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With fabrics, Akintobi explores African art in solo exhibition – New Telegraph Newspaper

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A solo exhibition by US-based Nigerian artist, Akintayo Akintobi, explores African art symbols, patterns, and fabrics. The show which is scheduled to hold at South River Art Studio, Atlanta GA, USA, from October 6 to November 3, 2023, is titled The End of The Beginning. It is a significant and turning point in the artist’s career of over a decade of practice in the visual art space. Talking about his journey of exploring African art, Akintobi, a graduate of Fine Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria, and currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art at East Tennessee State University, USA, disclosed that he has been painting since he was seven years old, and about a decade ago, he went professional in painting. He added, “I explore African art using symbols, patterns, and fabrics particularly to Africans in my works through an abstract and surrealistic lens. I combine these with lines, shapes, and figures to tell stories or teach life lessons from an African perspective.”
On the historical relevance of the theme, he noted that, ‘The End of the Beginning’ focuses primarily on human existence, adding it features an assortment of paintings about the birth and death of people, the commencement and termination of things, friendships, relationships, jobs, and everything we experience in life. “It equally talks about man’s ability to design his life and determine the beginnings and ends of his experiences. African-Americans and Nigerians are a people with a long history of hardships and survival. For them, anything that has a beginning has an end. They rode with this mantra against the slave trade, and they won. Now, as racism, abuse, and discrimination are on the rise, these works are a reminder to all black people that they can win again. All they need do is determine to end it.”
According to him, many philosophical themes drive his works but the ones that often spurs him into creative pursuits are themes on family, identity, love, and perception. “I love how families, friends, and communities intercept in people’s lives, and it inspires me greatly. I love that you can describe a person as someone’s child, friend, partner, or a native of a place. It’s beautiful when you have relational strings attached to you, and it is painful when you have none; I paint for both circumstances,” he said. The artist says he often wonders how people think. He notes that it is this curiosity that birthed his constant distortion of game pieces in some of his works. “It perfectly captures my awe, curiosity, and tireless research into the human mind,” he perceives. The exhibition which is bringing the artist to a point of transition thus marking the end of one phase and the start of another is created in five series. They are portrait, family, friendship, human-animal, and abstract series. He explains.
“These series talk about the beginning of our lives as humans, the support we get from family, the love of friends, the loyalty of pets, and the end of our lives. And they were inspired by my observation of human life and relationships. I think it’s beautiful how humans relate with one another, animals, and the environment.” What are some of the exhibition you have participated in, either as group, joint and solo? “I have participated in some exhibition in the United States of America and Nigeria. I was part of Con-figuration, at William King Museum, Abingdon VA USA, and Holla If You See Me, at The Kansas African American Museum, Kansas city Mo USA in 2023. In 2022 I had The Black Gaze, at Tipton Gallery, Johnson City, TN. USA, and Striped Down at Vestige Concept gallery, Pittsburg, PA USA, and 60 years of artists’ days, at Oduduwa Hall basement, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osun, Nigeria in 2021.” He revealed that all the art pieces on parade on this exhibition promote African culture especially the Yoruba culture. “As is my habit in most of my works, I input patterns of the Adire Eleko fabric (a fabric associated with the Yoruba people of Abeokuta, Ogun State). I also added some motif from the Ife people’s Onaism’. “Most of them have weighty cultural meaning and added sentimental value to the paintings. By their mere presence connotative positioning, I hope people can see beauty of Yoruba and Africans at large.” Highlighting the decade journey as a visual artist and how it goes on to influence on his art, Akintobi shared two of such influences.
“The first highlight for me is my improved understanding of art. I have come to know art as something beyond hobby, a job or a mere combination of colors. I now know art as an outlet of deep expression, as a book of history, and as a place for mystery and secrets. “The second one is that the concept, meaning, and appeal of my works resonate with people from various part of the world. I’ m glad I can use art as a universal language. These, and the entirety of my career as a visual artist have made me a deeper thinker. I no longer look at the things as they ordinarily appear. I now question positioning, usage, meaning, and the existence or non-existence of things. Art, mine and others, have changed me beautifully.” At the end of this exhibition which will unveil 14 colourful artworks borne out of deep thinking, Akintobi hopes that they achieve the same effect in everyone who attends the exhibition.
“I also hope that these works with their Nigerian motif and symbols reveal the beauty of Nigeria to the world. The narrative about Nigeria is unpleasant and bothersome, and I hope to change it one painting at a time,” he enthused, even as he added. “This belief stems from the fact that after studying these works during my preparations, I thought more consciously and deeply about it.” On the curator he said. “The exhibition is curated by South River Art Studios. It is an art gallery and studio in Atlanta. I met the studio/gallery management while working on a floor mural with an artist friend. They saw my work, loved it, and offered me the opportunity of an exhibition. “The works that particularly pulled them into my craft are those with game pieces; they expressed their admiration for my use of game pieces to express human situations and emotions. Now, we are here.” Asked for the new materials on board the exhibition’s works he stated that. “Before now, I used acrylic for most of my works. Now, I introduced satin paint to the materials used for creating these works. I used it alone or combined it with acrylic paint for some works. I also added locally woven mats to my materials. To perfectly execute one of my visions, I used local mat for an abstract painting.”

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© 2023 All right reserved. New Telegraph,  Nigeria
© 2023 All right reserved. New Telegraph,  Nigeria

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