Ade Adekola is a Nigerian-born contemporary artist. His images pose questions about shifting culture, migration, and globalization. His early years were spent tinkering with cameras and electronics. He obtained a degree in architecture, in the early 90’s specializing in the design of responsive building systems. International acclaim for his responsive designs in the 90’s led to exhibitions of his artistic productions. Ade went on to study management leading to a career as a management consultant with a specialization in transformation and innovation.
He spent several years in Silicon Valley where he witnessed the digital transformation of photography. At this juncture Ade started to explore the transformative power offered by innovations in photography. His enthusiasm was captured, and his experimental practice was born. Many of his works of this period were prescient of post internet photography and glitch art movements. Moving back to Nigeria in 2005 his creative emphasis shifted; he started to create images that reframe and redefine the Nigerian Cultural narrative.
His art is driven by his interest in cultural preservation, cultural transformation, perception, color, movement, and innovation for Africa. He makes art that is relevant or derivative of the issues facing its society. Ade views art as a system of changing the perception and minds of his viewers. In a society, yawning for change (shifts in perceptions, perspectives and paradigms) his images are timely in elevating African Contemporary photography.
His works are optical inventions that explore new processes of image making. He uses digital tools as his locus of creation where the computer becomes his studio. Typically, he emphasizes vibrant and electrifying colours. Color takes on a materialness and helps to render context in his multichannel and layered images. It provides the references needed to ground the viewer’s perception. Ade uses color as a visual reference that allows the viewer to enter the realm of the unfamiliar through harmony, congruency and balance.
Ade is best described as an experimental photographer. Experimental photography offers alternate forms of representations that break with classical interpretations. It shifts photography towards a more pliable medium (like say, music or literature).
In the last few years, he has redirected his practice to creating contemporary representations from traditional and urban Nigerian culture. He creates, for example, new expressions of traditional textiles, glittering gemstone photo mosaics from ethnographic images, large scale photomontages of urban dwellers, iconic blur images of festivals and optical kinetic pieces from urban photograms.
He works in series, where each has its own visual language. He works with technology that provides the means to alter and enhance existing colour ranges (through the modulation of contrast, iridescence, gradients, and shadow). This allows him to produce alternative visual possibilities with atmospheric qualities. Ade’s “Transformations” are magnificent objects for sustained contemplation. When hung in groupings, they produce an array of unusual and striking combinations. They are as commanding as visual expressions as they are statements which allow the connoisseurship of contemporary photography to thrive.
His oeuvre questions how we perceive and define the medium of photography.
Ade lives in Lagos. He trained as an Architect at the Architectural Association London. He has exhibited as a conceptual artist since 1992 and has actively documented culture in the mega city of Lagos since 2005.
My approach to image making is experimental. I try to explore the complexities between traditional and contemporary social orders. My work output is iterative, it is based largely on my outlook and process.
Outlook: I view tradition with a slightly conflicted gaze of being both familiar and unknown. This allows me a license to recreate variations that prompt the viewer to question: what is being viewed? Is it authentic? What is its cultural payload?
I am fascinated with innovation and the way visual references can change perception (enhancing it, recontextualizing it or reframing it). I seize the opportunity to change narratives by inserting contemporary visual references into the frame.
Process: My approach often fragments images in a bid to reconstitute them anew, to endow them with nostalgia or prompt selective amnesia in the viewers mind. In this way I create images with many avenues of interpretation (cultural hyper-referential images).
Output: My output shifts from straight photography to digital manipulation. The images I work on are produced in series that address a range of subjects. Each series adopts its own thesis and visual language. My works seeks to change perception, to help enhance visual narratives and to propagate cultural transformation. I view the ability of the image to change the viewers perception is its cultural pay load.