Adeola Balogun in Conversation with Oliver Enwonwu

Who is Adeola Balogun?

I was born in 1966 in Ota, Ogun State. I had my elementary school in Lagos, post primary school in Ota and tertiary schools in Lagos at Yaba College of Technology and in Edo State at University of Benin. I am a visual artist cum teacher in the same field. The current exhibition, Soundspiration happens to be my sixth solo show, while I have
participated in several group shows within and outside Nigeria. The Obafemi Awolowo and Funso Williams’ statue in Lagos metropolis are amongst my public commissions.

Where do you live presently and work?

I have my home/studio located in the hinterland of Lagos (Alagbado), while I teach in the Fine Art Department of Yaba College of Technology.

What is the underlying philosophy behind your art?

I believe every being is endowed with a bit of talent in every sphere of human endeavour. The only difference is that some appear to have it more heightened in a particular field than others. As a toddler, I intuitively practiced art, thus, I discovered my inherent ability to visualize and realize my subjects. In this regard I believe it is pertinent for me to constantly allow vision to transcend perceived reality, to realize the unknown, which I always yearn for in my visual interpretations and deliberations.

Please describe your creative process?

My visual deliberations are constantly channeled towards interpreting and satisfying my visual perceptions and sensibilities, which could occur overtly in my representation or obscurely in abstract works. Naturally, what I perceive; see, hear and feel has impact on my creative exploration. With a preconceived idea of my subject or concept, I apply virgin or used, ready-made materials to execute my concept. I try to absorb and collaborate with used, ready-made materials, especially in my mixedmedia genre with little or no alteration to their peculiar characteristics. What inspires your selection of materials in your creative process? I see every tangible material as a potential ally in my creative process. Therefore, it is not out of order to describe my approach as eclectic. I seek for the co-operation of a myriad of tangibles in my vicinity and re-engage them in my visual deliberations. The tyre is regarded world-wide as a menace because of its non-biodegradable properties. However, this feature makes it ideal for my art practice. Its abundant availability also informs my choice of this particular medium at this time.

Has sculpture always been your preferred medium? What themes are you drawn to and what interests you the most?

At school it was mandatory to specialize in the visual arts. It was a bit difficult for me to decide because I was far above average in all my courses in the first two years. To resolve my dilemma, the simple question I asked myself was “What have I been practicing intuitively as a child?” The response I got from the depth of my heart was “Sculpture.” That settled it. However, because of my eclectic style, I roamed all various departments of the fine arts, refusing to be restricted by the nomenclature of sculpture. It is not unusual to find some elements of painting, printing, textile, graphics and ceramics in my work. As regards my themes, there are lots of critical issues about my society, from which I generate a lot of ideas.

Can you please explain the inspiration behind the series of sculptures for this exhibition? What do you hope to achieve from their collective impact?

I have always been fascinated by the inherent aesthetic appeal in musical instruments, most especially, the saxophone and trumpet; though I can only fiddle with them. I have engaged them in my visual deliberations in
series over the years. The body of work I am presenting in this show is more or less a culmination of my exploration of these instruments. The two elements that resonate in most of the works; the tyre and the musical instrument, represent the idea of conveyance or transition. They are applied by man as a vehicle via which he is transported physically and transcendentally, respectively towards his aspirations, be them noble or otherwise. As such, the materials are applied metaphorically to address some critical issues in respect of man and his environment. It is also
important for us to know that when we take care of our environment, it reciprocates the gesture. The decibel level and arrangement of a sound will define it as noisy or musical. Deafening sound is continuously generated in our environment, which inflicts serious health hazards on people. It is imperative and pertinent to reduce noise in whatever guise for a saner society. In my own little way, through the use of tyres, I am also reducing the inherent health challenge that could arise from its improper disposal.

You are well known for your sculptures of bulls in diverse materials including metal and automobile tyres, but your recent work explores human forms in musical performances. What is responsible for this shift in subject?

Time and season are attached to everything in nature. When I pick a particular theme, my aim is always geared towards exploring it to my satisfaction, which is difficult at times. In this regard, my attention could be directed to another subject of interest. An encounter with a particular material or experience can still ignite my passion on the same theme I had addressed in the past. The subject I am addressing with this body of work is about humanity, hence, it is not out of order to see the human figure in this body of work.

People, especially Nigerians are skeptical about work concerned mostly with contemporary issues, how will this impact on your artistic direction?

Just as a shadow will point to the object which casts it, arts in general have the propensity to reflect their source. However, it becomes boring if they reflect the way a mirror does. According to Ernst Fischer, “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.” Talking about the lack of food, water, light and corruption – all these according to Fela, “Na old story be dat.”

How do we halt the negative trend?

I believe in focusing on the positive side through my work. Some of your works are not so self explanatory, and bear titles such as; I Want to Know, Inner Sanctum and Vestiges.

Can you explain the inspiration behind these abstract works?

The kind of material I encounter and the subject I intend to address can significantly contribute to the direction of my work. As such, my work could be realistic, representative, stylized or pure abstract. To a great extent, the materials I used contributed immensely to the series of work in abstract labeled, Veiled in my current oeuvre. The materials gave me the leverage to engage some of my themes conceptually. Some of your pieces interestingly blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture like, Immensely.

Can you please say more about your experiments in this direction?

Like I stated earlier on, when working, the process I adopt for the execution of a particular piece could prompt me to navigate through various techniques in realizing my visual deliberations. Multiple techniques could at times, be engaged to realize a single piece. I see myself as a visual artist, as such, I do not perceive any hindrance or restriction in my materials and technique.

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