Nigerian photographer, Oluwamuyiwa Logo, and South African abstract artist, Richard Ketley, explore the aesthetic beneath the chaos of the city of Lagos in a joint exhibition that opened on 28 August at The Gavin Project Maboneng.
Africa’s busy and vibrant cities offer both inspiration and challenges for visual artists, who seek to uncover and express the essence of these ever-changing environments. Call/Response, a joint exhibition by Nigerian photographer, Oluwamuyiwa Logo, and South African abstract artist, Richard Ketley, delves into the deep reality of one of the continent’s most populous cities, Lagos (Nigeria).
The exhibition, which has been mounted in Lagos and now Johannesburg, is an expression of the artists’ fascination with the chaos of Lagos and of their journey towards finding an aesthetic within this chaos. It showed at Artclipafrica in Lagos and moves to The Gavin Project at Johannesburg’s Arts on Main in August.
The collaborators explore their subject from two different perspectives using two different mediums, namely black and white photography and abstract painting. Individual photographs are paired with paintings that depict an abstract interpretation of the same scene. In each pair of images, Logo and Ketley have sought to capture moments of calm and balance amidst the more evident energy and activity in the city.
In the pair Street Scene Doyin-Orile (Logo) and Four Short Stories of Lagos (Ketley), for instance, they juxtapose the solidity of the built environment with the dynamic movement of the people within it. The city calls to them and they respond: Logo using the stark contrasts of black-and-white photography to reflect the equally stark contrasts in the environment; Ketley using a muted palette and vigorous, repetitive lines to set the geometric symmetry of the environment against the rapid movement of the people within it.
“Logo and I met at an exhibition in Lagos,” says Ketley, “and we started talking about our response as creatives to the city. We abstract from this world in very different ways, but Logo’s search for form, balance and interest in texture is, in many ways, similar to mine. So we conceptualised this collaboration in order to explore both that technical interest and our fascination with the divergences of Lagos.”
Logo, who is Lagos-based, works predominantly in black-and-white photography. He has both a conceptual and a documentary approach, and seeks to use the camera to capture people, things and stories from perspectives that are often overlooked, ignored or taken for granted.
His most recent project, Monochrome Lagos, is a unique reflection of his home city; an exposé of its idiosyncrasies and aesthetics. It is available online as a digital archive to enable a broad spectrum of people to engage with it. Logo has shown in exhibitions in Lagos, London and San Francisco, and recently completed a Residency in London.
Ketley currently lives in Johannesburg, and has exhibited in Johannesburg and Kampala, and some of his most recent work has been shortlisted for the SA Taxi Art Award (2015 and 2016). He is interested in the formal elements of painting and draws inspiration from the many countries he visits.
“My work process is one of reductive abstraction,” he says. “Contemporary painting is often presented without context and can alienate as a result. So we wanted to make the creative process visual by depicting a specific place, the changing way people understand that place and an artistic response to it.”