Olalekan Odunbori Lagos, Nigeria
Tell us about yourself
I'm a painter that loves to tell stories with my works. I hail from Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria and I'm a graduate of Yaba College of Technology, where I obtained a Higher National Diploma in Painting.
What kind of art do you do?
I do semi-abstract art, a movement called Cubism. With my works, I tell African stories with the infusion of African motifs and patterns.
How did you get started & how long have you been doing it?
It all started when I discovered I could draw as a kid and ever since then I've been practicing art. The passion I have for drawing and painting made me choose an art class in high School and I picked fine art as one of my subjects. After which I studied visual art in the tertiary institution.
What or who inspired you?
The urge to create beautiful things inspired me to do Art. Also, the works of great masters such as Yusuf Grillo, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso inspired me.
How do you work?
I start by stretching and priming my canvas and if it's drawing I intend to do, I make sure I sort for the right paper to use. Then, I brainstorm on the idea and prepare a sketch for the work. After that, I decide on the colour scheme I want to use for the work before I start painting. One funny thing though is my bath time is one of my favourite moments. Most of the themes of my works were conceived while in the bathroom.
How has your practice changed over time?
It has definitely evolved. When I started out, I really loved figurative painting but over time, my mannerism changed, which is why I now do semi-abstract art. This may likely lead me to becoming a pure abstract artist in the future.
Do you pursue themes?
Yes, I do. Themes guide me through the painting process and makes my job easier and interesting. I feel the theme helps the narrative of my work.
Do you have a “series” you would like to highlight & tell us about?
Yes, I do. I am working on a series titled YOU COMPLETE ME. This series highlights the fact that there's always that one person that makes us feel complete. These people are like our backbones and I feel we should appreciate them by letting them know how important they are to us.
Is your life expressed in your art or vice versa?
I would say it works both ways. Sometimes, my personal experiences inspire my art, while in most cases, art has taught me a great deal about patience and how to remain consistent in life.
What message would you like to convey through your art?
That would be hope, love, unity and the fact that we need to embrace our culture as a people.
What’s integral to your work as an artist?
Idealization is integral to my work because that is the foundation. That is where it all starts from.
What has been a seminal experience in your career?
That would be when I started doing body painting. I love Painting African motifs and patterns on the human body to tell stories. So, after the first one I did, I got referrals from different people and that got many to know me.
What’s your favourite piece from your collection?
To be honest, it's quite hard for me to pick. I fall in love with my works while and after creating them. But I can say that my favourite now is titled INFLUENCE. That's because it talks about how civilization has influenced Africans and our mother tongues. We have been seduced by the desire to communicate in another man's language – English. We now pay little or no attention to our first language and this needs to be corrected before we lose it.
Where does your inspiration come from when you are working? Do you have different inspirations for each piece?
My inspiration comes from happenings around me, cultural practices and nature. Yes, I do have different inspirations for each piece. It depends on the one idea I have at the time I'm planning to create a new piece.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Keep at what you do, even though you might not be where you want to be yet.”
Professionally, what’s your goal? What is your dream project?
My goal is to reach out to as many people as possible with my works. To have my paintings in big museums around the world like The Louvre and big auction houses while I'm still alive. My dream project is to be commissioned to create a large mural somewhere in Spain. I particularly like Frigiliana.
What obstacles have you faced as an artist?
Funding was an obstacle. Buying the needed art materials as a beginner was not easy. Another obstacle was that I got a lot of criticism of my works especially from art galleries and it was discouraging. But that helped me become better at my art.
What obstacles have you had with getting more people to know about your work?
This has always been a challenge for many artists. Getting people to know more about my work hasn’t been easy especially because my works are not in many galleries yet. But I must thank God for social media. It has given me good exposure.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I'm also a doodle artist, a graphic designer, a clothier and I also love listening to music. I like to dance too, even though I'm not so good at it (yet). I still haven’t mastered the famous “shaku shaku” dance. Lol