Raji Bamidele: Ti Oju Ri- An Inquest Into the Perception of Distorted Realities

Raji Bamidele: Ti Oju Ri- An Inquest Into the Perception of Distorted Realities

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Raji Bamidele is a Nigerian contemporary artist who is largely concerned with the contrast in texture, lighting, as well as with details, creating individual pieces depicting a portion of his plane. The multi-disciplinary approach to his work weaves differing materials and methods belonging both to contemporary and modern art forms, calling into question the existence of time and being. His works are a merging of hyperrealism, figurative and conceptual creations which he calls “Puzzled Realism”. Along with his new-found ‘gold technique’, embellishment and texturing, he creates increasingly dark panels embedded with charred coal layers sometimes in the form of symbols and intricate patterns. Bamidele regards these dark canvases to be the essence which provokes a philosophical commentary through material that at once addresses the infinite and the finite, immortality and mortality, the microcosm and macrocosm, in addition to the socio-political and historical preconceptions surrounding ‘blackness’ and its universal implications. In this interview with Omenka, he talks about his recent exhibition Ti Oju Ri: An Inquest Into the Perception of Distorted Realities, ‘Puzzled Realism’, and the resilience of the human spirit.

You are presently studying actuarial science at the University of Lagos. How did your interest in art begin, and how are the two disciplines related?

Growing up as a child I’ve always been fascinated by the artworks I came across, irrespective of the medium, style, discourse or approach. I’ve always believed the art in me made me a little rebellious towards other professions while experiences as a young man moulded me to form the bedrock of my inspiration, which enables me find a link between both worlds.

I began to practice professionally in 2015 after I won the overall best (Lagos entry)  – winning the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos Prize – at the 2015 Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) hosted by Bisi Silva. With science, I’ve been able to relate to both professions as actuarial science is a discipline that requires the application of mathematics, probability theory, statistics, finance, economics, and computer science. This application provokes philosophical thinking towards my art.

Please tell us a bit about your recent exhibition Ti Oju Ri: An inquest into the Perception of Distorted Realities. 

The exhibition is a body of hyper-realistic drawings centred on themes ranging from man’s escapism and embracement to reality. The drawings create conversations that draw attention to the subjectiveness of focus; how one’s mental and physical state hones his definition, acceptance or rejection of what goes on around him. Ti Oju Ri: An inquest into the Perception of Distorted Realities, is a thematic exposition of myself as an artist, an individual, and the background that defines my ideology.

Raji Bamidele, Ohun Ti Oju Ti Ri, 2018, batik, compressed charcoal on paneled acid-free, archival cartridge paper, 80 x 102.5cm

“Raji Bamidele’s works are a merging of hyper-realism, figurative and conceptual creations, which he calls ‘Puzzled Realism’. How true is this statement, and what informs the name you’ve given to your style?

This is true as I am synonymous with hyper-realism, but that just tells a single story and not the entirety of who I am as an individual or an artist. One can throw into this mix the figurative and conceptual part of me, which has given me the impetus to coin my own genre of art called ‘Puzzled Realism’, considering the natural laws, mathematical, philosophies and scientific principles, whose practice examines the daily personal activities of mankind.

Also works from my genre are not strict interpretations of photographs, nor are they literal illustrations of a particular scene or subject. Instead, I use additional, often subtle, pictorial elements to create the illusion of a reality, which in fact either does not exist or cannot be seen by the human eye, therefore, creating my own mythology as a hyperrealist, a conceptual artist, a figurative artist and a draughtsman.

You’ve recently incorporated the use of gold colour in your charcoal drawings, what is its significance?

There isn’t much of a significance as both objects go through the same process in becoming what they are now.  This process is what purifies them through a blast furnace, so my combination of gold and charcoal brings me into creating my own mythology as an artist.

Raji Bamidele, Ni Aarin Otito, 2018, 24k gold leaf, gouache gold paint, batik, compressed charcoal on paneled acid-free, archival cartridge paper, 120 x 80cm

Kindly tell us more about your ‘Resilience of the Human Spirit’ series.

This series highlights how man tends to continually find solutions irrespective of what is being thrown at him. I believe man was born to die, but between the points of inception and death is time. Whatever he makes of it is reflected in his life, even after his demise. Generally, life is a saddle of which its existence is filled with strife; strife that has tried in all futility to drown God-given talent bestowed upon humans from the cradle.  But hope has kept man moving towards the bright light, jumping every hurdle, as keeping every vibe alive and shimmering as we move towards the end of the tunnel.  Even when we make mistakes, we keep confronting life with our resourcefulness, innovation and ability to improvise, from the moment we are born to the point where we begin to learn from experience and the society.

How important is the concept of ‘Blackness’ to your work?

I regard these dark canvases to be the essence which provokes a philosophical commentary through material that at once addresses the infinite and the finite, immortality and mortality, in addition to the socio-political and historical preconceptions surrounding ‘Blackness’ and its universal implications

Please tell us a bit about your creative process.

I am primarily concerned with contrasts of texture, lighting, as well as with fine details, so I create individual pieces depicting a portion of my plane. I usually employ polyptychs, which can be said to simulate reality and my experiences as a young man. I believe the society speaks; I listen, interpret and respond.

Raji Bamidele


Adeoluwa Oluwajoba is an artist, critic and art writer. He holds a B.A in Fine and Applied Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and is currently the Programme Officer at The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

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