A chat with Ola Bale, Nigeria’s polystyrene sculptor
What inspires work?
I am an artist who majorly derives his inspirations from nature, as well as, my immediate environment. This is evident in the thematic choices for my artistic explorations. As such, diverse musical instruments like guitars, and drums; domestic animals like lizards, fishes and birds; household utensils, the northern landscapes, and several other items and entities, found in the day-to-day existence of man, are incorporated into most of my abstracted, conceptual and naturalized expressions.
Hence, my art has been seen to address salient social and political issues; some of which have their traditional inclinations. In recent years, my artistic prowess has been focused on the erection of monumental sculptures. Producing such gigantic pieces, using polystyrene as a major medium of expression, I was regarded as the first sculptor in Nigeria to adopt polystyrene in producing such gigantic sculptures. Several of such commissioned works are scattered around in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and some other parts of Nigeria. Having trained under renowned sculptors like Professor Tonie Okpe, Dr. Ken Okoli, Dayo Fatile, David Abduljabba, Jettison Uchir and Hamza Atta to mention but a few. I have learnt in my artistic journey to believe in mentorship, sharing of ideas, and collaborative efforts in sculptural processes. Hence, in conquering such significant feats in the contemporary Nigerian art arena, I have also not been an island of ideas. I bring in a team of sculptors who collaboratively produce the monumental work as a team. This gesture does not only provide financial benefits to the sculptors, it also serves as a platform for gaining more knowledge and experience in the field of sculpture, given that only few sculptors get such opportunities to produce works of such enormity in their entire career. Also, such avenues Olaoluwa Bale aka Ola Bale, is one of Nigeria’s upcoming contemporary artists making a mark with his sculptural pieces. The artist who is working on a doctorate degree speaks about his keenness for art and its endless possibilities. help in teaching such sculptors the business of sculpture; as most of the works produced are commissioned projects. Other skills learnt on the job are management skills, intuitive thinking, and team work, amongst others.
Going back memory lane as a child my mum would spank me hard for drawing on house walls, car doors, my exercise notes and in front of my solved sums, “saying I want you to become a Medical doctor and not an artist, but since the then young me can’tactualise my mother’s desire and dream of becoming a medical doctor hence the reason for myongoing Ph.D. degree in sculpture.
How did you get into visual art?
I don’t really know whether to call it an inborn thing, but I think the whole creative and talented drive came into play from when I was a little boy. Apart from having a flair for drawing cartoons, comic characters and mutilating house walls, I also had serious passion for creating things, like using batteries, motors from spoilt stereo tapes, using styrofoam from new electronic carton to create helicopter and cars etc. Subsequently after my National Certificate of Education (NCE), I secured admission into Ahmadu Bello University Zaria to study Fine Art and that was how my journey into the visual art world started. I majored in sculpture in my 300 Level and here I am now currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the same discipline.
What are things about your environment that have influenced your art?
Artists generally are influenced by just anything from their childhood, life experiences, environment, school, work, movies, other artists, etc. I feel everything we see and experience in life influences our art in some way, whether directly or indirectly. And I don’t think I am in anyway different too. My personal influences come from my surroundings, especially having lived in the northern part of Nigeria for so long it shows in most of my abstracted drawings. My present and past experiences and my favourite artists have also influenced me in a way.
You have a unique style. Please tell us about it and how it all began.
My style started through doodling on rough sheets, sketch pads, sand, dusty surface just name it. Having done that severally in years and have mastered it. I am now beginning to translate it to two and three dimensional arts respectively.
Bale at work Olaoluwa Bale
A mixed media piece by the artist