Everyone knows that Art speaks. We visit galleries, museums and art festivals. We see paintings, sculptures, collages, drawings, graffiti’s etc. at different places. Almost wherever we go, we see them stare intently at us. We see them in banks, at restaurants, by the roadsides, at churches, in shrines, at musical events and of course, online. Yes, we reckon that these works have meanings. But do we really know how to decipher the meanings? Do we really recognise the Voices of Art?
For a while now, The Muse Africa has been closely following up on veteran Nigerian artist, Ogunlesi Paul. With irrefutable skill, he tells the story of Africa— the world around him. His works are mostly paintings and drawings and there’s no gainsaying the magic that he creates with them.
Ogunlesi describes himself as “a Visual Story Teller who hates boundaries” and of course, his works convey this truth.
In a bid to resound in your ears, the voices of Art, we chose to have a one-on-one session with Ogunlesi Paul. And in this session, we talked about his art (in general), his creative process, his styles and some of his selected pieces.
Voices Of Art: The Art of Ogunlesi Paul
Ogunlesi Paul is one who is quite meticulous with his art. He believes that art should always be an offspring of the soul, such that it is non-mechanical, expressing all that the artist really feels on the inside. In other words, he’d rather not create than create something that’s just unreal.
Art to me is a reflection of who I am; my experiences, my environment and all that hovers around here, in my own part of the world. I don’t force myself to describe me. And in my works, I am always the focal point– irrespective of the subject I am treating or the situation I am trying to address. And all these are what I always portray in a way that everyone who comes in contact with my pieces can understand, because art is a universal language.
Ogunlesi dabbles into the artistic styles of Expressionism and Realism. Sometimes, he is in between. Sometimes, he merges the two styles together. And other times, he just employs either of both.
By the way, Expressionism is a style of art that focuses extensively on expressing the subjective emotions of man, rather than the actual objective reality. While Realism is a detailed depiction of nature and real life without any embellishments or speculative fiction.
This piece by Ogunlesi Paul is titled “Self Embrace 3“. It apparently tilts largely towards Realism because of the details that were employed in specifying the actual person that the artist painted. In fact, it almost already looks like a picture. There are no embellishments. Just a depiction of the real person and that’s it. Although this work carries deep meanings– meanings of identity, as seen in the artist statement, it is a simple portrayal of the artist’s muse.
As against the former, this one is an expressionist piece– by the same artist. It is titled “Misplaced“. You do not even need to look too closely at the piece, before seeing another face in the head of the person in the art. This probably speaks of the troubles in the mind of the man/woman that is being depicted.
It is a work that borders extensively around emotions and so, it is an Expressionist piece.
One could easily state that Expressionist pieces are more compelling than the Realist counterparts, or that they carry more meanings. But really, it again depends on ones ability to understand the voices of art.
Voices Of Art: The Selected Works Of Ogunlesi Paul
Now, allow us to hold your beautiful hand so that we can take a quick peek at some selected pieces of Ogunlesi Paul. Shall we?
According to Ogunlesi, the major theme of this work is Optimism. He explains that with this piece, he preaches that the intuition of every human should be ladened with optimism, no matter how bad their situations may be. He also explains that whoever connects spiritually to his work is likely to get his message more. Because the whole making of the piece is actually spiritual in itself.
So you might just want to get yourself a pair of spiritual magnifying lenses to take a good look at the work and get the hidden meanings out of it.
IT IS ENOUGH 1&2
Remember the palava of EndSARS? #CongoIsBleeding? #ShutItAllDown?#BlackLivesMatter? And other revolutionary causes? They all come together to say It Is Enough! And that is also the sole message of this duology. Looking closely at these pieces, you will notice the weary faces of the persons in the art. This is exactly how weary Ogunlesi gets, each time he hears about White Supremacy and any other form of discrimination.
Good thing he is using his art to express his agitations.
So when next you go on a protest to defend the unity of country and your continent, remember that you do not need to use some Ibuprofen to kill the pain that you incurred from marching long distances. Just take a good look at this pieces and your burning feet, or your coarse voice will heal immediately!
Do you ever get burdened by memories? Do you ever feel sort of haunted until you share some certain memories that you have kept in your head for a while? Sometimes, being haunted is negative but other times, it can as well be positive. And we believe that this must have been the case with Ogunlesi.
He says, “This piece talks about my childhood and the things I felt like I never enjoyed.”
When we look at the work, we see little two little boys. One is focused on his toy and the other, watching closely from the back with envy. The artist describes himself as the second boy. He was simply taking a retrospective glance at all the things that he never had at his disposal. In fact, the whole message is sort of evident in the placement of the characters. The spotlight is on the boy playing with the toy. It is only until you take a second glance that you will notice the expression of the boy at the back.
A bit emotional, yeah? This is one piece where Ogunlesi blends Expressionism with Realism.
MUMMY, THIS DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ME
Did you ever own one of those Barbie dolls as a kid? If you did, then you probably can relate very closely to this piece. Ogunlesi speaks of a form of racism and White supremacy that we do not really pay close attention to.
He says that he simply put himself in the shoe of an African girl child who recognises that the features on her doll is quite alien to how she really looks.
And as you may have guessed, this piece is our major highlight of all the works that were selected. Because the theme is dissident and exceptional.
Now, you can as well grace the empty walls in your home with some goodness from Ogunlesi Paul. Maybe from there, you’ll develop a real connection and be able to recognise the Voices of Art!