From mentorship to within and without of metal art
Stepping out into his first solo art exhibition, Fatai Abdulkareem relished the value of his environment, particularly, that of mentorship. The exhibition, titled Within and Without, held at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos, exposed an artist whose body of metal work adds to the growing profile of the college’s in metal art.
After his graduation years ago, Abdulkareem did not exactly leave the school: he submitted himself for mentorship under one of the college’s masters of metal art, Adeola Balogun. With that background, a ray of the mentor’s style is not going to be missing in the young artist’s work. But Abdulkareem’s skill, as a natural artist, is still loud in the body of diverse themes he showed at his debut solo.
In building the body of work for the exhibition, the artist also took a deep look into his immediate environment, though sometimes, he “stumbled” on some ideas. One of the works titled Pathfinder is like a tribute to Ifa divinity, a traditional Yoruba religious method of seeking guidance. In oval shaped and textured with circled foiling as well as eight points that represent the odus, the brownish metal piece was inspired by the artist’s immediate environment. He must have developed a liking for the opon Ifa theme; he actually has it in series.
How does the Ifa tablet stray into his list of environmental inspirations? He recalled that “passing through a place somewhere in Agbado (a Lagos suburb), I stumbled on one Ifa priest and the girl working with him.”
Curiously he later went to “research” the ancient practice of divinity “on my own.” Quite a number of other works focus on the terrain of nature, capturing birds and four-legged animals, suggesting an influence from Balogun’s mentorship. Also, the growing behaviourial patterns of sculptors stripping metal of its natural colour by painting the objects is imbibed by Abdulkareem.
Like most mentees who subconsciously imbibe certain characteristics of their mentors, Abdulkareem is not an exception. “On similarities with works of Balogun and Amoda, I have thought of that, but I am particularly focused on the materials I use,” the young artist stated.
Perhaps, it won’t take long before he gets out of the masters’ shadows. “I do not see the established signatures shadowing mine; I just work, not really conscious of anyone’s identity.”
And what a good start for Abdukareem as one of Africa’s top art collectors, Prince Yemisi Shyllon was present at the exhibition as special guest. Shortly before declaring the exhibition open, Shyllon recalled how Yabatech influenced his art collecting passion.
“I started collecting art after being inspired when I used to come here to study and saw works of students,” he described Balogun as “a surgeon-general artist whose skill has helped in restoring many sculptures.”
The mentor commended his young artist for being humble after graduating, adding, “He graduated seven years ago, but realised the need to learn more and came back, and requested to be mentored.”
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