A Critical Analysis of the Exploratory Art of Kunle Adeyemi.

Author:Olaleye-Otunla, Olufemi Joseph


Kunle Adeyemi has been practicing artist for over two decades as a painter with skills and a developed dexterity acquired from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos- Nigeria. He acquired printmaking skill during his MFA degree programme at the University of Benin. His printmaking skill was further enhanced with internship training with Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya at his Papa Ajao studio, Lagos and Agbahar Otor, Delta State, Nigeria and has just concluded a Ph.D. programme at Delta state University Abraka. Paintographs and Paintocasts: A new consciousness marked his 15th Solo exhibition and had participated in well over 75 group exhibitions. He passed through the tutelage of Nigerian art masters like Iren Wangboje, Dele Jegede, Kolade Oshinowo, Yusuff Grillo, Osa Egonwa, Dan-Ikhu Omovbude and others.

According to Adeyemi, his rendered themes categorized can be into four (4): Naturalistic cum semi-abstraction where religious, mythological, historical, literary and everyday life is expressed. The second category is Abstract expressionism with much of visual impact than storytelling; the third category is Iconic cum Expressiveness which displays distorted prompt imagery and color; while the fourth category is geared to create subtle poetry specifically for contemporary enlightenment rather than relating them to meanings (2012:9).

However, it is of note that Adeyemi's subject matter, composition, forms, colors and context are derived from the immediate environment of the Yoruba in Southwestern Nigeria. And it is observable that most of his themes and titles do not reflect indigenous concepts, but modern ideas expressed much in modern language.

Art Critics have some methods of presenting critical evidence: looking for appropriate precedents to any creative work of art before arriving at a critical conclusion. Feldman identified four stages of critical performance: the Descriptive Analysis, Formal Analysis, Interpretation and, the Evaluation or Judgment respectively (1967:468-498). In order to fulfill an utmost critical exercise, the order has to be followed sequentially, proceeding from the simplest (descriptive analysis) to the most difficult (judgment). The exercise is more of an empirical one i.e. from specific to general before drawing conclusions about the collective value of the work of art.

By descriptive analysis, the critic seeks to make inventory all that is before him, collection of all evidence, names of things present, mode of execution, things not superficially visible but objectively present in the work. For formal analysis, the critic seeks out for how artistic elements are constituted: the organization of shapes, areas, colors, textures, spatial arrangements, lines, etc. The descriptive analysis takes care of the inventory of all decorative elements, the total composition, viewers and universal expectation and other phenomena dictates that is present in the work. Next to this is the Interpretation stage where expressive meaning of the work, theme, artists conscious or unconscious ideas, explanations of artistic achievements, ideological content and constructs; the organization of formal and other qualities into one organic unity; the people's opinions about the work, the disunity or orderliness explicated; all meanings that can be confirmed, the impact of the work on visual sensation; what artistic and intellectual problem has been solved by the artists, how the artwork can be likened to its predecessors. These leads to the final stage of critical experience--the Judgmental stage where such a work is ranked with other works in its class, the actual worth or value pronounced, the comparison with other historical models, the artistic styles and the genre it belongs; the expression of the spirit of the time at its creation; the breakthroughs and originality of the work; the craftsmanship, the skills, materials

and other facilities involved; its expressiveness, the technical deficiencies and proficiencies explicated.

Three works of Kunle Adeyemi are used in this discourse, thus, a few of his recent works on display. Critical reviews of the works have not been carried out anywhere. Subjecting the works to a critical performance and exercise will expose a lot of things about the works, as well as well as the artist's intent for creating such works, hence, a critical analysis of the Kunle Adeyemi's works of art. This discourse aimed at examining three works of Kunle Adeyemi with a view to subjecting them to a form of critical contemplation. Other objectives derivable from this exercise will include: looking at the kind of critical sense that guided the artist in producing such works; to examine the expressive content of the works vis-a-vis the stages of critical performance and; passing a critical judgment on the actual value or worth of the three works, as well as the artist technical proficiency. This study will be selected out of the artist's 2012, exhibition tagged "Paintocast and Palatograph--A New Consciousness". The works considered are Wheel of fortune IV, Dialogue--Principal tool in Democracy, and Female form IV.

Literature Review

Feldman's (1967) review of four stages of critical performance is considered alongside an exhibition catalogue of Kunle Adeyemi's Paintograph and Paintocast--A New Consciousness - 2012. Adeyemi's studio explorations brought about an innovation into art practices and art vocabulary which is recent, a significant development and contribution to Nigerian contemporary painting and printmaking. Paintocasts is a synergy forming the synthesis of easel painting and printmaking traditions- a combination of the required techniques, skills, methods and materials from the two artistic genres. In the words of Egonwa, "Paintograph and Paintocast are a procedural transliteration of techniques of one into another... a sort of collaborative possibilities between the visual arts, science and technological discipline hitherto thought to be impossible" (2012:4). Adeyemi declares "A painting idea takes off from sketches, studies and composition through a technical stage of printmaking and painting to the first final product of Paintograph, it can progress further through metal foil or cast reproduction to form the ground for a sculptural painting called Paintocast (2012:8).

Labode avers that, "The mastery of artistic techniques by Adeyemi can be placed on the framework of Nigerian great masters of arts such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Yusuff Grillo and Kolade Oshinowo to mention a few". Truly, Adeyemi is in the making of one, going by age, dexterity and a strong desire to be one of the Nigerian contemporary "Art Statesmen" (2012:16), Adeyemi too believed strongly that "the height that great men reach and keep is not attained by sudden flight... their greatness was not sudden but came by gradual process of evolution, resolution and revolution" (2008:19).

To transmute is to make or change something into something different; operating in or between many different phases without being based or biased with another. As earlier, pronounced Paintocast-Paintograph is a form of synergy between printmaking and painting. Adeyemi tried textural addition to medium trying to move away from conventional practices in the two genres combined together (a.k.a. mixed media) see Plate 3 Female Form IV. The usual paint as a medium came into play, augmented by the addition of sand, wood chips and dust, charcoal, calcium carbonate etc.

According to Adeyemi (2012:6) "doctrinal strictness of preserving boundaries of art activities often tends to limit creativity and thereby reduces the free growth of art...

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