11 Dec Art People – Kolade Oshinowo

Kolade Oshinowo

Oshinowo doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the mad artist. He is understated, reasonable, well-dressed, measured in style and speech and business-like. While it is interesting to think of the artist a mad creative genius , Oshinowo presents a different face of the artist – the artist as a professional , and yes a genius as well. He takes his art seriously, has a clear sense of what he wants his art to convey and how to convey it and expects people to respect not just his art but art in general. If anyone wanted a role model for the artist as a professional to be taken seriously rather than a poor sod to be humoured it would be Oshinowo. And he has become a role model for many artists, instilling in them a sense of pride in their profession. His knowledge of art is vast.

His ability to convey this knowledge is equally impressive. Many would say that comes with being a lecturer. Oshinowo has been a lecturer at the Yaba college of Technology for many years holding various positions including Head of department and acting rector. He is probably the single most influential artist in defining what is today the Yaba style, and has influenced some of the most prominent Yaba artists including Biodun Olaku and Edosa Oguigo.

A good lecturer does not necessarily a good artist make. So what is it about Oshinowo’s art that has made him one of the most sought after painters in Nigeria? It’s probably the sheer power of his work; its ability to grip the viewer. For me, there’s also certain grandness about his works. He is, I think, a big occasion painter imbuing everyday scenes with a sense of importance. Oshinowo is probably best known for his landscapes. But he is certainly diverse in his choice of styles. His abstract works are as gripping as his representational work. His live studies are also remarkable in their ability to convey emotion. I think Oshinowo has changed gradually but surely over the years.

The colours in his early works were restrained and were mostly earthy tones. His more recent works are more vivid, livelier . The conventional wisdom is that as an artist ages his palette becomes tamer or as people would say ‘more mature’. Oshinowo seems to have taken the opposite route , getting livelier and more daring with age. In all the variety of styles he conveys, his central theme has remained constant. As he sees it, his art captures the life of his people – their hopes, pains, joys, suffering . He captures this in different ways – a painting of his house help at the market complaining about the drastic increase in the cost of foodstuff; his mechanic’s apprentice from down the road, hard at work learning his trade; the vast openness of the road to Gombe.

He sees with his eyes and paints with his emotion. Oshinowo recently became president of the Society of Nigerian Artist. I suspect he’ll bring his thoroughness and professionalism to the organisation. And will continue to inspire artists with his vision of the artist as a key part of the Nigerian society.


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