By Henry Akubuiro
Oluwafemi Otoki established his strokes as a call to save nature, as he said he had only one desire as a painter: to document as many scenes of the natural world as possible for posterity.
To broaden his scope in nature painting, Otoki is presenting a solo exhibition, “This Land Is Not For Sale”, Saturday, March 19-28, 2022, at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi , Lagos. Nature changed, energized and inspired him to document everything he observed on canvas.
From his early days painting miniature landscapes, Otoki gradually developed his technique to create larger works as he traveled more often to rural communities in Nigeria. For his passion, he began to study, draw and paint landscapes with vivid and expansive depictions of natural landscapes found in the southwestern states of Nigeria, especially Ekiti and Ondo.
“Nature speaks to me and I think there is a lot to explore, discover and learn from it,” Otoki said ahead of the exhibit. “I do it my way, working hard to create paintings that speak to me and others about the beauty that exists within us and around us.” He revealed that his inspiration comes from God, seeing himself blessed and completing creation to project the glory of God.
Otoki has been described as an artist whose choice of realism stands out from the cluttered space of hyperrealism. One of Otoki’s colleagues, Ike Chiemezie Gerald, noted that Otoki “chose not to narrow his practice and career down the common path of photocopying, typical of examples of paintings by some Nigerian artists whose art, especially landscapes, could sarcastically be described as an extension of photographic renderings without brushstrokes.
In his preface to the exhibition catalogue, Gerald explains Otoki’s choice of theme: “The artist’s technical resolution can be interpreted metaphorically in the phrase, This Land is Not for Sale, a caveat emptor, intelligently structured .
Gerald noted that the theme “introduces eccentricity into the artist’s dialect in terms of compositional approach, color and texture, with its lavishly drawn strokes and vibrant colors that tend to invoke in seers of art living memory and impression of Monet’s execution of Lilly series eg Otoki, according to Gerald, presents this “standard as an affirmation of the particularity of approach and professional identity”.
“This land is not for sale” by Otoki, although used as a metaphor, is a core phrase in Nigerian pop culture that warns people to be aware of the fraudulent activities of imposters pretending to be investors, to both in transactional and non-transactional associations, Gerald argued.
“The artist, in his ingenuity of thought, therefore decided to play around with this concept in order to capture the attention of his audience by leading them to look beyond the mediocrity of the inferior presentations of the landscape paintings. .” Otoki’s painting, he insisted, stems from “manners that encourage Plato’s mimetic theory, which argues for the uselessness of art”. Gerald said the exhibition hopes to establish a common center of transaction between artists, art seers and outdoor painting collectors.
Oluwafemi Otoki, born in 1968, attended Yaba College of Technology, where he obtained the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and the Higher National Diploma (HND) in Painting in 1987 and 1992 respectively.
In 2010, he painted portraits of Adamawa State’s military administrator, Air Vice Marshal Gregory Agboneni, and the Secretary General of the NYSC (National Youth Services Corps); and he also performed commissioned work for the NYSC Secretariat at Yola. He received the Adamawa State Government Award for exemplary service to the government and people of Adamawa State, in 1994. In 2003, he received a Certificate of Achievement from The Ohio State University for completing the International Art and Culture Summer Workshop.
He belongs to several professional bodies such as the Society of Nigerian Artists and The Creative Chambers. Oluwafemi thinks there is a lot to explore. discover and learn from nature. His greatest aspiration is to be one of the greatest landscape painters in the world and to project a positive image of the African artist in the world.
Among his last exhibitions are Flower Blossom (1992). Events of Our Time at the Russian Cultural Center in Lagos (1992). Family Ties at the National Museum of Lagos (1996). Alizé of our time Leventis Foundation (1998). Millstones at the National Teatre Lagos (2002). Strokes of Peace, Life Strokes Art Gallery Ikoyi Lagos (2003). A few names at the Nimbus Art Centre, sponsored by the British Council Nigeria (2004).