For immediate release:
18th February 2019
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London’s TAFETA Gallery to Present Exhibition of Contemporary Nigerian Artists, Babajide Olatunji and Niyi Olagunju, at Art Central in Hong Kong
Hong Kong--TAFETA is pleased to present contemporary Nigerian artists Babajide Olatunji and Niyi Olagunju for the first time in Hong Kong.
Babajide Olatunji’s hyperrealist drawings and paintings are the result of extensive research into the age-old cultural practices of his indigenous Yoruba culture, most notably the traditional cosmetic practice of scarification featured in his Tribal Marks Series I, II and III (2014-18).
With the rigour and dexterity of a trained botanist, Olatunji’s finely detailed Tribal Marks drawings executed in charcoal and pastel, present the viewer with nuanced, lively characters - each with their own biographies. Olatunji does not use sitters or models for his portraits but rather develops personalities from the rich and endless possibilities of his imagination, developed through years of studying faces.
For Art Central, Hong Kong, Olatunji has produced his largest work to date and his first using acrylic on canvas. Spanning more than 4 metres in length, History of the Yorubas (Volume I) Obatala’s time at the forge of Sokoti (Alagbede Orun) is inspired by the Yoruba creation myth in which Obatala, a member of Olodumare's council of gods thought it wise to create mankind. After receiving Olodumare's blessing, Obatala asked Orunmila, the god of wisdom and knowledge, for advice concerning his enterprise.
Olatunji activates this myth to depict an imaginary scene in which Obatala visits the forge of Sokotí to inspect a commissioned work - a gold chain long and strong enough to reach Ode Aye (earth) from Isalu Orun (the abode of the gods).
The painting is suffused with hidden proverbs and meanings, including triangular composition arrangements, which reflect the Yoruba belief in the significance of the number three. The Yorubas believe that a man’s sojourn on earth is in three parts: Morning represents the birth of man, Afternoon represents the growth, vicissitudes, and acme of man and Night is decline and death.
Obatala is centrally positioned in the painting as the creator of life on earth. He emerges from a mythical past to return the viewers’ gaze at this intersection between past, present and future.
Niyi Olagunju’s sculptures are an ongoing exploration of global trade and what he describes as the "commoditisation of everything."
Olagunju’s appropriation of traditional Baga Nimba shoulder masks of Guinea furthers this investigation with sculptures that are bisected vertically and feature one half cast in metal and reconnected to the original wood sculpture. In the case of Baga Nimba (Gold), the metal half was cast in bronze and hand-gilded in 22-carat gold leaf.
This series questions the value system driving the continuing growth in the sale of traditional African artefacts. Baga Nimba sculptures, while originally made and used for specific tribal functions, are now valued for their prices alone, based on Western ideas around provenance and rarity.
About the Artists
Babajide Olatunji, born 1989 in Okitipupa Nigeria, is self-taught as an artist and holds a BSc. in Botany from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.
Olatunji’s work has been exhibited globally and has been acquired by the Mott-Warsh Collection in Flint, Michigan and private collections in Switzerland, the US, the UK, Nigeria and Turkey. In 2017, Olatunji was selected for inclusion in the curated element of the Royal Academy Summer Show in London, UK.
Niyi Olagunju, born 1981 in Sagamu, Nigeria, holds a National Diploma in General Art from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, a BA Fine Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Oxford, UK and an MA Fine Arts from the Texas Christian University.
Prior to obtaining his degree at Oxford, Niyi served with the British Army from 2002-2006, with service postings in Iraq & Northern Ireland. From 2011 to 2015, he served as a Special Assistant to the Honourable Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nigeria where he implemented Social Development initiatives to strengthen the FCT’s Arts & Culture commitment.
Olagunju’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in private collections in the UK and Nigeria.
ART CENTRAL 2019
MARCH 27 - 31 2019