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By Colin M. Blakely, Epping, Essex Sept 2004.

The texture of colour is vividly brought to life in the works of Nigerian artist Daniel Gbenga Orimoloye. Most at home in oils, he manages to capture not just the essence of the scenes before him, but the life and movement of his subjects. He presents us with still images, but in so doing he allows the characters he depicts to speak out loudly.
Take, for example, his African Women Series no 19 (2002). That work transports us to the scene and it is almost as if we are eavesdropping on the four characters. The vibrancy of the setting is highlighted by the liveliness of the colours, but there is a real sense of movement that makes this painting feel bursting with energy and vitality.

Or, again, take a longer look at Hairdresser (2002). The brushstrokes are employed to great effect lending an urgent sense of movement and vitality in a way that is rarely executed successfully on this medium. Even a casual glance at this work can make the viewer hear the hubbub of activity that is powerfully brought to life.

But while Orimoloye clearly has caught the feeling of movement and cadence, he is just as successful in capturing a sense of bathos in his work. That is seen perhaps most clearly in the moving and engaging Canoes and Lone Fisherman (2002). The canoes mourn and the colour of the water is far from the deep blue we associate with the seaside. But it is the posture of the fisherman himself who stirs the emotions. Almost incidental to the perspective, the eye is drawn to his plight and predicament. The contrast in the colour of his shirt to the milieu lends an emotional swell to the seascape.

The use of oil gives his work an added dimension in bringing out textures that convey a great deal about the circumstances of the paintings. In Underpass (2002) the wide brush strokes and the cautious use of colour tell us all we need to know about this particular thoroughfare. Such a treatment in another medium would not have communicated so much as he has achieved in this rendering. It is a big picture, accented by the seeming insignificance of the colourful characters in the midst of the vista. And we can see a similar use of the technique, but in a more beautiful setting, in Canoe Composition No 2 (1999) and also in Bar Beach (1991). A comparison between the two also enables us to trace the development in the artist’s work and style over the intervening years.

But his work is not restricted to oils: his work is certainly accomplished in other media. His watercolours lend themselves to his bold and expressive style. One of the most dynamic is perhaps Music Fest 1 (1998), where he captured the resounding and joyful nature of the event. The light shines through the activity of the trumpeters and the choice of colours gives the composition a regal atmosphere. Compare that to Girl Beside the Window (2004) and we can appreciate the artist’s skill in capturing a range of emotions, and not simply from the faces of those featured. His work captures a setting and succeeds in communicating the truth of that setting to the viewer. But this is not merely a mechanistic representation: he manages to convey emotion and feeling, whether that be joyous or sullen.

Some apt examples of those variations are seen in his works in gouache. The joyful is depicted in Woman and Husband in flowing Agbada 1 (1997), but contrast that with Untitled (1997) and its contemplative mood. Both use colour to great advantage but both convey quite different messages.

Orimoloye believes that there is no such thing as a straight line in nature, and there are certainly none in his work, but there is a straight line in the ideas and inspiration for his artwork and that is the power of faith in the depictions of those he paints. Most of his creations feature people (apart from one or two still lifes) and his work celebrates life in all its fullness. It is impossible to view his work and not feel uplifted, with a fresh hope in potential of the human spirit. Most of his portfolio can be viewed simply for the beauty he commits to his art, but there is a strong allegorical and metaphorical dimension to his painting that offers even more to the viewer who spends longer savouring the images he has created. Orimoloye’s work is at once lyrical and poetic: like a ballet dancer he gracefully celebrates the joy in those he portrays, allowing them to speak through his canvas. And in allowing them a voice he wins an audience for himself.

C.M Blakely

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