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‘Iwa’ (in Yoruba) means ‘character’. It refers to a person’s character, behavioural tendencies or ways.
Once at an exhibition in Canada, a woman approached me and made a very persuasive case that a figure in
one of my paintings on display at that show, looked very much like her mum. Incidentally, I completely leave
out facial details in most of my life compositions, including the one she was talking about. Listening to her,
I began to realize that in each viewer exists disposition for detail; hence, interaction between viewer and artwork
engages them somewhat, in the creation process.

Needless to say, I was fascinated with how she was able to connect with the painting in a rather personal way.
I understood then that she saw her mum’s character in the ‘faceless’ figure in the painting.
Perhaps one word that sums up my work is ‘Character’; from one perspective, as in the example above, creating
art that connects with the viewer and hopefully engages and moves them in a personal way while communicating
virtue, whether intentional or not.

Then, technically, the wet-on-wet, heavy impasto technique I tend to favour when working with oils imbues a
certain ‘feel’, ‘style’….. and, well, character, in the works.
Working with watercolour, gouache or other painting medium, my paradigm is entirely the same; striving for
colour and pigment integrity without getting overly carried away with minute detail. I try not to bother the
colour once committed to canvas, board or whatever, preferring it to speak clearly. Almost like ‘let your yes be
yes and your no be no’.

I think the integrity and purity of colour can be taken allegorically for how we live and conduct our lives. As
such, I spend quality time mixing my colours, working them out by heart, along with contrasts, form and
other elements, sometimes for several months, essentially beginning the painting process long before picking
up the painting knife or brush.

My intention is to walk in this integrity in order to engage the world through art. We all need to display character.
Character is greater than gift.
Our gift can lead us somewhere. Character sustains us wherever we are.

Gbenga Orimoloye
February 2011

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