By Yinka Olatunbosun
Two artists, Elizabeth Omolara Adenugba and Louisa Alexandra Spyratos met at the OYASAF Art Residency programme in Abeokuta. Adenugba, better known by her signature name Clara Aden is a multiple award-winning artist from Nigeria while Spyratos is a Greek, an international artist born in Kenya.
They are both women whose personal lives have the potential to limit their productivity as artists. Clara Aden has four children while Spyratos has an aged mother to care for. When the call for artists came, they grabbed the opportunity. Together, they worked for a month without distraction at the studio in Abeokuta and recently they arrived in Lagos to showcase their works- the product of their self-sacrifice.
Spyratos’ works are typically influenced by wildlife. Her Australian and Kenyan experience form a dazzling interchange in most of her acrylic paintings. At this show, most of works are textured with variegated gold, copper leaf and pure coloured silver. Spyratos is a very prolific artist with no fewer than 40 solo shows in her enviable portfolio. Her recent exhibitions include the Nairobi National Museum, Cat Street Gallery (Hong Kong), Laurie’s Fine Art Gallery (Miami) amongst others. Still, she was excited to be in Nigeria for this residency programme for good reasons.
“I decided to experience the people of Abeokuta- the sounds and the smells and take lots of photographs and visualized the imageries and that is what I painted when I got back to the studio,’’ she began. “I painted 23 pieces in acrylic and silver leaves. I worked with patterns and it was almost like a collage into an acrylic background.’’
For a prolific painter like Spyratos, the residency offered her the rare opportunity to paint with interruption for 12 hours. That couldn’t have happened back home in Kenya and she had to shop, cook and care for her aged mother.
Spyratos is also a fashion designer so she paid attention to the Nigerian fashion trends and how it reflects the temperament of the people. Some of these observations dominated her miniature paintings.
“Men dress in crazy colours and the women put different textures together, mixing Ankara and lace. It was really inspiring and fun. I think a lot of the colours will stay in my works. I think I will do more life drawings now. I will take in more Nigerian colours to my work and I think that will make it funky. It was fantastic to have the opportunity in Nigeria and with support from Yemisi Shyllon, an art lover. Artists love art lovers,’’ she declared.
For Clara Aden, this is her second experience of an art residency programme. The accomplished illustrator for Hearts Magazine was part of the maiden edition of the Molue Mobile Museum of Art, an adventure which features six artists on board a commercial transit that travels from Lagos to Senegal and participate in the Dak’art Biennial. The OYASAF residency programme is a different experience for Clara Aden who usually worked with pencils.
“The residency gave me access to get more materials because they gave us money for art materials and feeding,’’ she began. “I love pencil so much. When I saw the call for application; it was a call for works in painting, not mixed media. I still tried to infuse my fabric prints into my painting as you can see in the “Street Hawker’’. I am a realistic artist. I love details and I am very precise. I take time to study figures.’’
When asked how she managed to care for her children during the residency, she revealed that her mother usually cared for them while she was away on art residency programme. Her “molue’’ adventure is still vivid in her mind as she recounted how the Molue surprisingly arrived at its destination in Dakar in spite of the break downs along the way.
She has won awards in several competitions, including the 1999 UNFPA International poster contest (third place), 2007 Art for Fela Anikulapo-kuti, and was listed among the 2010 Best Five Visual Artists of the National Patriot Portraiture and Immortalisation Awards. She is the winner of the 2015 Global Network Research Development (GNRD) Freedom of Expression Art Competition in Norway and the 2nd place winner of the 2016 Buddy Bear Design Art Competition organised by the German Embassy Abuja. She is also the winner of the 2016 Gani Odutokun award for Excellence in Art by the African Art Resources Center.
She recently collaborated in the project and workshop series, titled, “Opencity Lagos”.