At the beginning of each year there’s a certain positivity, the statement ‘this is my year’ is sung around repeatedly. Coming off the energy of last year, 2019 is expected to be more in all scenes across Africa. There’s a certain drive in the air evident through creative and innovative outburst disrupting ecosystems.
Rele Art Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria, plays a role in this era’s paradigm shift using art as a tool for conversation and freedom of thought. Bringing artists, collectors and their audience together to network, celebrate and buy art. Founded by Adenrele Sonariwo, who’s also the Director, the gallery showcased this year’s Young Contemporaries event, the annual exhibition is aimed at showcasing new and emerging talent across different forms of art.
This year’s show featured six different young artists, which included Osaze Amadasun, one of the Exhibition’s favourites, stealing the show with his four-part art series ‘Once Upon A Kingdom’ [all the pieces sold out]. Osaze comes from a new age of painters happy to explore authentic styles that express their core beliefs and the defining pillars holding the key to their work’s uniqueness.
The 24-year-old illustrator and designer whose work offers ‘comical and satirical look at society, often political or historical‘ spent most part of his life living in Lagos [over 20 years now] prior to relocating to Lagos, he lived in Edo, Abia, and Kaduna states. With an interest in art from a young age, his work is keen on documenting and telling stories of things important to him. His influences range from Pop-culture to fashion, comic books and architectural illustrations.
‘Once Upon A Kingdom’ is his most defining work till date, the young, rising talent can only go up from here.
It’s a new year and I’m excited to be talking with you. I just stumbled on your work and I’m so impressed. I’ll start by asking you to tell us about your art career? Who is Osaze Amadasun? How have you evolved over the years to get to this moment? The ups, downs, exhibitions…
Osaze Amadasun: I’m an artist of creative elasticity whose artistic mediums cut across drawing, painting, illustration and graphic design. I first trained as an architect graduating with a BSc. in Architecture in 2014 and went to receive a Master’s Degree in Environmental Design 2016, both from the University of Lagos.
Over the years, I have undertaken various art projects illustrating, designing and creating for high profile organisations while still experimenting with my personal projects.
Congratulations on selling out your four-piece art presentation at Rele Art Gallery. You’re definitely having a good year, tell us about that series ‘Once Upon A Kingdom’?
Osaze Amadasun: ‘ONCE UPON A KINGDOM…’ is a series of paintings reminiscent of the ancient Benin kingdom. Informed by anthropological data, studies of the Benin brass casters works and Benin mythology, I reinterpret significant events that occurred during the era of Oba Esigie (1504 – 1550).
Being a newbie to your work, I was really struck about how much I felt about it. Your work was able to move through the audience and the narrative felt very personal to you. Is this art to you? Being able to say something through your work for your audience to understand and feel?
Osaze Amadasun: I’m more of an illustrator. For me, it’s very important that my audience can at least to an extent get a sense of the message/story I’m trying to convey without any explanation. My art is not abstract in any way.
There’s a Renaissance feeling to your work, what eras and people would you say have inspired your style?
Osaze Amadasun: Generally, I try to soak up as much creative content as possible. I don’t have a particular artist I go to for inspiration, I learn from all, graphic designers, painters, illustrators, 3d artists e.t.c. However, For this series, I looked at a lot of Renaissance paintings and stained glass works in churches and cathedrals. I studied how they composed elements on their canvas and their gestures. This informed how I approached my own work.
The Nigerian art scene is picking up its pace and becoming a bigger market for a larger, more conscious audience and collectors. Being a young artist on the rise, how’s the evolution of the art scene helping you grow? How important are art spaces like Rele, AAF, Red Door and exhibitions like ArtX for the scene?
Osaze Amadasun: Very important. You get to meet your favourite artists, art collectors and art lovers in the same space at once. You also get insight into artists process as well as their day to day challenges and how they go about solving them. Basically, these spaces give you insight into the art scene.
On the negative side, things are still fragile here for independent creatives. From your experience what areas need to be better?
Osaze Amadasun: I think a major problem common to any creative working in this region is an erratic power supply. If the power problem can be solved, I believe people’s creative output would increase significantly.
What’s your process of creating a series of paintings like ‘Once Upon A Kingdom’? What stories make you want to create?
Osaze Amadasun: For starters, I need to be actually interested in the subject matter. The ‘Once upon a kingdom…’ series in particular, for over 3 years I gathered up anthropological data on Benin, watched documentaries and of course studied the classical works of Benin artists. With my brain saturated with stories and visuals around the subject matter, it was easy for me to create my work. Creating the art isn’t the hard part. The hard part is actually the research stage and composing each piece well to tell your story. You only have one shot at passing your message across, people need to get a sense of your story at first glance (for me at least).
The year is far from over, what will you be doing next?
Osaze Amadasun: I’d be expanding on the works I have on display at Rele gallery. Creating art around the Kingdom of Benin as I make more research and discoveries on the subject matter.
There’s a purity about your work I find intriguing, there’s a relevance to your art. What’s the soul of your work?
Osaze Amadasun: I just want to create art people can relate to and find relevant in the years to come. Just as I’ve been able to learn from the works of people that came before me, people should be able to learn and expand on the works I create.