STRIPES, WEAVES AND COLOURS
Ade Adekola graduated in 1992 from the Architectural Association in London, specializing in architecture and design. He is an internationally recognized, award-winning architect turned photographer and conceptual artist, who works primarily by exploring the possibilities offered by digital image making. His photography experience spans two decades of experimentation, however the theme of capturing images with an emphasis on looking beyond what the eye would normally see has been a constant.
He uses a blend of post processing tools and techniques, treating pixels as paint, coaxing the computer to create images in a way no other medium can, manipulating colour to deliver a feast for the senses. Adekola views conceptual art as a platform for expressing visions of the mind and believes that the language of art is not limited to the visual but constitutes a syntax which draws upon the limitless scope of human imagination. “My work explores themes of perception, repetition, cognitive reflections and addresses elements of the paradoxical. I explore perception to blur the boundary between the real and the imagined. In altering the perceived reality captured in a photograph, I invite the mind to commence on an imaginative journey of reflection. I use repetition as a means of creating paradoxes which is fascinating. It is on the one hand an expression of the mundane and predictable, a desperate and manic desire for consistency. Then, on the other it is a means of creating a phase shift, like the rhythmic pulsing of a mantra, a calling to look beyond the obvious. These kinds of constructs create a tension between the static nature of recognition and the inherent dynamism present in every act of recollection. My work exploits this tension.”
His recent works produced in series, address a wide range of issues and ideas and were shown at a solo salon exhibition and the Art X Lagos fair in 2016. They invite the viewer to engage in new and perhaps unexpected ways while revealing a charismatic and entrancing quality, filled with colours and movement, cultural iconology and covert humour. His works are documented in several publications and are in institutional, corporate and private collections worldwide.
Combining elements of gestural action and fields of vibrant colours, Colourfield Expressions are hybrid photographs that fuse elements of abstract expressionism with hard-edge fields of colour. Both approaches are related art forms that emerged in the United States in the 50s but Colour field diverged to emphasize colour as its primary focus. Where abstract expressionism placed emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action, this series favours intricate colour interplays and a subtle coherence of forms filled with large fields of colour to vibrant abstract photographs that explore different aspects of Nigerian culture. Adekola deconstructs images of life in Lagos into geometric planes using them as building blocks and devising multifaceted compositions out of layers of coloured forms including lines and squares. He creates multiple copies of these forms, generating repetitive shapes and chromatic patterns, superimposing them on top of, beside, or inside each other in a stunning range of colours that vary from deep blues to intense reds, greens, yellows, and purples. Combining these colours, he generates the final image composite- a vivid cultural patchwork of layers of overlapping and intersecting two-dimensional forms in a range of subtle tonal shifts, as well as the characteristic hard-edges from which the series derives its name. These hybrid photographs are certainly intricate constructions that succeed in altering the viewer’s perception of the photographic frame. They demand careful observation as the viewer’s eye meanders, when captivated by the details. The eye lingers over a detail or two and then settles down to digest the whole, rewarding the careful observer. Employing the use of programmed lights, he has created an active display where colour as the fundamental ingredient is further enhanced, by the interplay of light with form, resulting in a viewing experience that is both dynamic and mesmerizing.
Colourfield Expressions series
Stripes and Weaves
Horizontal stratifications of vibrant colours make up Strips and Weaves, which is also suggestive of the hard-edge works produced by American post painterly abstraction practitioners of the 60s. His work however, is distinctly Nigerian and differs in its intention, source reference and approach (for example, the inclusion of depth and textural layers adds gestures of movement and emotive readings, something the abstract expressionist of the fifties sought to strip away).The source reference for this series is the traditional Nigerian fabric, ‘Asooke’, with its stratification motif. Adekola Simulates the three traditional dyes used to create this cloth; ‘Alaari’—a rich red color, ‘Sanyan’ –a sepia brown colour and ‘Etu’—a dark blue colour, and combines them to deliver a distinct derivative spectrum of innumerable colours of intense and vibrant hues. The colours are then digitally stitched into strips to create a variety of designs in horizontal striations, as if produced on a traditional loom.
These designs are in turn enhanced through the addition of texture and depth and are then digitally interwoven like traditional weaves, to produce the final abstract pieces.
