Idowu Oluwaseun | REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE: a synthesis of time and sound
Oct 30, 2020 - Dec 12, 2020






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Heinz-Norbert Jocks
An Insurrection of the Inconspicuous
On the Painting of Idowu Oluwaseun

The artist Idowu Oluwaseun was born in Lagos in 1982 and lives today in Houston, Texas; he initially studied at the School of Art, Design and Printing of Yaba College of Technology in Lagos and then under Rita McBride at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf. His paintings convey a magically charged, sometimes even mysterious atmosphere, although he is no surrealist with a proclivity for the magical like René Magritte, but rather a passionate realist with
a certain predilection for details. Working from his own photographs, he does not simply content himself with making paintings look like photographs. Rather, he emphasizes their photographic effect, this strange “as if”. Indeed, although their similarity to photographs is so striking, it remains evident, that here, the painter is masterfully and subtly reproducing in paint photos in such a way that the pictures produced in the process can at the end indeed be viewed as comprehensive paintings. Here, a painter virtually simulates a photographer in a perfect way, yet at the same time deviates from the template. On the one hand, this has to do with his assertion of verisimilitude. On the other hand, it has to do with the fact that he is concerned with representing a moment and not a lengthier period of time. As a painter who dives into the wealth of nuances of photography, in order to come just as close to them as possible, he consequently insists upon the perspective of his medium. This means he wants to emphasize that his pictures refer to a reality and do not create any fictions. Subtly oscillating between the two mediums, he so awakens the paradoxical appearance that what is painted is photographed and real. At the same time, he says everything is painted, implying he required more time for the depiction than the photographer did to take the picture. He lets us linger in this intermediate zone. Precisely due to this, the moment captured by him gains a meaning cut out from the indifferent flow of time. He highlights them through painting by employing accents that be similarly emphasized in photography. All this forces us visitors to involuntarily ask, why is this moment captured? What is it referring to and what does it contain? What significance is ascribed to what is displayed? As a start, his genre is portraits of people from his Nigerian homeland, men as well as women, all of them young in age. The way in which he paints portraits of people is reminiscent of the style of portraiture of African photographers, especially Malian Seydou Keïta, who was born in 1923 in Bamako and died in Paris in 2001. Idowu invokes his work as a source of inspiration, and, sure enough, the parallels are noticeable. Keïta also had his models pose in front of the camera in his studio with their possessions or accessories like radios, clocks or motor scooters. With him, they too wear African outfits. Idowu adopted this idea. Yet in contrast to the people portrayed by Keïta, whose faces touch us emotionally and allow us to sense their psychological conditions and living situations, Idowu primarily shows bodies in their entire beauty but without any physiognomy. By concealing either part or all of the heads of his models with patterned cloths, so that only their noses and mouths peak out, he lends them a protective anonymity from any questioning. To the extent that he blends out everything we ordinarily associate with portraits, we can speak here in a certain way of an anti-portrait. Neither names are named nor are characteristics enumerated. In this way, it is impossible to gaze behind the outer appearance. Thus, we are prevented from forming a concrete image of the models. The facelessness is the idea, to the extent that reading traces of a life into the faces is not just pushed into the background, but rather limits are intentionally set on doing so. According to Idowu, “the faces are consciously covered in order to protect the bearers of my message. And in order to show how faceless the minority is”. This information about his intentions lends another perspective to his portrayals of Yoruba, who pose like for a photo shoot, but not with the intention of highlighting their individuality. He has something else in mind. In fact, with the help of the portraits, he directs our attention to the global public’s ignorance about his country, which is the most populous on the African continent. He himself sees in the potential of the mass of the impoverished, suppressed by the political leaders of his homeland, a possible beacon of hope for humanity. His concern is the way Nigerians are perceived at home as well as among the diaspora in other nations, together with the hardship and uncertain living conditions of his compatriots - impoverished en masse and threatened with murder - who suffer greatly under the political circumstances. Yet he has created no pictures out of the desperate daily life of Nigerians.

