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Ato Arinze condemns new medium

By Udemma Chukwuma
Every artist’s studio is an extension of his inner world, his psyche, and you get to see his personal space where he creates artworks when you visit. Arts and Culture Place visited Ato Arinze in his studio in order to have a peep of what his studio looks like.
In his studio is a large table, on it are well arranged old and new artworks. On the walls are some of his drawings and some unfinished works. Also in the studio are bookshelves with a good number of books, a reading table, and chairs. In his compound is his other studio where he creates bigger works.
After looking around for a while, Arinze shares the story of his career of over twenty years’ studio practice as a ceramics sculptor, and his creative process, answering questions about everything from his art to his general view of contemporary Nigerian art. His daughter, Harmony, joined in the tour of her father’s studio and caused little distract every now and then.
During the conversation which flowed smoothly, the artist revealed the thoughts and methods behind his work. He says his collection of books by Indian gurus has opened his eyes to see life from a different perspective. “There is this analogy, which says be as humble as a blade of grass or as humble as tree in the forest by the author of Green Cautions.”
The works, titled Tree of Life (series), which he has been producing for over ten years, are inspired “by my study of spiritual literatures. I also see trees as a metaphor for life. Look at this seed (pointing at one of the works in his studio), one day it’s going to become a tree, so are ideas, children and other things.”
Events in the society, he says, inspires his works. “One of the major function of art is to record history. As they occur I record them. On the long run, when we are gone, art is what that will be there. So I always like to update myself.”
What has changed today compared to when he was a struggling artist? “Before, you move around with photo album to show people your works. All that has changed. The internet has opened a lot of avenues for both established and young artists to show there works to the world with their phones. There are a lot of great opportunities and possibilities.”
Despite all these, he is worried about lack of creativity in Nigerians. “What you see today is what we learned from older artists, it was experimentation…I believe we should experiment with concept instead of bothering ourselves on creating new materials. What is more important is the philosophy behind what we are doing, where art ends, philosophy begins there. What will be relevant after some time is the philosophy behind the work. It is important we work on concept which is basically the philosophy behind the work.
“Today artists are not being creative. We should come out with something new and that is when we began to work with ideas, concepts and not trying to work with all kinds of materials. Not that it is not good to experiment with other materials, when you focus more on experimentation, it takes away the art, we artists are work, the material is the process and art is the concept.
Why clay among all medium? “I fail in love with clay when I was developing myself as a creative person, I have tried my hands in acting, music and all that before I discovered clay…clay is my home. Since then it comes naturally with ease.”
He points out that power supply is one of the challenges he is facing. “It is affecting my work” as he prefers to work at night and “I would have produced more works.”

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