Embodying striking juxtaposition of colour and contrasts, the outcomes are physically powerful in both their linear and circular variety. As with much of his oeuvre, the dichotomy of tradition versus modernity is at play, especially in the circular compositions. They consist of a series of concentric circles that traverse the terrain between cloth and art, motif and object, allowing the geometry of the circle to provide autonomy for the array of vibrant colours. Through the use of programmed lights, Adekola adds an active colour-changing light effect to the works. This allows colour, as the fundamental ingredient to be maximized by the interaction of technology with tradition, and light with form – creating a hypnotic optical effect where the eye enabled to rest, is diverted from one area to another.
Stripes and Weaves series
Yesterday, today: Bling your heritage, Pimp your Culture
There are historically significant artifacts which help to preserve and perpetuate a nation’s history and heritage, then there are specific contemporary art pieces that help to interpret current culture while shaping that of tomorrow. The two rarely exist within the same ontological frame, however ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Today’ attempt that. In turning artifacts of Nigerian heritage like Nok terracotta, Benin court art and Ife bronze into contemporary art objects, Adekola puts one veil of luxury over another of traditional mythology, wrapped up in a shroud of colonial history, where he uses diamond dust to rediscover historically significant Nigerian artifacts that are now housed in museums outside the country. His photographic pieces have a layer of diamond dust applied on mosaics of various gem stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, carefully assembled in form of the traditional artifact. His intervention plays with the notion of the re-materialization of traditional mythology, and in a twist, offers historical artifacts as reconfigured objects in a veil of glamour and luxury thereby emphasizing their contemporary as opposed to historical rites. In returning these lost artifacts to cultural significance, he performs an artistic restitution of sorts. They present themselves anew, as if teleported from their glass boxes in international museums and transformed into coveted contemporary objects – all glistening with beautiful luminosity and rich textures. Light bounces off their three-dimensional surfaces with a kaleidoscopic sparkle and the pieces reclaim what was once theirs – a place in the hearts of their people. This intervention performs a poetic restitution by providing new insight and allowing these iconic artifacts to once again be reinserted into contemporary Nigerian mindset and culture.
Detail of a work from Yesterday, today: Bling your heritage, Pimp your Culture
Other works from the Yesterday, today: Bling your heritage, Pimp your Culture series
Flags and Conflicts / Belligerents and Insurgents
In the series Flags and Conflicts, he explores the intricate relationship as no intricate relationship can be formed between nations at war or in conflict, the coalitions they form through allegiances and the cost in human lives lost. Out of the brutality of war comes this simple gesture of reflection, remembrance and commemoration.
The works are made up of flags arranged in a cascade of concentric circles, resembling the form of a ‘mandala’ –a Buddhist and Hindu spiritual symbol representing the universe or a microcosm of it. He makes this mandala-like pieces either as parings, showing both the insurgent and the belligerent sides of the conflict or as singular constructions with both warring factions. Each piece represents nations that co-operate in military, diplomatic, or intelligence campaigns along with those that fight or fund the war efforts of one side or the other. His flags and conflict pieces cover a range of conflicts from World War I to present day, like Nigeria’s internal struggle with the Boko Haram insurgency. Each piece has two numbers, which reveal the total number of lives lost, and the annual loss over the duration of the conflict. The loss of human lives range from an estimated 135,000,000 in the European colonization of the Americans at an annual rate of 700,000 lives per year, to the estimated 80,000,000 lives lost in World War II at a rate of 14,000,000 lives annually. Closer to home, the mandalas of the Nigerian civil war, show an estimated 3,000,000 lives lost at a rate of 1,000,000 annually. The design of the mandalas is used as a tool to absorb the mind and to surround the viewer with a spiritual essence, elevating HIS awareness or higher consciousness. Ironically, mandalas symbolize unity and harmony, not war and conflict so it is puzzling that the artist uses this form of representation. His intention is for the art pieces to become a symbol of remembrance, tribute or reflective prayer and reveals that the form is meant more as commemoration for souls lost at war. Adekola’s work though bordering on the philosophical, are also visual feasts for the casual viewer.
Flags and Conflicts / Belligerents and Insurgents
Image Credits: Ade Adekola