A chat with Ola Bale, Nige­ria’s polystyrene sculp­tor

Sunday Trust - - ART & IDEAS -

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

Ola Bale

A mixed me­dia piece by the artist

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