Dr Adeola Balogun’s 13th solo exhibition shows that human, environmental and technological issues remain the artist’s concern.
LAST Saturday afternoon, the crowd at Signature Beyond Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, was heavy. Old and young people milled around, marvelling as they moved from one artwork to the other, drinking in their beauty and meditating on the message the artist was trying to pass.
It was the opening of ‘Transmogrification’, a solo exhibition by one of the country’s leading contemporary sculptors, Dr Adeola Balogun. The artist, the Head of the Fine Arts Department, Yaba College of Technology, has always pushed the envelope. He employs unconventional media and techniques to do notable works and cement his status as one of the country’s eminent sculptors.
Some of these unique and strange-looking works, made chiefly this time from electronic panels and aluminium, were what the viewers admired. Balogun, who had used flip-flops, tyres, and other discarded materials for his works, has now shifted attention to electronic panels, passing important messages about technology, the environment and change.
Technology has become a key element in human life, driving industries, offices and homes. Through technological advances, humanity has reached depths and heights previously unknown. Hitherto complex tasks are executed effortlessly, while electronic gadgets have made life easier. But while technology has been chiefly deployed for benevolent purposes, it also has lethal uses. The proper disposal of electronic waste, for instance, is a problem as improper disposal causes a host of environmental pollution.
Some of the technology’s intended and unintended consequences, especially the effect of pollution and advanced equipment, are seen in some of Balogun’s works, including the ‘Rare Specie’ series. The five works are strangely-shaped fish sculptures made from electronic panels and aluminium. For instance, ‘Rare Specie II’ has aluminium kettles for eyes with steel and electronic panels completing the structure. And while ‘Rare Specie II’ is rotund, ‘Rare Specie IV’ is long and unnaturally curved. You rarely see such fishes. ‘Blue-Eyed’, another strange-looking work with an unmissable blue gem as an eye, is also unique.
“With technology, you are now seeing a lot of things. In this show, there are fishes you might not have seen before,” Balogun began. “We are getting to see strange things from nature. They have been there before, but now, we’re getting to see those things with technology. In the deep, a lot of creatures have been discovered. That’s a positive side of technology. Rare creatures have always been around us, but we are getting to know about them with technology.”
He added that technology’s intended and unintended consequences informed the exhibition title, ‘Transmogrification’. He explores this theme further in the ‘Goldmines and Landmines’ series, explaining that “technology has dire consequences, depending on what you’re doing. This is what the internet represents, as far as I’m concerned, because you can make fortunes there, but at the same time, it can wipe out your life savings.
“I don’t think we can live without our gadgets, phones and others. They have become part of our lives and have more or less altered our way of living. Electronic gadgets play a critical role in this particular body of work. You can’t talk about electronic gadgets without electronic panels because it’s an integral part of gadgets. So, to me, electronic panels become a metaphor. I can evolve different things because it is driving science in terms of technology.”
Remarkably, the artist is not showing just sculptors in ‘Transmogrification’. The show is a fusion of paintings and sculptors, and one viewer voiced out what was in the minds of others jocularly. “Adeola is going beyond his boundary. He should stick with his sculptors and installations and not drag painting with others.” But the remark is not disparaging of the paintings as they are good. As the artist later explained, it is part of his experimentation to challenge himself.
“My mixed media paintings draw profoundly from elements on both sides of a typical electronic panel,” he began. “They are made by the appropriation of selected photographed sections of my sculptures infused with electronic panels; this is then digitally printed on the desired ground and worked on. The tracks or circuit traces on the reverse side of electronic panels are adapted as motifs on the dark backgrounds of each piece. Depending on the ground, the motifs can be engraved, embossed, or lacerated with a drilling machine, acrylic, or plasma cutter, respectively. The images in my mixed media paintings are deployed to reference the notion of the profoundness and overwhelming impact of technology on the activities of modern man.”
He disclosed that the ‘Body in Motion’ series was inspired by American female gymnast Simon Biles and lent credence to the impact of technology on modern human living and achievements. In different frames, the paintings show the graceful motion of the athlete and Balogun’s eye for details, even if painting is not his forte.
In ‘Transmogrification’, his 13th solo exhibition ongoing till April 25, Balogun reaffirms mastery of his art. He also shows that human, environmental and technological issues remain his concern.