The Arts

February 20, 2024

Omodamwen’s fresh bronze captures contemporary sculpture

By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor

Breaking away from the tradition of repetitive style and technique, Kelly Omodamwen brings sculptures in fresh forms that challenge traditional bronze.

The artist who has Benin bronze ancestry is strengthening the importance of history, but applying contemporary style, technique and theme.

Omodamwen’s fresh breath of sculpture comes in a solo art exhibition titled “Beyond Mimesis”, opening from February 24-March 3, 2024, at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. In a preview statement, Signature Beyond was delighted having the opportunity to introduce Omodamwen’s works of exquisite sculptures to the general art-loving public.

Omodamwen began producing his sculptures in bronze, and in 2017, he discovered spark plugs as a medium in sculpture, which has gained him audience after his documentary with BBC Pidgin in 2020. His style of art has evolved over the years, moving from Benin art forms to contemporary one and also to welded sculptures, which include the repoussé and upcycling of waste materials into functional and aesthetic arts.

“The voice of an artist depends largely on his or her technique and choice of medium of expression, and the proper use of both enable the audience connect with the unspoken words of an artist,” Omodamwen said in his Artist Statement. “Beyond mimes is an embodiment of deep, unspoken thoughts and innate expression of emotion through body language.”

The introduction of the preview noted that Mimesis in its original context dwells mainly on the basic theoretical principles in the creation of art works. For the artist, his creative thoughts have stood on the frameworks of Pluto and Aristotle’s lines of thought to represent nature rather than copying it. “Omodamwen broke loose from imitative stereotypes that dominates the famous traditional Benin bronze casting practice both in concept, thematic and technomorphical approaches in materials usage,” the gallery explained.

 Omodamwen’s art, according to the preview, are sculptures created purposively and intelligently with the sole aim of satisfying viewers’ perceptual appetite. However, it requires little or no special requirements to appreciate the perceptual skills of the artist. Such contents in Omodamwen’s art include the texture, patina, subtle graduation of surface tones, linear qualities of the contours, silhouettes and decorative patterns of the direct finger prints on wax that enliven the surfaces of his sculptures.

 Mostly of slimmed sizes, and in bronze, Omodamwen’s works for the Mimesis exhibition include Rythm II, 91 x 28 x 27cm, dated 2022; 9 lives, 40 x 15.5 X D68 cm, 2022; Soul Mate, 73 x 24 x 21.5cm; 2023; Trance 60 x 24 x 60cm, 2023; Freedom, 103 x 22.5 x 20.5cm, 2022 among others that highlight socio-economic themes woven around creativity.

“Omodamwen has pretenses to unique stylistic trend with unified thematic direction,” parts of the preview note disclosed. “The arrays of his works, nonetheless, chart a common path in appealing to the human conscience through material exploration, philosophical admonition and promotion of cultural creative values.”

According to excerpts from the preview, “in recent times, there’s a deathly downward slide in sculpture appreciate. This declination is overtly due to the degenerative decline of public perception, acceptance and favour to sculpture. Forces of hard political and religious fanaticism towards sculpture cannot also go unnoticed. Art and artists through the ages are known to play different and important roles in contributing to the overall health development and wellbeing of society.”

After decades of dedicating himself to studio practice, gathering and merging experience from both informal and formal experience, Omodamwen has carved a niche for himself seen in some of his body of works over time through his expression of anatomical study and usage of materials. Omodamwen ’s works are culturally influenced and inspired by his environment.

Born in 1993, Omodamwen hails from the Oredo Local Government Area of Benin City, Edo State. He began his sculpting journey as a kid in his bronze caster grandfather’s studio in Benin. He had his secondary education at Baptist High School in 2010 before proceeding to the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi where he obtained his National Diploma in general art and industrial design in 2015, and a Higher National Diploma with a distinction in sculpture in 2018. He also received the rector’s award (Certificate of Excellence) for best graduating student in 2018.