In La Experiencia, winner of the sixteenth edition of the Spanish Visual Arts Competition, Helen Nzete and competition’s previous runner-up winners, Olorunyemi Kolapo shares their experience of Madrid, Spain.
Followers of the competition can attest to the fact that the Spanish Embassy’s sponsorship of the winning artist visit to the ARCO International Art Fair, in Madrid, is the major benefit for participating in the competition. This year, the winner not only got to visit ARCO but was joined by a former runner-up of the contest, on the monthly visit to Spanish capital city, which yielded in a first ever post-Spanish virtual art exhibition – La Experiencia, which documents their experiences and the future its inspired.
Nzete and Kolapo are joined by multi-genre artist Spanish artist, Ramon Trigo, who besides exhibiting his experience and perspective of Nigeria, had his African premiere of his six-year project, Pantoque.
A couple of events led up to La Experiencia. First, is the involvement of Trigo, who visited Nigeria sometime last year, to facilitate an arts workshop with Nigerian artists. Second, is the role of artist and curator, Susa Rodriguez-Garrido, whose agency Agama Art Publishing and Agency represents Kolapo, and partially sponsored his solo European exhibition (including Spain) in collaboration with the embassy.
Nzete and Kolapo’s works are as different as night and day but just as interesting. While Nzete, a sculptor by education, takes a sculptural and conceptual approach, creates abstract pieces that reads like a deconstruction of the sub/objects in view such as Huella (a cartographic perspective of Madrid) and Jardin Vertical (an abstract presentation of the Vertical Garden in Spain); Kolapo takes a literal approach to his works – using words and symbols viewers can relate to, to draw them into the image. An illustration is the piece Bank of Spain, to which he adds a little inscription above that reads “I Was at the Bank and I Met Medusa”.
Both artists also share an interest in architecture, as shown by their depiction of the Metropolitan Building, Madrid. Kolapo declared the building his best architecture in the city; while Nzete was drawn to the sculptural figures woven all over the white and golden-trimmed building. Once again, their presentation highlights their different perspective and processes to art.
Nzete’s Metropolitan is thread-like, achieved using a black thread to sketch a skeletal frame of the building and its environment in a manner that beckons the viewer to cross the road and walk into it; while Kolapo’s is a close-up, oil painting of the sculptural delight that is the dome of the building.
In visualizing their experience of Spain, a dream that has become a reality, it has inspired their future. Nzete in creating the piece Vertical Garden, worked with a new material, synthetic white dust; which she layered with colours, and deploys same colours to highlight lighting and shades in the vertical garden.
“ARCO is an experience of a different culture, and different people, with different opportunities and focuses. I learnt a lot from what I saw at ARCO. So, bringing them back I hope I can make an impact with the things I have learnt.” She has a solo exhibition due June 26, 2022.
Kolapo, on the other hand, was inspired to amplify the scientific aspects of his art so far. The blue painting featuring a tribal-marked, African girl-child in a space uniform herald the sort of Afrofuturistic works the artist will be creating in the next five years.
“The blue painting was inspired by a dream I had recently, and about bringing back to life the dead using DNA. When I first saw it in my dream, I researched it online and found that the world is already working on that. In fact, scientists have created a prototype of a dying or dead human returned to life. The only difference between the prototype and a real human being is the brain. The prototypes don’t have brains but physically looks 100 per cent like a human.
“Afrofuturism is all about highlighting what will happen in Africa in the nearest future, in an African way, with the existence and infusion of technology. I don’t do art for commercial purposes but to drop images I envision. I have been having this dream back-to-back now, and want to put them down. It is like a prophetic message I have for the world, and I won’t stop until I ama done with the last canvass,” said Kolapo.
La Experiencia Exhibition opened solely on June 17, at the Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja, and screened Pantoque, a documentary on the six-year project of Spanish artist, Ramon Trigo, whose work also featured in the exhibition.