What do we see then? In front of us two young men, onto whom the light falls from the left in such a way that half of their naked upper bodies are illuminated and shine, while the other half gradually darkens. One is wearing blue overalls, the other red jeans and has, in addition, a black suitcase. Their upper bodies are painted so accurately, that we visualize nearly every pore on their skin, every sinew and every muscle. When the one whose face is turned in our direction positions himself directly in front of us, we are on the one hand reminded of the dark chapter of slavery, when bodies were eyed up and traded like wares. On the other hand, we gain the impression that people are being presented here, whose individuality and personality are consciously being withheld from us. The confounding omission of the face can be understood as a criticism of the lack of recognition and the disregard with which the world treats the culture and the life of the people of Nigeria. At the same time, the faces in the representation are left out so that they are not subjected to our gaze. A distance is erected as a safe area, sort of speak.

As the heads are covered up to the neck, neither eyes nor nose are visible, and no mouth or ears can be seen either. Those portrayed remain absolute mysteries for us viewers that cannot be solved. The only things that indicate that we are dealing with twins here are that their bodies are similar as well as that they are holding hands. Their head coverings differ in color and in pattern as a symbol that both are standing on the threshold where their previous shared life path divides.

This is not the only image of a set of twins that Idowu has painted a portrait of. That he occupies himself with twins has to do with the fact that Nigeria has the highest birthrate of fraternal twins in the world. They are presumed to be a gift from god and bring luck, are treated with affection, love and respect and their birth is welcomed as a good omen. However, in pre-colonial times, they were interpreted as a bad omen, drowned or left to die of exposure and their mothers were often killed because one suspected they had slept with two men. Even today, the people in Yorubaland, in the southwest of Nigeria, believe that twins have joint souls. If a twin brother or sister dies, the surviving child will be given a wooden figure at his or her side, in which the second half of the soul is meant to live on. Clothed like the twin, it is given food and taken to the market by the mother. The belief is that otherwise, the living twin could not survive.

In contrast to the twin brothers, whose faces are hidden, the heads of the twin sisters Idowu painted - their arms propped on an old radio and their hands gently touching - are not completely concealed. Our gaze falls on the area between their mouths and chins, especially their shining lips. Their firm sensuality is yet underlined through their fluttering shirts. oth wear black tank tops over smooth skin, as well as black necklaces and monochrome hijabs which conceal their hair, neck and ears as usual as well as their eyes. Their intimate bond can also be seen in the fact that one sister has placed her hand under the hip of the other one.

There is a special reason why the radio, which suggests a deep, soulful connection between the two women, appears as a prop not just here but also in other pictures like “Explicit Content” or “Mopelola”. Idowu has spoken about its cultural significance in conversation. “When I was growing up, my father played a lot of music which has stayed with me to this day. Through its inherent power, the radio became an object of respect. In my homeland there has been no military putsch which has not first been announced over the government- controlled radio. I always wondered about how good as well as bad power is inherent in this medium, like in the case of the Rwandan businessman Félicien Kabuga, who used his radio station to spark the genocide in Rwanda. But music is also a weapon of the future as well as also of progressives and, in addition, a giver of life. Great revolutionaries use music in order to convey positive messages. Like the saxophonist, bandleader and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who died in Lagos in 1997. He battled colonial slavery with his Afro-Beat sound, which he described as ‘Colo mentality’. Similarly, for example in America, when the internet did not yet exist, the musicians LL Cool J or Run DMC communicated with their generation through the boombox.”

From here on the picture “The Collector” opens up to us. In front of us is a young man, whose head is so wrapped in a cloth that only his braided locks of hair poke out. With his legs crossed, he sits in a green armchair on a tiled floor in red jeans and with a naked upper body. His left arm leans on the seat back and his right arm is propped up on a nightstand. On it is a record player and hanging behind him on the wall, instead of posters, are LPs and record covers of King Sunny Adé, who combined traditional with pop music or Haruna Ishola who, forgoing Western instruments, cited Yoruba proverbs as well as Koran texts in his songs. The cover of Fela Anikulapo Kuti with an iron chain around his neck appears in the ornamental window sunk into the nightstand like a discrete homage. The life of Fela Kuti illustrates that music can be the emancipatory mouthpiece Idowu demonstrates his respect for. In his texts, he criticized the social systems in Africa deformed through colonization and condemned the dictatorial Nigerian military regime. In his album “Zombie”, released in 1976, he criticized the soldiers of the government as zombies. He represented a threat to the ruling class due to his popularity amongst the Nigerian population, his international recognition and the radicality of his song texts. That is why in 1977 around 1,000 soldiers set fire to his recording studio in Kalakuta. Kuti survived with a basal skull fracture. However, his 77-year-old mother died from her injuries. Out of protest, Kuti had her casket brought in front of the presidential palace of Olusegun Obsanjo. In 1981, he released the album “Coffin for Head of State” and fled to Ghana with his band.

