Abisola Kuburat Gbadamosi is a multidisciplinary visual artist and nature-lover originally from Ibadan, Oyo state but grew up in Lagos and London. She started experimenting with different mediums from an early age. She has the ability to create stems from life experiences and lessons, which she expresses through her art in hopes to create a cathartic experience for her audience. After her first group exhibition in London at the brick Lane gallery 2016, she made an active decision to be an Art Teaching Assistant at her alma mater, British International School VI. Where she shared her truth, her past, and her creative process, in hopes to give the kids a piece of what her mother and teacher gave me back in 2008. By doing so, she finally understood the quote by Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.” It was at that moment she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. To create art that people could relate to, art that could inspire people, art that would make people feel that same euphoria she felt when she was a little girl.
Abisola Gbadamosi was in conversation with Agbowo’s visual editor, Sheyi Owolabi. This interview was published in 2018 in Agbowo’s inaugural issue, X in a seven-part series.
To open the seal, we would like to know some things about you; your background, growing up, why and how you became an artist.
If I am being very honest, I did not know I was going to be a professional artist until 2 to 3 years ago when I had my first exhibition at Brick Lane Gallery London, but I have always been a creative ever since I was young. I used to doodle on all my school books to the point where I had to rewrite all my notes for submission. I used to sculpt a lot. My first medium was Plasticine and I was really good with it. I didn’t even start painting until I was 17. My dad was an architect and my mum was a bit of an artist so it ran in the family (laughs). However, when they passed away, art became my vibe. Art was a hobby for me ‘cause in the society that we live in you have to go to school to either become a lawyer, doctor and so on. So I did not even think I was going to be an artist. Though I had always thought I was an artist inside.
I studied at Corona Primary School in Lagos, then I went on to British International School in Lagos as well. Then St Bede School for my A’Levels.
I think I officially became a professional artist when I had the exhibition with Rele Gallery. Although prior to that I had had multiple exhibitions.
How would you describe your art form?
I will say my art is “enchantic”, not of this world. I’ll describe it as my soul speaking to myself. When I was making art growing up I wasn’t really trying to send a message out there. When I was 12, I started a company called Latakada with some friends. It’s on a pause though. We are trying to figure out what to do with it. It was a medium for us to release whatever pain we were feeling in our hearts at the time. I guess when my dad passed, I needed to get rid of the pain as well so I started painting. My first paintings took me hours for some, months. As I was learning about the pain and trying to heal from it, I was painting. Now my art is kind of contemporary and that was because of Rele Gallery. They helped me focus my art because it was a bit everywhere. I use watercolor and it’s one of the toughest mediums.
How do you work and what inspires your work?
My art is a form of catharsis. So it’s a way to help you relate to me in order for you to feel like you are not alone. The pain I experienced growing up helped inspire me starting out. I needed a vibe, something to help me heal and I am just grateful to God for giving me this talent to be able to do that.
Someone once said, “Good art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed”. What message/messages do you try to convey to the audience via your art?
I completely agree with you on that statement. That was why I said my art is a form of catharsis. It’s basically a way to allow you release whatever energy you are feeling or comfort you or freak you out depending on the narrative of the story or the work. For example, the second volume from my “I am not my Body” series, it’s called “Dystopia”. I can’t really go into details (laughs). But it’s basically about how we live in a state of dystopia. I was going through a rough time while making that series so it was a way for me to tell a story to disturb and comfort you at the same time.
We are sure you are familiar with a couple of African artist dead or alive. Which of them has been your biggest influence?
Beyond just the art, I am inspired by artists’ Being an artist that creates, my favourite thing is that I get to actually cry on paper. I get to release my emotions unto my work. personalities. I had the opportunity to speak to Isaac Emokpae during my young contemporary exhibition with Rele Gallery. If not for him, I don’t think I would have been able to channel my emotions properly and actually be able to do the work that I am doing right now.
There’s also Victor Ehikhamenor and Habeeb Andu, who was also part of Young Contemporaries. He is amazing. He always tells me that “If I spend too long with you, I am going to inspire you” and he actually inspired me. He is a very positive person. He always checks up on me. I have never met anybody who is so nice in my life. Also my other young contemporary mates too. They really inspired me to move forward. Yasser gave me a sense of maturity. Samuel, his patience and views on life really taught me a lesson. Dandelion, her go-to attitude about getting what she wants and being confident in herself. Niyi Okeowo inspires me. He is amazing. My brother Lanre Gbadamosi is also a big inspiration. He is a poet and an artist as well.
Everybody has made me who I am today. Maybe I’ll say my biggest influence is God. Because if not for life lessons, I won’t be able to paint.
What will you say is your favourite thing about being an artist?
Being an artist that creates, my favourite thing is that I get to actually release my emotions on paper. I believe a lot of people don’t know how to release/channel their emotions. Exhibitions are quite fun too. You get to meet different people. People are excited to talk to you.
Like any other discipline making art definitely has its downsides. What have you observed to be the downsides to being an artist?
There are so many downsides. Cost of equipment, framing, that’s a lot. Having to be patient especially when your art doesn’t sell. It hurts. People don’t tell you it hurts but it hurts. (laughs) Another downside will be, for instance, you are having a solo exhibition and you have to create like 10 pieces of art and you have no inspiration, you are screwed and especially someone like me that gets inspiration off life experiences and life lessons. If I don’t have any lesson or experience at the moment or I am not spiritually developing myself, I can’t produce anything. Also, people can manipulate you. I don’t know if it’s just me. I think it’s just me (laughs). But people can really manipulate you in terms of maybe reducing the value of your art. Art is such a personal thing for me it’s connected to every emotion I feel. So the downside is when someone insults my art or doesn’t like my art. I get really upset. I’m still a growing artist and I feel when I am like 28/29 it won’t bother me anymore. It’s a mindset thing. I am still coming out there, so the opinion of others matters to me. Rather than the opinion of myself. Which is all that should matter to me at the end of the day.
When/how do you know a piece of art is finished?
You never know your piece is done until you frame it and you know you can never go back to it. I always find a way to add something even till now. If I don’t frame it, then it’s not done. I know when a series is done though. When I learn my lesson from it.
In recent times, the spotlight has been on African art especially from the West. What is your opinion on the art scene in your country and Africa at large?
The art scene in Nigeria is developing. You have the ArtX Fair… there are so many exhibitions. So many young creatives as well. I am still a growing artist so some of my opinions now may change as I grow. But I feel like there’s a lot of politics and manipulation. I’ve heard of cases of exploitation. But like I said I am still a growing artist and I am learning from the Art scene.
We like to see Art as a life form chiefly because it evolves and new trends can spring up from anywhere. What art trends are you following at the moment?
I’m not really following any trend. I am just going with the flow.
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