Laolu Obende’s Layered Reality


Solomon Elusoji

The universe is complex, a multilayer atom that continues to expand. To understand it, the human senses look for patterns, for coalition. Sometimes there are none – it’s all just chaos – and sometimes there are, lines and curves intersect and meaning forms in the mind.

This month, Laolu Obende, who has painted for more than a decade, opened his second exhibition to the public at Mbari Uno in Lagos. He titled it Expression of Layered Emotions. The work is a series of paintings executed with Laolu’s original “Blockpasto” technique. The artist says he wants to “pull attention to the broad and colourful spectrum of the many blocks of our reality.” In many ways, Obende acknowledges the human mind’s frail perception of the universe’s structure, but he also sets out to tame it, to capture it in all its varied forms with a brush and a scatter of bright colours.

“Laolu has proven beyond doubts his adept handling of figurative expressions done with extensive research into colours evidencing post-impressionist mannerism,” a faculty member at the University of Lagos’ Department of Creative Arts, Bolaji Ogunwo, says. “He boldly employs a tool (palette knife) that is hostile to austere use of paint in a rendition of myriads of figures imbued with chromatic tapestry, a reminiscent of digital pixels.”

Laolu, 37, grew up in Ibadan with an artist father, so, at a very young age, he was already exposed to how the mind creatively expresses itself. Then he went on to study Fine Art at the prestigious University of Benin, graduating with a first class in 2005. After university, he took his creative energies to the advertising industry, but he continued to paint, to document the things that would otherwise have been impossible to reveal. In 2009, he had his first solo exhibition.

“Laolu’s paintings is a question,” director and co-founder at Mbari Uno, Chuma Anagbado, says. “It is change and disruption, represented in a breathtaking economy of colours… Laolu’s paintings intend to help us find focus by shedding light on the various spectrums of our reality. It is the first and second phase of design thinking; problem identification via empathy. To grow and thrive in an environment like Nigeria, it is pertinent to first take a pilgrimage of ourselves, thoughts, and ideas.”

The paintings, which will be on display at Mbari Uno till July 13, evoke solemn, deep-seated emotions which lead, or seek to lead, to answers to life’s biggest questions. Like Einstein’s quest for the Theory of Everything, Laolu Obende’s second offering strives to sum up the human condition.