“Nothing Is Truly A Waste. I Was Never Interested In Found Arts Until …” Endurance Omoloja
For some years, Auchi Polytechnic has been driving the principle of environmental or found arts through the conversion of solid waste to art.
This practice is not new to the school, emphasises artist and lecturer at Auchi Polytechnic Art School, Kent Onah; but like every idea, there is often a longer period of maturation. The aim is to save the environment from drowning in debris as well as create local arts without further importation of foreign materials to pollute the country.
But, what is the found arts? Is there a difference between found art and the environmental also known as recycled arts?
Found art is art that is created with ordinary objects, such as household appliances, industrial equipment, or even seemingly random junk. Sometimes called found object art, its purpose is to force viewers to question the meaning of art, and what distinguishes art objects from non-art objects. Found artists take materials they have discovered and present them in an unusual and unique manner. Central to the art form is the repurposing of non-artistic, functional material objects to create a cohesive representation of the artist’s objective.
On the other hand, recycled arts incorporate found objects and the repurposing of the non-artistic, previously functional materials with the intention of reusing, upcycling and reducing environmental degradation.
Several types of waste can be recycled into arts says Onah. Often times, it can be subtle, in the form of tissue papers or jute bags fused into canvas. At other times, it is less conspicuous as seen in some art pieces that incorporate rubber. A more conspicuous and resourceful form of environmental art is the conversion of mechanical waste into art.
In this practice, we find sculptor Endurance Omoloja, a graduate of Auchi Poly Art School, specialised in recycling solid waste sourced from his environment into sculpture. Omoloja never had interest in found arts until his final year, when his lecturer, Ibrahim Momoh introduced him to the subject. Ever since, he has found himself drawn more to it than any other medium.
Omoloja: “I had issues with some of the found arts I have seen. Everything in found arts has to do with found objectives to produce a particular concept. That is until I got introduced to some artists, as Oluwa Moda, who specialises in the found art,”
While exhibiting at the Korea Culture Centre, Nigeria (KCCN) and the Association of Professional Creative Artists and Designers (APCAD) in Abuja, Omoloja’s works captured the interest of ex-Deputy Speaker, Hon Chukwuemeka Ihedioha. The works include a sculpted female bust and a standing cock taking its coloured strip of wing and upper trunk from the mechanical pieces it is crafted from.
He speaks of his creation process, which begins with a conceived idea, sometimes drafted on to paper, to finding the pieces required to craft the design. Finding the right parts for a sculpture can take months, just as with the female bust, which took three months to complete. More times than not, he has several unfinished pieces at hand. Working with the right parts, to Omoloja is like solving a jigsaw puzzle.
Does the medium offer the same level of expression as the canvas gives the abstract painter? He seems to think so, maybe not in the depiction of emotional expression, but his creation concept.
More importantly, he states the art form is meant to educate the audience that nothing is truly a waste. Beyond welding, to finish the art piece, he leaves untouched certain parts of the found objects to ensure the public’s awareness and appreciation of the medium. After washing the metals, patina is used to coat the piece to prevent rust. “I don’t apply colours to my art. I work with the natural colours of the waste,”
In some ways, Omoloja’s work leans more towards a design than an art. He corroborates the fact with the statement, that he cannot replicate his work no matter how he may try. He is however of the opinion that there is a very thin line between art and design. “Everything is design,” Omoloja.
With the love of the found arts on the increase, a new challenge has arisen. Onah reveals that mechanics demand fees for wastes they had nonchalantly disposed of before. “Some of the sites where students pick up the wastes, are gaining awareness that garbage are turned into aesthetics designs, and so are demanding money for it. We are trying to help them get rid of the litter they have made and they are charging us for it,” Onah states with a resigned expression.
There is also the problem of technique and equipment. Onah says several techniques exist beyond welding to smoothen the surface and the fabrication process of the found art piece, but the lack of and the expensive cost of such machineries have proven a challenge.
However, with students’ increasing love for environmental art, Onah believes the public’s love for the environmental and found arts can be cultivated via proper design, recycling or upcycling of wastes. “It requires a creative mind to do this. What an artist produces it goes through a creative process. First, there must be a concept the creative aims to interpret. Then understand the processes required to achieve it. Understanding and utilising the process is what makes the artist different from every other person.” averred Onah. In other words, Onah charges all recyclers to think like artists.
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