A painting by Kola Arifajogun
Decades of not engaging in full-time studio-practice have not diminished the skills of Kola Arifajogun and Wande George, as their recent show corroborates. Adewole Ajao writes
T here was a lot to look forward to from the duo of Kola Arifajogun and Wande George during their joint exhibition, Re-Emergence which opened on August 18. After decades of passing time in advert agencies, their inclinations for documenting life via paintings has not ebbed. This was evident in the body of work they had developed for their dual show. Preceded by periods of soul-searching, such reflections and the exhibition title had fed the new creative spirit driving Arifajogun’s works.
“The recess has come to an end,” the former SNA treasurer said with finality. “The entire period was solely devoted to thinking of a strategic and unique way to move African art forward. After soul-searching, I decided to reflect on what happens around me so much so that some form of solution would begin to emerge.”
The acrylic and oil and canvas pieces are eloquent appeals to culture, tradition and religion. “Royal Dance”, Everlasting Kingdom”, “Carnival” and Edo Bride bear some sparks of his fetish for mores and the vitality they reflected. The Yaba College of Technology graduate said such images were products of his journeys around the country as well as the value he placed on such experiences.
“The cultural value of my people is the most important issue in my heart which is prevalent in my works. There is no race without a culture. In fact that is what makes a people unique.”
While Arifajogun’s outpouring is a subtle commentary on the need for people to remain faithful to their traditional heritage, George’s are very critical of the societal anomalies. Corruption, societal facades and other pressing issues are the theme songs of his works couched in lush colours. These issues had nibbled at his temperament from a very early stage of his career.
“I just find myself putting the puzzles together and fitting them perfectly to make a beautiful piece,” he added with a grin. “This may be responsible for the myriad of styles and execution patterns in this body of works.”
A trio of personal series had also fed the current collection and trajectory of the Auchi Polytechnic graduate. In the joint exhibition, his paintings “Alliance” and “Diplomacy” are stark in their simplicity but profound in their messages. “Blooms II” and “I Shall Not Want” hint at his predilection for adorning the background of his paintings with motifs. His love for colours, meanwhile, proclaims his provenance. Revealing that the current progression had been birthed by previous experimentations with the “Naked Truth”, “Disobedience” and “Giant Stride”, George said his current creations were intended as a jolt to the viewer.
“It (Diplomacy) is a satirical representation of international diplomacy. Here I am looking at first world countries and how they are cajoling African countries just because they want to rape them,” he explained. “Take the issue of Libya, Iraq and other countries. The same also applies to individuals.”
George also frowned at the vexatious issue of societal greed. For him, this malaise was synonymous with the upper cadre of society. This inspired his oil on canvas painting titled “The Ruling Class”, which has an overweight fellow sporting a tunic made from naira notes. This is just one in the catchy characters adorning his art.
“This examines corruption in the country. We often look at the other person as corrupt forgetting that in some subtle way we are also feeding the giant.”
Both painters converge on the theme of religion. While George offers the work, “He Lives” and Arifajogun confronts the viewers with “Procession”. Both works attest to their religiosity.
On leaving the advertising world, both artists were uncertain about their survival. But then, they also harboured some apprehension during their time out of the visual arts lane. Hence they were not perturbed. Given their passion for what they called their first love, they said time would be the best judge of their capabilities and the cause behind their exhibition title.
“The experience at the advert company has trained my way of painting. I am not looking at my art from a commercial perspective,” George said. “Our vision is to pursue that which is our main love which we studied in school.
“We are coming out strong and our coming out is not for fun. We’ll be there as long as the Lord keeps us on this earth.”
The exhibition, Re-emergence ends on August 28.