FIDELIS ODOGWU: SQUARE PEGS, ROUND HOLES
November 3-12, 2012
From November 3 to 12, 2012, Omenka Gallery will present Square Pegs, Round Holes, an exhibition of metal sculptures by Fidelis Eze Odogwu. Born in 1970 in Agbor, Delta State, Odogwu is one of Nigeria’s finest contemporary artists and works entirely in metal. His mastery over his chosen medium conceals the difficulties involved in controlling its vitality, its resistance and demands. The aesthetics of Odogwu’s artistic output belies the complex themes and meanings. His technical ability in constructing with metal and his natural flair are traceable, as is the case with most artists, to his childhood when he repaired broken wooden handles of farm tools in Agbor, Delta State. Odogwu later studied sculpture at the famous Auchi Polytechnic and graduated in 1991. He recalls: “In my class, we were eleven students who specialised in sculpture, and most of us then were really scared of using the welding machine because of its health hazards. I took it as a challenge to concentrate on metal in order to show that any of us could do it…”
Odogwu’s art is created with mild steel of various shapes and sizes including sheets and strands sourced at the Owode and Orile metal markets in Lagos. Guided by his concept, he employs shear cutters, to slice the metal sheets into segments. With an arc grinding machine, they are smoothened and welded together if required, after which the artist pounds them into desired shapes with a hammer. Usually, cellulose or lacquer is used as a finishing to obliterate traces of joining. This serves to give the work a patina of freshness and organic elegance, ultimately challenging the viewer’s preconceived notions of the appearance of metal. With more complex works, Odogwu often uses a lathe machine in fashioning relatively smaller geometrical shapes, sometimes with intricate patterns, as embellishments or as components of larger pieces. The artist’s technique also consists of welding tiny multi-coloured strips on the faces of larger sheets to mimic the effect of paint dripping down a canvas.
Fidelis Odogwu’s broad oeuvre encompasses a calm, academic realism, and the expressive fluidity of classical African sculpture, known for its architectonic volumes. His thirty-three works presented here encompass several themes from the economic to the socio-political and religious. They can be grouped broadly into free-standing and relief hanging sculptures. The exhibition draws its titles from two works; Square Pegs in Round Holes and Round Pegs in Square Holes in which the artist engages contemporary African politics by criticizing the assigning of juicy contracts and top government positions to less than qualified friends and political allies, while the continent fails to realize its full potential. Odogwu’s success owes much to his ability to balance spatial and sculptural relationships; the beauty of the geometric elements and evocations of natural form, becoming versatile tools for exploring the formal and metaphorical associations connected with African folklore and contemporary politics. In all, this exhibition of recent works represents the artist’s agitations for harmonious co-existence by communities, the recognition of the importance of family and societal values such as respect and hierarchy, against the prevailing acts of increased terrorism in Nigeria.
Fidelis Eze Odogwu’s work forms part of many significant collections. He has participated in several important group exhibitions in Nigeria and abroad. Working out of the Universal Studios of Art at the National Theatre, Lagos, he has also collaborated with some notable artists including Peju Alatise on major works for hotels and resorts. Odogwu is a member of the Society of Nigerian Artists and the Guild of Professional Artists of Nigeria.
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High-resolution images and more information on the artist are available on request.