By Kolade Oshinowo. Introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition, Iwa, Lagos 2011
Gbenga Orimoloye is an artist who showed promise right from his student days at Yaba College of Technology in Lagos. He, like a few others I know, seems to have charted a course for himself and is following it passionately with all determination. Although now a Nigerian in the Diaspora, his works show convincingly that he is very much connected to his roots. His themes usually have the Nigerian flavour running through them. His planned solo exhibition ‘Iwa’ is coming up in Lagos almost nine years after ‘Iya ni wura’ in 2002 at the Didi museum also in Lagos. Something tells me that henceforth we are going to be seeing him more often for shows in Nigeria.
Gbenga Orimoloye has an amiable but quiet disposition, but still water runs very deep. Behind that quiet façade is a creative aggression and energy quite visible in his works. I have followed his development since his student days, the commitment, hard work and determination he showed then is still very much visible. I think I can safely say that most of his classmates are no longer involved in studio practice.
Although he uses water colour quite well, I believe his medium of preference is oil applied with palette knives with rich and heavily layered impasto. A warrior doesn’t go to war with his weakest weapon. Orimoloye is fast becoming a master of impasto painting. He remains true to himself and has not allowed himself to be contaminated by the fashion for abstract paintings and installations. He is undoubtedly a good draughtsman who continues to elevate his skills through hard work.
He obviously currently derives his artistic inspiration from gaily dressed Yoruba women with gele (head tie) and rural southern Nigerian scenes of peasants in their daily occupation.
From the privileged preview of the images that he so kindly forwarded to me, one could see works in five broad groups. The first are the women with the head ties (gele) either in single or group compositions such as the iwa le wa series. The second is the landscape series that include canoes at the riverside and market scene compositions. The third are the portraits either in water colour or oil paint. And lastly the single figure compositions in water colour and a few in oil paint.
The element that found its way into Gbenga Orimoloye’s work from the beginning and up to now is that vital creative energy which seems to show through, revealing an aptitude for expressing sensation which has made him an independent painter always in search of renewal.
He doesn’t indulge in photo realism or get bugged down by unnecessary details. He also doesn’t set to copy nature but to interpret it. The freedom with which he simply sifts elements in a composition that will best convey his message is quite interesting. Most of his figures in group compositions are invariably faceless but they still remind us of people we know. There is something poetic about his works. The dramatic use of light which enhances his paintings aesthetic values make his works impressionistic but without the colours of the impressionists. His paintings have forms and structure.
Light is a decisive factor of expression in his works. He uses light to model forms. His figures and other forms are usually dark browns and grey silhouetted against a luminous background. He can reconstitute a landscape with patches of colours, exhibiting a delicate inner poetry supported by warm greys and dark tones juxtaposed by his favorite red tones. He keeps pushing the envelope in the area of material exploration and exploitation. The ability to express something in a suggestive way by means of a few brief strokes of the palette knife concisely without giving all the details is the hallmark of his work, yet they have expressive qualities within those limitations.
A few months ago, I started working on a project with a lady who has just a passing interest in art. Apparently one of her friends called her attention to some paintings she stumbled upon on the internet and she forwarded it to her. She was ecstatic and insisted I must see the incredible and amazing works. She forwarded the images to me and behold they were Gbenga Orimoloye’s works, my former student. I was filled with pride. I simply told her to be patient and that the best from him is yet to come.
Former President, Society of Nigerian Artists.