Africa's Metal King - Dotun Popoola
An artist who specialises in a beautiful aspect of the arts - Scrap art, using metal primarily and transforming these scrap pieces into a spectacle.
His works are focused on transforming trash to treasures, rubbish to rubies and waste to wealth by repurposing wastes that threaten the ecosystem.
Popoola is famous for his striking and riveting metal works. Through intricate and specific hybrid sculpture techniques, he continues to show the endless possibilities in metal scraps, bronze and related material works. He manipulates these materials into realistic forms of everyday life, especially animals characterises most of his works. According to him - "His forefather, grandfather and father have worked with metal and machines as blacksmiths, farmers, hunters and automobile engineer.” so relatively it's in the genes. Popoola sees himself as an agent of change, a tool for social review. He considers his work an opportunity to address once more the lack of environmental consciousness, waste management and infrastructural decay, all while making it entertaining as well.
Born in 1981 in Nigeria, Popoola holds a National Diploma in Painting and General Arts from Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, Nigeria, where he graduated with honours. He subsequently completed Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Fine and Applied Arts with a specialisation in Sculpture and Painting at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. In 2015 he was resident in-training at John Lopez studio in South Dakota, United States. He has assembled quite a few monumental sculptures and painted large murals in Nigeria and the United States and featured in local and international exhibitions including ART X Lagos, the maiden Scrap Art Exhibition in Qatar and recently at the Global Art Festival in Gujarat, India. He also provides mentoring opportunities for local and international artists in his studio in Nigeria.
Popoola continues to lay a mark on the memory of almost everyone who has encountered his work, his ability to manipulate and re - construct metals and scraps into new compelling forms. These forms are often everyday objects and animals, domestic and wild. Though at a recent exhibition titled "Metala" (Yoruba for 13, an exhibition showcasing 13 scrap art pieces, and also a nod to his use of metals for his works), he explores man sized metal sculptures amongst other varieties. Popoola’s creative process can be mind blowing sometimes to say the least, even for those very familiar with his work. - "Sometimes, i start with a sketch on a paper and then proceeds to clay modelling a miniature then i subsequently transform it into the final material’s intended size. Other times, the process is spontaneous. “Sometimes, when I feel like making a piece, I don’t wait to finish the thought process. I start, and in trying to give the work my best, I research further on the subject.” - he says.
Inherent to his work is an advocacy for social change. He desires to tell his stories his way with what is available. He relies heavily on metal junks such as motorcycle tanks, brake pads, car struts, nuts, electric generator parts, etc, which forms the bulk of his sourced materials. He picks and selects these scraps based on colour, and often, he paints the items to achieve a specific desired finished look. As stated ealier, these items are not only a visible component of overall infrastructural decay but also as particles contributing in large part to environmental pollution. While Popoola’s use of scrap materials may have originated from a purposeful desire to re - purpose and control waste, he has also developed an obsessive compulsion to make beautiful and aesthetically distinct metal works. He also does not find creating in large scale difficult at all. And perhaps this is the reason why his sculptures are very popular.
In his most recent showcase "Metala", Popoola’s goal was to present and reconnect the public with Yoruba culture and mythology that are disappearing due to modernisation and globalisation regrettably. At “Metala”, visitors where wowed by some of his most impressive works like ‘Sango’, ‘Okere gori’roko’, ‘Oju ode da (Hunter and his Dog)’, ‘Sewing Machine’, ‘Eyo’ and ‘Arewa’. Arguably, These are some of Popoola’s best works yet. Reason why, his viewers cannot help but wonder what next, Will Popoola dive into more abstract forms and perhaps more symbolic subjects? Regardless of what he ventures into next and the exhilarating outcome, one can be assured that the African metal king will always for sure blow us away with his metal works.