â€œMy art allows me to socially move objects from the lower class to the upper class of any society,â€ Olu declares
Olu Amodaâ€™s artistic mission, for well over three decades, has been to expand the vocabulary of sculptural expression based on materials. The eloquent language he has successfully employed is the rich spectrum of available metals.
In this respect, he is much more than a sculptor who works mostly with metal. Amoda is indeed a metal artist of the highest order! He fascinates with his application of found and selected metallic objects, transforming them in a deliberate creative manner to highlight their life-span and activities as used objects and in the process elevates the synthesis of functional art.
Amodaâ€™s works run the gamut of socio-political commentary to abstract concepts of creativity. In his career, he has always carefully chosen specific metal-materials for their shapes, textures and properties to give them artistic relevance as well as imbue them with new communicative meaning.
Yet, and surprisingly, he postulates that, â€œthe superstar is the material and its energyâ€ adding that, â€œobjects are the directors and we as artists are just the tools.â€ The two strategies in his approach to sculpture are therefore artistic-driven and material-driven. â€œI am just a chauffeur,â€ he candidly and humbly asserts.
Where have these metals directed Amodaâ€™s long metallic journey? Nails, particularly the used and discarded variety, have provided a truly circuitous route embellished with absorbing aesthetic philosophy. With his nail sculptures he has been able to examine how materials define and move across social classes.
â€œMy artallows me to socially move from the lower class to the upper class,â€ he declares.
Although he points out that thousands of artists around the world use nails in their works, his own variety of nail sculptures are, definitely, a distinct and distinguishing creative signature of his metal works. In fact, Amoda has become world-famous for his nail sculptures.
Over time, his personal and work experience with nails has been multifarious: threatening, destructive, creative, fulfilling and even spiritual. Conservatively, he may now have literarily used millions of nails in his sculptures and still counting!
Interestingly, there is also an established sociological linkage between the nails and women. His first foray into nail-sculptures was the Queen of the Night series, which is on-going. He discovered that they appealed to females more than males. The nails he uses are sold by women who either extract the nails themselves or employ men to do it for them in lumberyards. These used nails are easier to get and he buys them in kilogrammes from the women sellers. “My subjects in nails are very effeminate,Â» he asserts, “like flowers, women and even horses. They might look hostile but are in fact very friendly. In many ways they epitomise the character of women. Nails are very powerful because of the contacts they1ve had. Traditional healers drive nails into sculptures, much like in acupuncture, to heal their sick patients.Â»
He has recently finished a huge 14-feet nail sculpture of a girl, the third in a series. He likes the transparency of the forms made with nails. “It>s much like an x-ray view,Â» he says adding that, “the insides cry to be activated. So I stuff invisible things in the inner space. My audience could also emphatically stuff invisible things which could be their desires. How to activate these sculptu es remains the challenge,
Amoda makes the subtle observation that, “a found object in terms of art is not lost. They are searching for the artist.”
He also knows that although the molecules of the iron are distorted by welding, “the welding joints,” he explains, “are the thresholds for unit energy to come in contact with the
rest in order for my sculptural form to take shape. Welding makes the nails come together as
one mass of energy; and a mass of beauty too!”
It is within this context that he seeks optimum information about the materials he uses.
“One needs to ask questions,” he points out, “to appreciate the materials he uses, where they
come from, who used them. Nails become the social diary of the society, telling how the people
live. I try to establish that nails come from things imported in crates for the upper class and big
companies. They have a magnetic pull and as objects leave part of themselves in places.”
As a classic case study he uses a huge spherical sculpture from his on-going Sunflower series
made mostly with nails, and which inevitably will be bought by an upper class collector. “The
people I bought the used nails from see it as common nails, cheap material. People collect my
nail sculptures for their novelty.
Common nails are seen as refreshing. These used nails may have been the ones that were
used to crate the Mercedes Benz or other precious objects; maybe the nails used in packaging the
precious gadgets in the sitting rooms of the upper class. The contents have been removed and
taken whilst the box and nails are discarded. On some level, this process has caused agitation
amongst the materials. So, when collectors buy any of these nail sculptures they don’t know that
it compliments something they already have in their houses.”
The choice of using nails in the Sunflower sculpture, is to draw the parallel of the collective
responsibility of nails in the construction and, the shared responsibility of the thousands
of small flowers that add up to the natural brilliance of the Sunflower.
Sunflower and other sculptures before it like Rosemary in the Queen of the Night series and,
newer ones, all in his Capsule Series, are not only nail-made but are all huge spherical round
forms. “The subject matters engaged in these series,” he explains, “are some social
patterns of behaviour that are weathering the test of time and, the form also has to do with
structure. Structurally, domes, as I prefer to view and describe these huge round sculptures,
hold better without internal support.”
Amoda has also explored how the shape of metal materials intuitively triggers his creative impulses. This has been a part of his investigations into the levels and depth of relationships between the use of a specific metal and the message the sculpture will convey, shape and the message and, the former function and use of the metal and the message.
Sometime ago he worked with metal funnels, â€œto depict the Niger Delta issue.â€ According to him, when turned upside down the funnels become the shapes of skirts of flowing gowns women wear and, also correspond to how fast the resources are flowing out of the Niger Delta as its wealth is being depleted. â€œYet,â€ he remarks, â€œNiger Delta women dress-up
in their finery to welcome top government officials who offer them empty promises. Thatâ€™s why I called the funnel series, Dem Dey Demo.â€
Amoda readily admits that he likes to be playful no matter how serious the social commentary he makes with his sculptures. Within this framework of humour, â€œmaterials and ideas move side by side,â€ he says.
A recent fascinating work is a huge circular sculpture made up of hundreds of silver spoons placed side by side.
â€œUsing spoons as a metaphor, this work denotes the idea of a global village. On the other hand,â€ he continues, â€œit is a commentary on exploitation in our society and, about the vultures of our society who go about exhorting people every day and, â€˜are choppingâ€™ as they say!â€
The TSA Collection is round, dome-shaped and made from many small scissors.
It has its own social and metallic significances. â€œTSA is an abbreviation for Americaâ€™s Transport Security Authority and, it prohibits all travellers on aircrafts from travelling with scissors and any sharp objects in the wake of 9/11. This piece, in a subtle way, draws my audienceâ€™s attention to the global fight against terrorism, in which, we are all potential terrorists,â€ Amoda asserts. â€œThe scissors in the piece are arranged to simulate the aesthetics of the congested air space with lots of planes waiting for clearance from the control tower. These types of delays,â€ he adds, â€œare also experienced by human traffic when going through the TSA, immigration and other security search points in airports across the globe.â€
He has incorporated keys into some of his works to demystify some popularly-held perceptions. â€œKeys give a false sense of security and, are like rosaries and amulets for protection,â€ he says. Car engine parts and bicycle frames have been repurposed into his sculptures. He has also ventured into plasma cut drawings on stainless steel. To Amoda, all metals are art and sculpture friendly.Â He is however, particularly interested in metals that have had contact with people and, the latent energy in them.
â€œI am interested in and concerned with the contacts and places these metals must have travelled to end up in my work. In my sculptures the wandering and restless energy rests and is cherished for posterity. When a modern contemporary sculptor picks up a metal object and repurposes it into an artwork,â€ Amoda postulates, â€œits spirit gets united with other such released spirits from other objects in the same piece. Thus becomes a marriage of unrelated objects!â€
Olu Amodaâ€™s long artistic marriage with metals has been harmonious and he happily continues to search for more creative experiences within this romantic relationship to further strengthen this union between man and metal that successfully continues to spawn beautiful sculptures that tell illuminating social stories?