Graduate Art exhibition boots prospects of young artists
Often, it is not for want of talent among Nigerian youths, but the sheer absence of platforms for them to showcase their innate and horned skills. This is the gap South Africa-inspired Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria has stepped in to fill with its RMBN Graduate Artists Programme, which was established as part of the bank’s fifth year anniversary celebration in June 2018. The success of the event led to the formalization of a programme that could provide a platform to support the featured artists, who are the best graduating visual arts students from their respective departments of Fine and Applied Art with their continued professional development.
The 2019 RMBN Graduate Art Exhibition proudly presented the works of Akintomide Aluko, Chioma Elizabeth Ekpetorson, Iyunola Sanyaolu, Ayanfeoluwa Olarinde, Washington Mosadioluwa, and Wahab Saheed. This year’s exhibition had acclaimed multimedia artist, Mr. Duke Asidire, headlining it at a colourful exhibition event at Federal Palace hotel last week.
The pieces on display from the six selected artists reflect both their exploration and their response to topics and themes presented by the programme. RMBN Graduate Artists Programme encourages each artist to be experimental and play with new methods of art making. Organisers said the programme serves as an incubation platform for the young artists to explore and grow as they continue to professionalise their practice.
The opportunity for the artists to respond to the recent Lagos Biennial, with the theme ‘How to Build a Lagoon with just a Bottle of Wine’, produced new works that reflected the artists own perspective around urbanization, society and culture, the environment and (dis)order.
The organisers commended Asidere for his ability to build engaging and striking bodies of work that are moving and pensive, adding, “Often drawing from his own upbringing in an homage to the women who raised him, Duke’s three-dimensional paint strokes reflect a mastery of the medium and a storytelling that feels familiar yet foreign. The exhibition is built around his pieces that are emotive, multi-layered exploration of colour, character, and charm.”
The loose curatorial theme explored sculpture both traditionally and non-traditionally through storytelling, therefore, inviting the audience to reflect on their own stories as they moved through the exhibition and to be encouraged to make some new ones.
Chief Executive Officer of RMB Nigeria and Regional Head West Africa, Mr. Michael Larbie, stated that RMB supports artists and organizations to develop the creative economy, noting, “We support the arts because we have always believed that the creative economy has the potential to generate economic growth, employment and trade. And we believe that the growth of this sector will enable many more Nigerians to engage effectively and profitably in the broader economy.”
Asidere expressed excitement at the idea of a foreign bank supporting local artists to blossom, noting, “I’m so impressed that a non-Nigerian bank will pick six artists and mentor them. It’s very commendable. It’s a major plus for the bank. Everything was top range at the event, from the artists to the event management; it was very successful.”
However, while advising Nigerians banks to emulate RMBN, Asidere enjoined the organisation to also consider acquiring at least two works from each artist every year, which could form the bank’s gallery or museum. He tasked the bank to also hold seminar for artists and teach them money management skills so they better deploy their earnings for now and future use. While applauding the idea as a fantastic one, Asidere said the bank could also diversity the programme to artists outside Lagos who also need the exposure the six artists got.