many media, not being afraid to make mistakes, and even churning out great pieces of works from adventuring beyond his brush and palette, Ayoola Gbolahan is the artist to beat anytime.

Read also: More artists, workshops, competitions to boost 2024 AMIAF’s Sculptor’s Odyssey

Since debuting in the Nigerian art scene in 1998, Gbolahan has never declined in his level of creative ingenuity; rather he enthralls the art scene with breathtaking works and creative imaginations that leave the viewers with different appeals, feelings and appreciation of his craft as well.

Moreover, the gifted and prolific visual artist, who is based in Lagos, amid garnering continuous inspiration through the study of human anthropology and the exploration of spirituality, sees art as sacred. If he cannot see a future piece through visions, he will not paint, and when he sees such and paints, the outcome is usually masterpieces.

Of course, credit goes to his mentors at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, where he graduated in Fine Art, and further honed his skills at a residency with Tola Wewe, a renowned Nigerian painter.

All these are playing out in his current exhibition, which opened on March 30, 2024 at Fresco Gallery, #24 Rasheed Alaba Williams Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Titled, “Solitude: The fortunate loneliness of being on a path less traveled”, a limited edition print of 50 prints that included 10 original works.

At the opening of the exhibition the painter said that the show is about print, like a reproduction of original works.

“It could have been machine printed directly from the original print. It is more than that. We took parts of the original work and did digital work on them. We also printed them. It is a kind of mixed media work, though they are in multiple editions,” he explained.

He also explained why the works are limited edition saying, “They are limited because we have to create multiples of each one”.

Most importantly, the artist is stepping up his craft this time by working a new medium in a kind of adventure that is tasking his creativity and at the same time enabling him to experiment.

He believes that as an artist, using other media to deliver your work is growth and part of what you must do.

“Most of us started with drawing in primary school with pencil. I moved on to painting with colours, I sculpt, but I started with ceramics. Today, I do many other things all in art,” he said.

Further explaining the rationale for the experiment, he said, “The focus for me is on the medium that I used because till now I have never worked in this medium before. I have never done anything print, and I have never done animation like you are seeing on the screen. I have been a painter and sculptor which are popular in the media.

“So, this is a new experience for me, working in this medium itself. As much as people are spectators, I am equally a spectator at my own show because I want to see how they are beyond the studio walls where I created them”.

With the new medium, Ayoola expects people to come and experience his practice, while also delivering the same consistent message that I have always delivered.

Why the choice of print for the experiment?

“I chose to go this way because I have been dabbling into the idea seven years ago. I made a few samples of prints but just kept them in my studio. It is not today that I started, but it is something that I said if I will do it, I have to take my time,” he said.

He confessed that the use of the medium is the real interest for him, which is also spurring him to experiment more.

“I have started watching animation and for two weeks I have been researching making a short film. So, it keeps getting interesting”.

Again, the enthralling works of the artist, who work in different series, speak volumes on his creativity.

Two of his series are dominant in the exhibition. “I have the Blue Woman series and We Are The Re-Agents series. These prints are taken from these two major series that I work on.”

We Are The Re-Agents series

At the opening at Fresco Gallery, Ayoola explained the works to viewers. Pointing at one of the works in the We Are The Re-Agents series, he explained that the work is a portrait of people in different experiences. “I will say that it is like a language I am trying to make into pictures. You know how you look at hieroglyphics, they are series of drawings but people can read them like a message.

“That is pretty much what I want to do with this series though it looks like a figure, I am writing a whole story using different pictures to tell that story on just that one body alone”.

The Blue Woman series

But The Blue Woman series seems to draw more attention from the viewers.

It also has a unique antecedent. Explaining the series and its uniqueness, Ayoola said, “It is an aberration that appeared to me in a dream in 2007. At that point in time it was literal for me to paint my dreams. I think I painted the dream but I did not complete the painting until 2011.

“I was gradually trying to understand her and till today it is difficult to understand her, I am not a woman. She has taken me on a nice journey so far.

“I have painted about 40 works for the Blue Woman series in all these years but about five or six are being showcased in the exhibition,” he said.

Meanwhile, Glenfiddich, the sponsor and Fresco Gallery, the host, are excited to be part of Ayoola’s current solo exhibition, considering the creative ingenuity on display by the artist.

According to Abba Idoko, communications manager for Ledrop Group, representing Glenfiddich, for which Ayoola is a maverick collaborator, “Ayoola, as a true maverick, consistently exceeds expectations. We are thrilled to be a part of his creative journey, bringing joy and celebration to life.”

Also, Fresco Gallery, through Ima Ekpo, its founder and gallerist, is delighted to unveil Gbolahan Ayoola’s debut original print edition, while describing the collaborating with Ayoola to bring the exhibition and body of work to life as a beautiful journey that will offer art lovers and collectors a fresh perspective on Ayoola’s iconic expressions.

The exhibition runs until April 27, 2024 at Fresco Gallery, #24 Rasheed Alaba Williams Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.