By Henry Akubuiro
The two artists — Oluwatosin Toromade and Temitayo Badru —have come a long way since their university days. They were both educated at the University of Ife, taught by the same lecturers and grew up with a similar art orientation. But like a tree stem emanating from the same soil, their branches are unique yet bear a certain sameness.
Starting from May 2, 2020 and running till May 22 at Art Pantheon Gallery, 12D Bosun Adekoya Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, is an exhibition by both artists themed “Me and You: Two Sides of a Coin”.
A visit to the gallery shows illuminating esthetics on the white walls, offering deep insights. In “Me and You…,” both artists present a new direction in representing identity, tradition and personal history. For anybody visiting the exhibition, an identity consciousness is instantly evoked as you reflect on your personal journey.
Some of the works being exhibited include Gele Odun III (in diptych thread on linen, 45 x 58in, dated 2022); Breathe, Problem No Dey Finish (acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72in, dated 2022) by Badru; Balloon Series, including Masked and Proud (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 60 x 72in); and Tribute To Eden II (oil on canvas, 48 x 60in) by Toromade.
Explaining their unique bond, Oluwatosin Toromade said they have “almost the same orientation when it comes to art”, also “both of us are exploring artists; we explore different things in art”.
Understanding the essence of the exhibition is framed in the poser: “What energies and renewed awareness are created at the boundaries of interaction between the sojourn of the individual and the legacies of tradition?” Sonoiki answered: “Me & Him is, among other things, about the insights we reap from this kind of reflection.”
In a statement issued by the gallery, you learn that Lagos-born Toromade, who was educated in Ife, paints figures that bear the dissatisfaction, struggle, tenacity, and joy that Nigerians anywhere would recognise.
“His figures in his Balloon and Sojourner series typify these aspects of our character as a people and invite us to ponder them closely.
Also, “Badru, who hails from Abeokuta and went to university in Ife, has built an œuvre that draws inspiration from Yoruba tradition and cosmology….. he is keenly interested in amplifying the etymological meanings of traditional adire eleko patterns. Myths, folklore, proverbs, and spirituality animate his works.
One of the works bound to catch your attention at the exhibition is Taste and Feeling; a depiction of self, which he explained, “mirror the realities of life, mood swing and frame of mind.”
Another sight to behold is Masked and Proud in the
Balloon Series, a collection of dark balloons that profess a return to the roots —self discovery.
Carving different niches, Toromade is exhibiting 11 works, mostly paintings, while Badru is exhibiting 8 works, deploying embroidery and other high-tech media.
A statement from the artists said both artists “have engaged art beyond aesthetics while retaining the lure of aesthetics, and used the subject of art as a tool to inspire social debates, as well as address human issues.
“While some may call them social commentators, their art are beyond commentary; they are in a manner of speaking society’s conscience, drilling deep into the annals of human interactions, like engineers, to create works that address the hidden issues of man’s day-to-day life, drawing from history and a keen observation of their immediate and lager environment.
“If art was a coin produced in Ile-Ife, Toro and Badru, have, by the reason of this exhibition, qualified to be the two sides of that coin, among the numerous prodigious artists that Obafemi Awolowo University has produced….
“Two sides of a coin is the parable that exposes the ideals of the exhibition with a rider title ‘Me & Him’. It is the interrogation of the decision of two artists and their diversity of expressions using art as a vehicle.