In Auchi, there exist in an Institution which houses a school among others called the School of Arts and Design. The school of Art and Design came into being in the year 1974. At inception, it was known as Department of Fine Art with 17 Students, 6 Lecturers and Late Dada Osazuwa as the Head of Department. By 1978 it metamorphosed into a School of 3 departments, namely Sculpture/Ceramics, Graphic/Textile and Painting/General Art Department.
In the late 70’s to early 80’s, the Sculpture/Ceramics Department was known for its abstract cubic forms in cement but today they have their hands in various diverse media and styles and have produced great Sculptors like Olu Amoda of Yaba College Of Technology, Duke Igbinedion of Diverse in Benin City, Ruben Ugbine, Friday Idugie and many others who are working independently in their various ways, without link or tye.
From the Graphic/Textile Department, great artists like Moureen Ogierhiakhi and many more have been produced, but also without a single direction but with each individual creating in his or her own unique way.
But coming to the products of the department of Painting/General art, there remains a direction a kind of kinship, which came into being since the time of Dr Ademola Adejumo.
THE AUCHI STYLE
Since 1978 to date the painterly style has grown universally with Auchi products wherever they are and it has become a way of life. The students initially started of with a passion for impression, but later imbibed the fauvist palette, which culminated in the marriage between impressionism and fauvism with more attention being paid to color than forms in the expression content of their work.
The basic and original orientation of the Auchi painter is to apply colour has he sees it in other to build forms and values. So to the Auchi painters, colour is most important of all the elements of art. This they have continued to be propagated even after their departure from school. This has further developed to the extent that the palette has remained very vibrant and the forms devoid of the so called African Syndrome which was remained the underlying hall mark of every other school of thought that has evolved to date in the contemporary Nigeria Art Scene. This has gotten to the extent that when ever there was an exhibition of artists from various backgrounds, the work of Auchi products are immediately pieced together as being uniquely different from every other speak one united language. For example, at the 4th PaCllinternational Biennial in lagos where artists from allover the world exhibited. It was very interesting to note, that the work of Kent Onah, Helen Uhunmwagho, Ben Osaghae, Bob Aiwerioba and Osagie Aimufua were easily pieced together as having some link as they stood together in the warm and colourful nature they displayed. In all, there were 80 artists from allover the world exhibiting, in 3 galleries and the national museum. But viewers were quick to link up all the works from Auchi as having a tie, it is also of further great interest to note that Helen graduated in 1983, Ben 1985, Kent 1987, Bob 1992 and Osagie in 1995. despite this variation in entrance and departure fron the institution , the products tend to have this kinship in approach to form and coloration. It must be noted that this is not the same as the regurgitation Nnabuife (2004) referred to when he said that some products of some art institutions do not satisfy Art’s basic requirement but. Merely regurgitates the artistic approach of their teachers or what they feel is the aesthetic trait of the art institution that trained them.
There is this comment that always visit exhibitions in which pure Auchi artists feature i.e that works from Auchi are always so different, because they have something about them that make them not purely African, they are either pre or semi abstract with a wild display of colours and that they are devoid of African Motifs. Engr. Shyllon in a personal discussion said "I do not like painting from Auchi, as they do not wear African looks". Nnafuife and Finlani, also in the course of discussion, stood in agreement with Shyllon that Auchi artworks always stood out distinctly from others in the sense that they are very colourful, uniquely foreign to what other artists produce in Nigeria and are devoid of African motifs.
These comments, which were meant to be derogatory have helped to confirm and buttress the assertions of the Auchi Painters has evolved as a colourist school which though African, stands out anyday, anytime as uniquely Auchi.
Since the era of Clara Ugbodage Ngu’s Turning point’, any painting that does not have African Motifs in its representation, does not have cowries or shells pasted ot them are usually not accepted as African or Nigerian by many even when they are produced by Nigerians in Nigeria. Auchi, art school has been able to hold its ground on this issue of none restrictive creativity as they have broken all bounds of limitation, leaving the individuals with the freedom to create what they want and how they want it.
Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary tells us that an Art school “is a group of artists following the same principles”.
The Longman Dictionary also opined that “an Art School is a number of people who are considered as a group because of their style of work e.g. the impressionist school” if a group of people are reffered to as a school following their style of work what else do the Auchi Painters have to get their recognition as a school other than the unique style, the recognizable pallet, Nigerian Paintings devoid of the Nigerian icons yet strictly Nigerian.
As Uli art school is recognized through the Uli forms, so the impressionist are recognized through the palette, which has come to be referred to as the impressionist palette. These placed at per with Auchi palette leave one without doubt to what Auchi has.
Auchi Art School’s 1st attempt at exhibiting outside the campus was in 1990, where it exhibited works of former students who became lecturers. That exhibition displaced artists such as Emmanuel Ekpeni, Moureen Ogierakhi, Sam Ovriaiti, Emmanuel Ikoro, Dr. Debebs and Friday Idugie. This turned out to be very exciting and successful as it was the 1st display of the works of colours from Auchi.
The 2nd exhibition was in 1992 tagged together towards tomorrow. This also, though successful as an exhibition, did not project Auchi as an Art School, as it features artists from various backgrounds who happen to find themselves in Auchi as Lecturers at that point in time. This was made visible in the collection of works, which had no specific direction.
The most successful and most current of these exhibitions is the colour masters held in DIDI Museum in April 1993. Although it was not all embracing the collection of artists that were featured is a good representation of what message Auchi has to pass along. As an Art School it was at this exhibition that the colourist tendencies of the Auchi School came into limelight with most of the painting in vivid raw colours, featuring fauvist palette with an impressionist touch.
This is highly obvious in Olu Ajayi’s reclining figure and Debebs portrait done in Orange and Blue, which has a lot of characters as it portrayed double personality.
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