Thirty three works mainly in sculpted steel and incorporating mechanical parts are the subject of Adeola Balogun’s second solo at the Omenka Gallery. Many of them, hollow and spherical in shape are indicative of the artists new direction, in marked contrast from the sound installation and sculptures fashioned out of rubber tires and presented at his 2013 Soundspiration exhibition at the same gallery.
This penchant for experimentation or propensity to evolve is perhaps the hallmark or defining quality of Balogun’s art, contributing to his reputation as one of an exceptional generation of artists distinguished for embracing unconventional media and techniques, as well as for their interrogation of a broader society.
Today, Balogun metaphorically employs soap bubbles for the pent up frustrations and angst of the Nigerian populace, directed at their corrupt leaders, largely held responsible for a failing economy, high rates of unemployment and poor infrastructural development. The extreme thinness and iridescence of the film of soapy water are properties the artist utilises in his critique of contemporary African politics– the fragility and ephemeral nature of the bubbles alluding to the ineffective agitations, which fall on the deaf ears of the politicians. In the same vein, the different colours seen in a soap bubble that arise from the constructive and destructive interference of light reflecting off the front and back surface of the thin soap film, may be explained away as the several issues that arise from a societal fabric built on federal character rather than on merit.
As if to intensify and raise awareness of societal ills, Balogun sculpts flowers devoid of fragrance and offering only hard steel edges. In other works, skeletons are stripped bare of flesh and strewn across arm chairs with grounded wheels. Some yet, depict uncomfortable springs that were once beds of comfort while a few in somewhat raw forms expose gears and his medium in an unfinished state.
Altogether, the works mirror the state of inertia of the Nigerian community and are at once, categorical statements to describe our societal fabric. Adeola Balogun thus exemplifies the evolving role of the artist today as a social commentator, a lone voice of conscience, perhaps a last bastion of hope for the common man.