Okunlola said on the theme and material used to communicate the works, “The theme is informed by the materials used to communicate the works…”
For four years, Tolulope Michael Okunlola had cocooned himself in his FESTAC based studio to brainstorm and rethink fresh and unique perspectives to painting of his works. Last Friday, that exercise paid off with a one-week solo at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, ending this weekend.
The exhibition, which was previewed by the art press recently, at Triad Studio P&T building at Obalende, Lagos, paraded 30 works of diverse themes and bends made of wire paintings.
Okunlola, who hails from Oyo State, said on the theme and material used to communicate the works, “The theme is informed by the materials used to communicate the works which prompted the title: Audacious. It means creating something unusual, and requires task without considering the risks therein.
“I use copper wire for the painting, mixed with different colours. Instead of using the normal oil and water colours. I adapted the use of wire. I used it for various forms of painting such as portraiture, landscape, seascape, life painting, imaginative, and still life paintings of different characteristics. One of the portraits I did with the material is titled, “Fela Anikulapo Kuti and His Elements.”
He disclosed that the first painting he produced with copper wire was entitled “The Best of Wires,” adding that the theme was informed by the fact that it was the first work he produced with wire. “I illustrated it with the image of a white woman instead of African. The reason for that is because the material is foreign and alien to art. And the wires are not made in Nigeria. We usually import them from China, London and America,” Okunlola added.
He revealed that the concept was inspired by his interest in creating something different from the norm. He explained, “I don’t like walking on an established path. When I was in the Department of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), each time they gave us assignment, it was always with oil colours, but in form of pointillism. But I will title it a galloping technique.
“My friend would wonder what galloping technique was all about, accusing me of always looking for how to create my own concept. So, I have the penchant for treading path uncommon to people. When I was working for my final year project, I used normal carpet for my painting. I cut it into pieces in form of painting on board. The carpet was of different colours, and I was able to illustrate a Yoruba proverb interpreted to mean ‘Whoever does something with mere object and he is full of pride, the regard will not last long’,” he said.
On how he found his new art form with wire, he submitted, “It was prompted by one of my church members, Michael Odeniran. He was into the use of wires of different colours in making jewelries: breast lace, necklace etcetera. He told me he sells them and that I can learn it from him. But I wondered if I could make money from the craft, having just finished from the University.
“In February 2014, I understudied him for three to four weeks and mastered the craft. Today, I can produce wire necklaces. In May, 2014, I asked him if I can get the wires in deferent colour of yellow, blue and brown. He said yes. I was earning N18,500 monthly then as a fresh graduate teaching in a secondary school.
“I removed N5,000 from my salary, and used it to start my first work. I discovered that, after using the N5,000 worth of wire, it couldn’t take me through half of the board. I became afraid that it could consume much of my little earnings. I invested another N5,000, which pushed the work to half of the board. But, when I later went on my national youth service in Delta State, I was able to get money to complete my first painting on copper wire. And by the time I was through with the NYSC, I had already produced nine work,” he told art journalists.
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OkunIola has participated in several group exhibitions locally, including the yearly exhibitions by his alma matter. “During our graduation we had final year group exhibition organised by students of the department. It was entitled New Names. I was also part of 2016 October Rain exhibition organised by the Society for Nigerian Artists (SNA) entitled New Frames. But I didn’t exhibit the wire concept because it was still under wraps. I exhibited two works of acrylic painting,” he said.
He stated that the insights in the diversity of forms noticed in his works was all about things around us, which we can