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The Crux of the… Fringe

At the centre of Fringe, an exhibition of the latest body of work by Olu Amoda, are currents of contemporary issues.

The show is about privacy- a topical issue of the time. The palpable invasion of both individual and group spaces by technology in today’s world resonates in the artist’s use of icons of modernity such as cameras, bugs and lights, steel to create installations, relief and works of art. The public and privacy discourse that Amoda has provoked in his visual statements seek to challenge notions and perceptions about how privacy and public issues, affect or influence everyone.

Amoda believes that “just as Adam and Eve lost their innocence after eating the forbidden fruit, we also lose our privacy the moment we buy any of these electronic devices such as television, camera, mobile phones, etc. This is eloquently captured in the work “For your Selfies.” A wall installation composed of several hundreds of camera-like forms mercilessly staring at the viewer. This work brings to mind the number of hand-helds, laptops, desktops, CCTV and sundry surveillance and spy cameras that constantly take or steal images from bedrooms and bathrooms, streets and sitting rooms, hotels and hostels.

Olu Amoda, Nude Figure 2014

 We are ceaselessly bombarded by these images which find outlets in the media and sometimes get to people unsolicited for. It is a growing scourge scary to contemplate.

Alu Amoda, For Your Selfies, 2014.

In explaining the female nude forms rendered in framed flat metal sheets, Amodu says that these women represent the workers of the commercial sex industry in Nigeria. “Rather than preaching morality and viewing pornography as taboo, the female sensuality is celebrated.” Therefore, the nude series blurs the intersection of reality and fantasy.  Viewed from a slightly different perspective, Amoda has also drawn attention, to the objectification of the female form in the popular media. Internet Pop-ups, television adverts, social media, and various media, hit your senses. Is Amoda’s celebration of the female based on the pristine intention at the beginning of creation, as highlighted by Mechelangelo’s nude figures in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican City?   Or is his celebration, of the intent and purpose that draws from the ‘celebration’ of the female form in the popular media?  How much of public nudity is the society willing to accept from the women we adore – Wives, sisters and daughters, and will the art, media and society ever do without nudity or its censorship?

The installation “NSA Columns and Balls” comprising four columns and 33 see-through metal balls, is a highlight on the use of privacy-invading devices by government establishment for the ‘safety’ of citizens which is sometimes exploited to rein in opposition. It is scary to live with the awareness of being watched or the thought of being stalked by strangers who peep into your private world.  The meshed columns and balls, according to Amoda, represent the establishments and the compromised privacies. In one of his installations, he created four columns, to which the artist attached mini cameras, while on another work, secretly mounted gadgets are shown, tapping sounds from unwary persons within the exhibition space.

Amoda has been consistent in the visual art scene in Nigeria. A graduate of Auchi Polytechnic and Georgia Southern University where he obtained a Masters degree in Fine Arts. He has taught Sculpture and Drawing at the School of Art, Design and Printing at Yaba College of Technology in Lagos since 1987. His primary medium is steel and he has explored it significantly as can be seen in this recent body of work. His handling of the steel medium shows his vigorous pursuit for great content and aesthetic excellence and a repertoire of skill accumulated over time from practice. His lyrical linear technique turns his metal into flexible lines of the corporeal medium as seen in “Eye of the Storm”. He makes steel appear flexible like pencil marks or brush strokes against the background. In works like “Ring My Bell,” “Sunday Outing” Amoda transforms blocks of found objects into a series of female figures in different poses in an equally expressive technique.

Olu Amoda, Ring My Bell (Scrap Metal), 2014

Amoda’s career spanning almost 30 years has seen him participate in several exhibitions in many parts of the world such as Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), the Museum of Art and Design (New York), Skoto Gallery (New York), WIPO Headquarters (Switzerland) in addition to several exhibitions in Nigeria. He has received several recognitions in the past including a top prize at the DAK’ART Biennale in 2014 with one of the works in the exhibition titled “Sunflower”.

Fringe, an exhibition by Olu Amoda was shown at ART TWENTY ONE, Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. The show climaxed with an Artist Talk and Panel Discussion, titled “New Tendencies in Contemporary Sculpture,” on April 8, 2015, at 6 pm.

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