The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) is pleased to present an exhibition of contemporary paintings from Nigerian artists Tola Wewe and Abiodun Olaku, and sculptures from the Zimbabwean artist Phillip Kotokwa. This group exhibition celebrates the artistic achievements of three distinct artists from West and Southern Africa.
Abiodun Olaku works are inspired by his passion for paintings and the city of Lagos. His works capture its landscape and people in a constant state of flux. This activity is encapsulated back to the viewer in compositions of magnificent stillness. His paintings are instantly recognisable for the realistic and dramatic chiaroscuro; contrasting an intensely dark and somber background with a brilliant application of light - literally and metaphorically capturing the "resilient vibrancy of socio-economic life in the city". The entire effect results in taking the viewer beyond the picture and effectively rendering them a participant in the narrative.
Olaku states " While I am not a compulsive slave to the 'isms and schisms' of art, it is of deep passionate concern to me that my art communicates, and stirs the spirit of the viewer, irrespective of time and space, I operate with a strong reliance on the principles, theories, formulae, and spirit that have guaranteed the enduring strength and essence of true, evocative art. I try very hard to tell my 'stories' with some reasonably unambiguous conviction. Honesty of purpose always serves me a respectable portion of satisfaction, because I believe that every artist will ultimately submit to the supreme critique of time. Time always tells. Therefore, I tend to be insulated against the various contending forces that trail the contemporary art scene, since I believe they are mostly weak, short-rooted trends".
Tola Wewe is a founding member of the Ona movement that emerged in February, 1989. The Onaism school of thought has its interest in the revival of the indigenous Yoruba aesthetic, with artists committed to pursuing artistic excellence through the adaptation and interpretation of traditional materials and methods, forms and styles of contemporary Yoruba aesthetic - fusing symbols and philosophies and experimentation with local materials, patterns and images.
Tola describes himself more as a witness than an author, "communicating with the spirits of the ancestors, and drawing out the invisible spirits - the anjonnu, emere and the ebora - who make the art works...I am the vehicle, and they are the drivers. We go on these strange journeys to the most remote ends of imaginative experience."
Shona works have come to be synonymous with the largest tribe in Zimbabwe engaged in stone sculpting in the country. Each piece is unique both in the natural patterns found in the rock and the expression made by the sculptor's hands. And, none are more unique that those made by Phillip Kotokwa. Working on the most demanding stones including leopard rock, granite, serpentine, and spring stone, Kotokwa explores with zeal his ancient cultural and spiritual heritage, beyond the cosmopolitan realities of his city life.
Phillip feels that a powerful imagination is relevant to the success of a sculptor working in stone: the ways in which the imagination can embellish the facts in such a way that the story becomes more interesting and absorbing to the viewer.