By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
Oluwafemi Otoki, whose brush drips in colours of nature brings breath-taking paintings of landscape, streetscape, waterside and skyline as expressions of natural environmental beauty on canvas.
An artist who has established his strokes of naturalism contents as a calling to rescue nature, Otoki is showing a solo exhibition titled “This Land Is Not For Sale” from Saturday, March 19-28, 2022, at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. The artist declares he has one desire as a painter: to document as many as possible sceneries of the natural world for posterity.
“Nature speaks to me and I believe there is a lot to explore, discover and learn from it,” Otoki states ahead of the exhibition. “I do this in my own way, working hard to create paintings that speak to me and others about the beauty that exists in and around us.” He says his inspiration comes from God, seeing himself blessed and complementing creation to project the glory of God.
Otoki has been described as an artist whose choice of realism stands out from the crowded space of hyperrealism. One of Otoki’s colleagues, Ike Chiemezie Gerald notes that Otoki “has chosen not to dwindle his practice and career down the common lane of photocopying, typical of sample paintings by certain artists in Nigeria whose art, especially landscapes, could sarcastically be described as an extension of photographic renditions without brush strokes.”
In his foreword for the catalogue of the exhibition, Gerald says in Otoki’s choice of theme – “This Land Is Not For Sale” – “the technical resolution by the artist can be interpreted metaphorically in the expression, “This Land is Not for Sale”, a caveat emptor, intelligently structured.” Gerald notes that the theme “introduces the eccentricity in the artist’s dialect in terms of composition, colour and texture approach, with his lavishly elaborate strokes and vibrant colours which tend to evoke in the audience the living memory and impression of Monet’s execution of the Lilly series for instance.” Otoki, according to Gerald, presents that “standard as an affirmation of peculiarity in approach and professional identity.”
Otoki’s “This Land is Not for Sale”, though used as a metaphor, is a fundamental expression in Nigerian society that alerts people to beware of fraudulent activities of impostors claiming to be investors, both in transactional and non-transactional associations,” Gerald argues.
“The artist, in his ingenuity of thoughts, has decided to play around this concept in order to capture the attention of his audience getting them to look past the mediocrity of substandard presentations of landscape paintings.” Otoki’s painting, he insists, derives from “ways that encourage Plato’s mimetic theory, which argues for the uselessness of art,” Gerald says the exhibition hopes to establish a common hub of the transaction between artists, art viewers and collectors of outdoor paintings.
Oluwafemi Otoki, born in 1968, attended Yaba College of Technology where he obtained OND and HND in painting in 1987 and 1992 respectively. He started his career by painting figurative works but was soon drawn to landscape paintings as he became more appreciative of his environment and its beautiful colours. Nature changed him, energised him and inspired him to document all he had observed on canvas. He initially focused on painting miniature landscapes, and then gradually developed his technique to create larger works.
To aid his need to express his observations on larger canvasses, he travelled more extensively to rural communities in Nigeria – studying, sketching and painting landscapes. He paints vivid and expansive depictions of natural scenery found in the South-West state of Nigeria – particularly Ekiti and Ondo.
In 2010, he painted portraits of the Military Administrator of Adamawa state, Air Vice Marshall Gregory Agboneni, the Secretary-General of the NYSC, and also executed a commissioned work for the NYSC secretariat in Yola.
He was presented with the Adamawa State Government award for exemplary services by the government and people of Adamawa State, Northern Nigeria, in 1994. In 2003, he received a certificate of achievement from the Ohio State University for completion of the International Art and Culture Summer Workshop.
Otoki belongs to several professional bodies such as the Society of Nigeria Artist and The Creative Chambers. He believes there is a lot to explore, discover and learn from nature. His greatest aspiration is to be one of the foremost landscape painters in the world and to project a positive image of the African artist globally.
Among his last exhibitions are “Flower Blossom” (1992); “Happenings of Our Time” at the Russian Cultural Centre, Lagos (1992). “Family Ties” at National Museum, Lagos (1996); “Trade Wind of Our Time”, Leventis Foundation (1998); “Millstones” at National Theatre, Lagos (2002); “Strokes of Peace”, Life Strokes Art Gallery, Ikoyi Lagos (2003) and “Some Names” at Nimbus Art Centre, sponsored by British Council Nigeria (2004).