Over 30 works, brimming with suppressed emotions, are currently on display in TAAG Gallery’s monthlong online solo exhibition, which opened on Tuesday, February 1 and will conclude on Monday, February 28. These works, which are essentially paintings, were produced by Lateef Olajumoke, a self-described multidisciplinary Nigerian artist, between 2019 and 2021. According to the gallery’s curatorial statement, they are the artists’ candid visual takes on life in these difficult times.
Doleful, though that may sound, it is only the 40-year-old’s nod to the zeitgeist, which is rife with depressing – rather than soul-uplifting – expressions. Like his contemporaries, who plume themselves on mirroring their environmental realities, he sought to transmute his inner perceptions of the overwhelming outward impressions of recent times into visible and relatable forms through the paintings, which are mostly done in acrylic and featured in the exhibition, titled State of Mind.
Of course, Olajumoke could not have been oblivious to the events of recent times such as the rising insecurity and restlessness in the country’s urban life, the mind-boggling corruption in official circles, and the uncertainties swirling around the COVID-19 pandemic, to name a few. Talking about these events – the subtle emanations of which has deepened the ethereal gloom enveloping the earth – they appear to have bolstered the ranks of those keen on deploying apocalyptic imagery to explain these perilous times.
This readily plays into the narrative, which places the burden on the artist to accurately depict the events of his time. It is not surprising, therefore, that Olajumoke’s works – produced with a variety of materials such as acrylic, canvas, discarded plastic, egg crate, paper, and cardboard and encompassing such forms of expression as paintings, photography, and sculpture – bolster his credentials as a committed artist. Thus, as an artist intent on defying categorisation, he deploys diverse mediums, modes and themes to express himself. This eclecticism is evident in the paintings, featured in State of Mind, which are brimming with passion.
Though the visual interventions of the Lagos-born and bred artist are useful, they are not immune to the consequences of ignoring – intentionally or unintentionally – the inherent lawfulness governing his earthly existence and environment. Thoughts and grotesque manifestations of anger or resentment can only attract and open a Pandora’s Box of their kind.
For the reasons stated above, it is heartening to note that an undercurrent of optimism lurks beneath Olajumoke’s paintings, even as their dread-inducing images assault the viewers’ sensibilities. Could he have sensed, as an artist, that he has a responsibility to direct his audience’s gaze toward a luminous goal?
Of course, his ability to achieve this potential inner sensing is dependent on his recognition and fulfilment of the Primordial Will, whose flawless Perfection ensures the existence of everything else. For this will give him access to higher inspirations, which he should be able to transmute into more earthly comprehendible forms.
Talking about forms, Olajumoke appears to prefer close-up views of his subjects. The viewer can easily discern the artist’s restlessness as well as the seething urge to express so much in so few words through the tangled threadlike-mesh that resolves itself into coherent human figures. As for the uniqueness of his representations, which could be considered his signature style, it provides the viewer with new perspectives on previously unexplored themes. Thus, works such as “Old Wine in New Bottle” (from the Recycle Leader Series), “Victims”, “Police Brutality Must Stop in Nigeria”, “Reduce Cost of Governance”, “We Can Live in Unity” and “Beyond the Other Room”, among others, continue to elicit strong reactions from the audience.
Back to the artist’s eclecticism, they are portals into the various possible states of mind of a human creature. If the human mind, which is in charge of receiving and transmitting the radiations of experiences, is regarded as critical to his physical existence, it is because it is the pivot around which all of his activities revolve.
Before the current exhibition, State of Mind, the Lagos State Polytechnic graduate of town and regional planning has been featured in several other exhibitions within and outside Nigeria. His works have, for instance, so far been featured in exhibitions in such countries as Senegal, Lebanon, Canada and Denmark.