The deeper we delve behind the ostensible surface of his paintings, the more it becomes apparent that with only a few references and accessories embedded as symbols in the pictures, Idowu alludes to events in Nigeria. In doing so, his commitment to music is informed by the spirit of hope.







./ Participating Artists


Idowu Oluwaseun


Exhibitions Overview

 
  Idowu Oluwaseun | REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE: a synthesis of time and sound
Oct 30, 2020 - Dec 12, 2020


 
  Peter Uka | Inner Frame
Aug 28, 2020 - Oct 24, 2020


 
  Harding Meyer | new works
Jun 05, 2020 - Jul 15, 2020


 
  Mary A. Kelly | Chair
Mar 14, 2020 - May 30, 2020


 
  Michael Tolloy | Solid Solidarity
Jan 17, 2020 - Feb 29, 2020


 
  Kate Waters | Love Shacks and other Hideouts
Oct 18, 2019 - Jan 09, 2020


 
  Frank Bauer | Paths of Inaccuracy
Aug 30, 2019 - Oct 12, 2019


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark | Kindness of Strangers
Jun 07, 2019 - Jul 13, 2019


 
  Sandra Ackermann | Escape into your Reality
May 03, 2019 - Jun 01, 2019


 
  Kay Kaul | Cloudbusting
Mar 08, 2019 - Apr 27, 2019


 
  Jurriaan Molenaar | Fermate
Jan 18, 2019 - Mar 02, 2019


 
  Harding Meyer / Humanize
Oct 19, 2018 - Jan 12, 2019


 
  Mihoko Ogaki / Soft Landing
Aug 31, 2018 - Oct 13, 2018


 
  Iwajla Klinke / ONEIRONAUTS
Jun 08, 2018 - Aug 18, 2018


 
  Peter Uka / Fragment of the Present Passed
Apr 13, 2018 - May 26, 2018


 
  Daniel Heil / Monologues
Mar 09, 2018 - Apr 07, 2018


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2018
Feb 16, 2018 - Feb 18, 2018


 
  Sandra Senn / Zwischen Zwei Meeren
Jan 26, 2018 - Mar 03, 2018


 
  Frank Bauer / Die Gelassenheit der Dinge
Nov 17, 2017 - Jan 20, 2018


 
  Kate Waters / Whistling In The Dark
Sepr 01, 2017 - Nov 11, 2017


 
  Untitled
Jul 12, 2017 - Aug 02, 2017


 
  Davide La Rocca / 13K ( Part 1 )
May 12, 2017 - Jun 27, 2017


 
  Sandra Ackermann / Lost in Nothingness
Mar 24, 2017 - May 06, 2017


 
  Claudia Rogge / CONCENTRATION
Jan 27, 2017 - Mar 18, 2017


 
  Christian Bazant - Hegemark / The Rise and Fall of Transformative Hopes and Expectations
Nov 11, 2016 - Jan 21, 2017


 
  Harding Meyer / The Others
Aug 26, 2016 - Nov 05, 2016


 
  Crossing Borders
Jun 03, 2016 - Jul 15, 2016


 
  Sandra Senn / Flüchtiges Getriebe
Apr 08, 2016 - May 21, 2016


 
  Iwajla Klinke / Red Sandals and a Mirror for Gabriel
Feb 12, 2016 - Mar 26, 2016


 
  Corrado Zeni / Éloge de la fuite
Nov 27, 2015 - Jan 09, 2016


 
  Claudia Rogge / PerSe
Oct 16, 2015 - Nov 21, 2015


 
  Kate Waters // Tell it like it is
Aug 28, 2015 - Oct 10, 2015


 
  Visions Of Sensory Space ( by Weightless Artists Association - SPARTNIC )
May 15, 2015 - Jul 04, 2015


