Ato Arinze: A Master Craftsman

By catthews on November 11, 2017


Views: 1,504

Arinze in his studio
Arinze in his studio

True artists often come across as simple folks; Ato Arinze did not disappoint. His branch of art which is sculpture and pottery is almost as old as the human existence.

And since time immemorial, the use of artifacts as a medium of expression has gathered diverse purpose, relevance and even served as status symbol. Overtime, they have also served as means of gauging the level of human activities and development.

In modern times, Arinze and his ilk use it as a means of thought provocation. They use it to encapsulate their perception of their immediate environment and developments within such a space at a given point in time.

He once said this: “I enjoy working with clay. The vessel for me is a metaphor for the world, the surface a canvas.
“I believe one who can model perfectly rounded pots can equally make the best of life. He can influence many.
“My thoughts, concepts and feelings are influenced by nature and events around the world. These events determine the faith of a given vessel.
“The shape and form of each work depend solely on my vision as inspired by activities in our environment, when thinking of man’s inhumanity to man, the destruction of the ecosystem and the conflict and instability around the world, the urge to punch or perforate the vessels with holes and lacerations become apparent.
“However, when a concept is inspired by the beauty of nature and the celebration of good deeds, I am moved to embellish the surface of the vessels with beautiful motifs.
“Enlightenment and understanding is how we can co-exist as humans, sharing, giving and loving are my key motivation for creating and devoting my life to art.”

Profound and thought provoking; this statement sort of defines Arinze, his works and the life he leads.

Arinze often works on several projects at about the same time. He says it takes him between a week and up to three months to complete a given piece of art work depending on the size of the work and the intricacy involved.

Some works in progress still stand in his studio in Lagos, the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, West-Africa bearing such titles as ‘Spiral’, ‘Monument to Burden of Womanhood’ amongst others.

‘Spiral’ he says, explains the nature of human beings; how we are born and how we grow up – aging gradually. The work shows the changes that could be called the pains of growth, from childhood to adulthood – especially the old age; when one experiences the same fate of helplessness one had initially set out with from childhood. ‘Spiral’ is thus a metaphor of life and growth.

‘Monument to Burden of Womanhood’ on the other hand explains the pain and hardship women undergo in a male dominated world. A woman’s experience, he explains, ranges from being subjected to child-marriage; denied access to education in some cultures; to childbearing and always staying back at home to serve the husband and cater to the children. The work shows that women are carrying a heavy burden.

Arinze hails from Onitsha, Anambra State. However, his parents gave birth to him in Mushin Area of Lagos State in 1966. He had hardly started schooling when the Nigeria Civil War broke out. 

The war forced his parents back to the east taking him along. After the war, his parents returned to Lagos, this time to reside in Oshodi Area. There, he started formal schooling, he went back to the east for his secondary school education and went ahead to the Federal Polytechnic, Oko in 1986 where he obtained the Ordinary National Diploma.  His attending this polytechnic defined his professional career because he fell under the tutelage of eminent Chike Ebebe, the ceramist of the Aka Circle of Exhibiting Artists. 
Arinze returned to Lagos to complete his higher education at Yaba College of Technology majoring in sculpture.

Arinze answered in the affirmative when asked if Nigerians patronize his art works. The market is encouraging he said; and that, there are even Nigerian art collectors. Pottery, he said, is not usually expensive, giving a price range of N5, 000 to N500, 000; depending on the size and intricacy of the art work.

Arinze is also an activist, at least within his professional circle. Activism, thus, do take him out of his studio. The plight of upcoming artists and demands of collectors often necessitate him playing the role of a mediator, trying to always bridge the gap between the two parties.

He also serve as consultant to art galleries.

Arinze has co-founded and served as co-coordinator of two art groups- the most popular art group in Lagos, Artzero and the Vision in Clay, which he co-founded with talented Cameroonian Ceramics sculptor - Nathalie DjakouKassi.

The Artzero for over a decade served as the platform for promoting the works of young and upcoming artist living within and outside Lagos with its flagship annual exhibition tagged, ‘Art On The Mainland’.

Arinze confessed that the platform afforded him the opportunity to showcase many art works gallery owners and collectors would frown at.

Vision in Clay is a group of ‘sort after’ Potters in Lagos and the group also stage its own exhibitions.

Arinze has many sculpture commissions to his credit, such as the bust of the first president of Nigeria Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe which he executed in the year 2000, a collaborative project with ChikeOyeka at his studio in Onitsha. 

The bust still stands at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State.

Arinze boasts of, at least, two exhibitions locally in a year and has participated in many other exhibitions both within and outside the country with his works well represented in private and public collections.

According to him, ten per cent of the money he collects from the sale of his works goes to patronizing upcoming artists.

He was a recipient of the Solidra Award for Sculpture and Pottery in 2002. In 2008, he was awarded the Society Nigerian Artist (Lagos State Chapter)’s Distinguished Artist Award. 

In Mwavuli’s (a progressive Art Gallery with emphasis on Ethnic, meaningful and equally fun art) estimation, “Ato Arinze is an innovator, always exploring different ways and medium to work with. He is gradually introducing a unique style in ceramics.”

Aside sculpture, Arinze is also an avid Painter. And he has been an independent studio artist since 1991.   

Source cattnews

Posted 11/11/2017 12:26:11 AM




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