Pray, make use of my sakaki brush!

In the light of a desk-top lamp and a dimly lit candle the Artist is working throughout the night. With a sakaki branch in his hand, Damilola Oshilaja fills the void of the canvas with vivid colours in amazing patterns. It seems simple, as if anyone could splash paint on a Chip Surface spread on the floor, so as to absorb the trace-metal energy of the soil. Still, few can master that much in such a zen-like style of yugèn. Silently concentrated, Damilola Oshilaja makes the steps and elegant moves required to bring about yet another exquisite work of art. It appears as if the artist is performing a dance. Taking a step back, he looks at his achievement and calmly focuses on the details that melt in the togetherness of the void. Seizing an instant of frozen time, he thereunto applies a second layer of colour. This is Art Grunge; a school of art that transcends action painting, figurative art and graffiti into a new rich landscape made of artefacts that the artist defines as “recycled white noise.”

To Damilola Oshilaja Art Grunge is nothing short of an evolution. It is a manifesto that announces the birth of a new art era, introducing ethics in policymaking strategies. “Art used to be about social commentary and criticism. In the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century art was the barometer for culture and the spectator of politics, but because we have the internet and many other technological advancements, today art has been relegated in terms of social relevance,” says Damilola Oshilaja. With the impetus to reallocate art as the prime forum of cultural, social and political significance, as well as elevating it to a new level in the 21st century, the artist says, “We have to raise the bar.”

Taking a glance of Damilola Oshilajas’ art works, one sees traces of Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat, artists who have popularised these individual styles before, but no one has ever fused them together, bringing forward the original matter of art. At the age of 24, the artist is not only talented, innovative and dedicated to long hours of work, but he is also a sharp critic who expresses his interdisciplinary viewpoints about his contemporaries. Disagreeing with the often precarious financial situation of many artists, Damilola Oshilaja has introduced the Oshilaja Agreement. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan once said in an article called In larger freedom, “Both our security and our principles have long demanded that we push forward all (these) frontiers of freedom, conscious that progress on one depends on and reinforces progress on others”. “I concur with this thinking in relation to the constitution of an artist,” says Damilola Oshilaja.

The artist was born at Westminster in London and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where his ascendency began. Having gained a bachelors degree in business and accountancy, while developing his skills as a painter, Damilola Oshilaja initiated his career with a first exhibition of pastel and charcoal drawings at the King’s Road Church Gallery in London in 1998, Damilola Oshilaja ventured into the unknown of his creative potentials and realised paintings like “White Collar Man”, “Run-Away Train/Desolation Train”, “Lift to the Scaffold”, “Quadrafro”, “Love is...b”, “9/11”, “Girlfriend”, “The Beach,” as well as a series of three paintings called “Golden Boy”. The artist successfully proved himself to a Swedish audience at the 21st anniversary of the Nôka International Theatre in Stockholm 2004 holding an exhibition entitled “Birth of the New, Birth of the Cool; Prelude”; before making the much admired and anticipated exhibition at the Empire Gallery in London entitled “The Art Grunge Show”.

In the painting “Omnium gatherum mutato nomine” the artist enhances the way we perceive art as such by actually inserting a computer harddrive into the canvas. The configurative part of Art Grunge tells us that here is a painter that places the african part of his artistic heritage into a modern sophisticated and natural context.  The usage of English, Latin, French, Yoruba, Chinese and Dogon graffiti, mathematical equations, as well as Haïtian voodoo ikons on the canvas operates as attractive interaction force-fields, which is a basic necessity in order to achieve a greater life experience, peace and unity amongst people of all nations, races and religious beliefs. Busy travelling between Stockholm and London and completing one facinating painting after another, Damilola Oshilaja is preparing to exhibit his works in Lagos, Tokyo, New York, Paris, Milan and Geneva. How this young turc manages to put together all the various aspects of his art is a question that does not necessarily require an immediate answer.

Damilola Oshilaja does not only paint to make a statement or to defend art, he paints because he feels he has to, because it is the only thing he has ever really wanted to do. “To me panting is like breathing.”

Indeed it is an honour to see the artistic achievements of Damilola Oshilaja. A university friend once described his personal style as being all “BCBG and artsy intellectualism” that would be ‘very artistic grunge’ in a converted Tribeca loft space or on the Left Bank of Paris. One thing is certain, Damilola Oshilaja’s art makes any place that exhibits it a hot-spot for a reinvigorated and privileged generation of art consumers.

Astrid Macura                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 
 
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