 
  Sandra Ackermann / Wasteland
Mar 13, 2015 - May 02, 2015


 
  Lost Scapes
Jan 30, 2015 - Mar 07, 2015


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark / Calibrating Aesthetics
Nov 14, 2014 - Jan 17, 2015


 
  Frank Bauer / Back to Basics
Aug 29, 2014 - Nov 08, 2014


 
  Harding Meyer // recent paintings
May 23, 2014 - Aug 23, 2014


 
  Till Freiwald - memoria
Apr 11, 2014 - May 17, 2014


 
  Quadriennale Düsseldorf 2014 / Gallery Evening
Apr 05, 2014 - Apr 05, 2014


 
  Iwajla Klinke / Ritual Memories
Jan 17, 2014 - Apr 05, 2014


 
  Giacomo Costa // Traces
Nov 22, 2013 - Jan 11, 2013


 
  DC-Open Galleries: Matthias Danberg - Inventory by Appropriation
Sepr 06, 2013 - Nov 16, 2013


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark // VOW OF SILENCE
May 24, 2013 - Aug 20, 2013


 
  Corrado Zeni // Generation Why
Apr 12, 2013 - May 18, 2013


 
  behind the Non-Colours
Mar 22, 2013 - Apr 06, 2013


 
  Sandra Ackermann // Running to stand still
Feb 15, 2013 - Mar 16, 2013


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2013
Feb 01, 2013 - Feb 09, 2013


 
  Mihoko Ogaki // Star Tales - White Floating
Nov 30, 2012 - Jan 31, 2013


 
  Claudia Rogge / Lost in Paradise
Oct 12, 2012 - Nov 24, 2012


 
  Harding Meyer // features
Sepr 07, 2012 - Oct 06, 2012


 
  Summer 2012 - Part 2
Aug 10, 2012 - Sepr 01, 2012


 
  Summer 2012
Jul 06, 2012 - Sepr 01, 2012


 
  Maria Friberg // The Painting Series
May 11, 2012 - Jun 23, 2012


 
  Mary A. Kelly // Father & Child
Mar 30, 2012 - May 06, 2012


 
  Maia Naveriani // Future Wolves and Chicks so far
Feb 10, 2012 - Mar 24, 2012


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2012
Feb 04, 2012 - Feb 08, 2012


 
  Kate Waters // The Air that I breathe
Dec 09, 2011 - Jan 28, 2012


 
  Frank Bauer / ...den Wald vor lauter Bäumen....
Nov 04, 2011 - Dec 03, 2011


 
  Claudia Rogge // Final Friday
Sepr 09, 2011 - Oct 29, 2011


 
  Davide La Rocca - STILLS
May 27, 2011 - Jul 16, 2011


 
  Giacomo Costa // Post Natural
Apr 01, 2011 - May 21, 2011


 
  Harding Meyer - to be a real vision
Feb 18, 2011 - Mar 26, 2011


 
  Shannon Rankin - Disperse / Displace
Dec 03, 2010 - Feb 12, 2011


 
  Sandra Ackermann // I look inside you
Oct 15, 2010 - Nov 27, 2010


 
  Amparo Sard / AT THE IMPASSE
Sepr 03, 2010 - Oct 09, 2010


 
  Kate Waters // The Land of Kubla Khan
Jun 11, 2010 - Jul 17, 2010


 
  Jurriaan Molenaar // Lessness
Apr 30, 2010 - Jun 05, 2010


 
  Claudia Rogge // The Paradise of the Onlooker
Mar 05, 2010 - Apr 24, 2010


 
  Ivonne Thein // incredible me
Jan 22, 2010 - Feb 27, 2010


 
  Frank Bauer // Jet Set
Nov 27, 2009 - Jan 15, 2010


 
  Michael Koch // forever more
Oct 23, 2009 - Nov 21, 2009


 
  Masaharu Sato // SIGNS
Sepr 04, 2009 - Oct 17, 2009


 
  Harding Meyer // blind date
Jun 19, 2009 - Aug 22, 2009


 
  Maria Friberg // way ahead
Apr 24, 2009 - Jun 13, 2009


 
  Claudia Rogge // Isolation ( aus: Segment 8 - die Blasen der Gesellschaft)
Mar 06, 2009 - Apr 18, 2009


 
  Claudia Rogge - The Opening
Mar 06, 2009 - Apr 18, 2009


 
  JoJo Tillmann // What you see is what you get
Jan 30, 2009 - Feb 28, 2009


 
  Sandra Ackermann // Die Wirklichkeit ist nicht die Wahrheit
Nov 21, 2008 - Jan 24, 2009


 
  Kate Waters - Getting used to the 21st Century
Oct 10, 2008 - Nov 15, 2008


 
  Mihoko Ogaki - Milky Ways
Sepr 04, 2008 - Oct 04, 2008


 
  Summer 2008 // Painting
Aug 12, 2008 - Aug 30, 2008


 
  Silke Rehberg: Stationen 1,4,6,7,11,12,13,14
Jun 13, 2008 - Jul 12, 2008


 
  Maia Naveriani: At home with good ideas
May 09, 2008 - Jun 07, 2008


 
  Justin Richel: Rise and Fall
Apr 04, 2008 - May 03, 2008


 
  Davide La Rocca - Strange Object
Feb 08, 2008 - Mar 28, 2008


 
  Frank Bauer: AkikoAlinaAlinkaAndrew....
Nov 30, 2007 - Feb 02, 2008


 
  Maria Friberg: Fallout
Oct 12, 2007 - Nov 24, 2007


 
  Harding Meyer / in sight
Sepr 06, 2007 - Oct 11, 2007


 
  SUMMER '07
Jul 17, 2007 - Sepr 01, 2007


 
  Kay Kaul - Wasserfarben
Jun 15, 2007 - Jul 14, 2007


 
  Sandra Ackermann - Point Blank
Mar 02, 2007 - Apr 28, 2007


 
  Tamara K.E.: pioneers -none of us and somewhere else
Jan 19, 2007 - Feb 24, 2007


 
  Till Freiwald
Nov 17, 2006 - Jan 13, 2007


 
  Claudia Rogge: U N I F O R M
Sepr 01, 2006 - Nov 11, 2006


 
  Kate Waters: Killing Time
May 05, 2006 - Jun 17, 2006


 
  Katia Bourdarel: The Flesh of Fairy Tales
Mar 31, 2006 - Apr 29, 2006


 
  Mihoko Ogaki
Feb 10, 2006 - Mar 18, 2006


 
  Silke Rehberg: RICOMINCIARE DAL CORPO
Jan 27, 2006 - Feb 26, 2006


 
  Sandra Ackermann
Dec 08, 2005 - Jan 15, 2006


 
  Corrado Zeni
Dec 04, 2005 - Jan 11, 2006


 
  Frank Bauer
Nov 18, 2005 - Jan 15, 2006


 
  Harding Meyer
Oct 07, 2005 - Nov 12, 2005


 
  AUFTAKT
Sepr 02, 2005 - Oct 01, 2005


 
  Claudia Rogge: Rapport
Jun 17, 2005 - Jul 20, 2005


 
 
May 13, 2005 - Jun 11, 2005


 
  Kate Waters: Solo-Exhibition in the Gallery Thomas Cohn, Sao Paulo
Apr 16, 2005 - May 20, 2005


 
  Vittorio Gui: FROZEN MOMENTS
Apr 08, 2005 - May 07, 2005


 
  Kay Kaul - ARTSCAPES
Apr 03, 2005 - May 29, 2005


 
  SEO Geheimnisvoller Blick
Mar 04, 2005 - Apr 02, 2005


 
  Claudia van Koolwijk at Museum Bochum
Feb 26, 2005 - Apr 17, 2005


 
  Corrado Zeni - Six Degrees of Separation
Nov 26, 2004 - Jan 15, 2005


 
  Maia Naveriani: What' s the difference between ME and YOU?
Oct 15, 2004 - Nov 20, 2004


 
  Tamara K.E.: MAD DONNA AND DONNA CORLEONE
Sepr 03, 2004 - Oct 09, 2004


 
  Davide La Rocca: Real Vision Reflex
Jun 12, 2004 - Jul 17, 2004


 
  Kay Kaul COLLECTORSCAPES
Apr 23, 2004 - Jun 05, 2004