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Brampton artist Abiola Idowu is creating connection in colour

Painter and sculptor Abiola Idowu shares how his city inspires his recent work, and offers advice to the next generation of Brampton's creative community.

Abiola Idowu shares how his hometown inspires his work and offers advice to new artists

Meet Brampton creator Abiola Idowu

4 months ago
Duration 1:56
Abiola Idowu is the artist behind "Reading Girl", a new sculpture at the Brampton Springdale branch library. See where he gets his creative inspiration from.

Last year, CBC Toronto launched the Brampton Bureau to explore and elevate the stories important to Bramptonians, and to highlight the wealth of talent that can be found in the city

In partnership with the Brampton Public Library, multi-disciplinary painter and sculptor Abiola Idowu created a one-of-a-kind art piece inspired by, and in service of his community. Below he discusses how, as a Nigerian artist, he draws inspiration from the intersection of cultures that can be found in his city and offers insight for the next generation of Brampton-based creators. 

How did you get into art and become a creator?

I have loved drawing and making art for as long as I could remember. From as young as 5 years old, people saw that I loved to draw.  I used to hike many miles from my home to buy comic books. I used them to practice drawing techniques. I loved seeing people's reactions to my comic book character drawings. When my grade five teacher told me one time that if I continued to make art, I could sell it and that could be my job, I was shocked and excited. There was no turning back after this point. Since that day, I have not stopped creating - it is what I do. 

What is your style / art philosophy?

Generally, my painting style is abstract figurative or abstract expressive, but I don't have a style that is really my brand - and that is my brand! I love to create new techniques that I dream up while I work on a painting. I often use that technique for a while and my followers will see a series of similar paintings, then I'll just change and it goes like that. Sometimes I will reintroduce a technique that I haven't used in a long time. My painting style is always evolving and that is how I love it! I tend to create art depicting women. I feel compelled to highlight women and their wonder, their strength and their light.

I like to create realistic sculptures of people because a statue captures a piece of our history and makes it last forever in communities, and this is something I am really good at. A statue – especially in bronze – can last forever while our faces change and eventually disappear from the earth. 

I do other types of sculpture too – abstract and otherwise. I am always experimenting with different materials and tools to create 3-dimensional art. I am a multi-disciplined artist.   

Another thing about my work is that I don't feel the need to make big political statements with my creations. My subjects are simple, as I believe life is simple. People around the world have simple needs, we need love and connection with one another. If we find those things, it seems everything else is taken care of and this is the foundation of all my work. I connect to you by sharing my love, and people can feel that. 

What have you been working on recently?

Things were quiet during the pandemic, but I was always painting. Every day. I shared my paintings on social media and connected a few people to paintings during that time. At the end of 2021 – on Boxing Day I decided to have a one day show, and invite people to come and see some of the works. I called the show "Colourology" because my work is so colourful and I've been told it has healing power! I invited people to come and enjoy some end of year healing with me.  Because I had been so busy over the winter, I had over 50 paintings to share in this show. That was fun.   

I also recently created a life size tiger in metal and Plexiglass. I did this to help the City of Brampton celebrate the Lunar New Year. This year is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar. The work is titled "The Colours of Courage" and it's lit from the inside so it glows in festive colours.   

How did living in Nigeria and Brampton help shape you as a person and an artist?

I grew up in Nigeria, as part of a traditional Yoruba family. Yoruba people represent one of the traditional ethnic groups found in Nigeria. We have a rich culture that is peaceful, artistic, deeply spiritual, and very colourful. Having early exposure to these things helped me become the person I am today. Keep in mind that Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups and each one has its own cultural fabric. Together they make such a dazzling mosaic.

I was always moved by the differences between cultures and the places where they overlap. I found ways to explore the different cultures in Nigeria. One thing that was clear to me is that they are so different yet the same. This has always been a passion of mine and has been reflected in my artwork. Moving to the GTA really reinforced this idea for me. Toronto – and especially Brampton also has so many cultures, and the way they complement each other are like colours themselves. It makes me so happy.  I'm lucky to be part of this community and to express my perspective through my art. 

What was the thought process behind the statue 'Reading Girl', created for CBC Toronto and the Brampton Public Library?

I wanted to make a piece that people would feel compelled to interact with. Whether they want to hold the girl's hand, or sit on a book – I want them to connect. I also wanted the piece to have a classical look to it, so I made it look like it is made of bronze. 

What story is the piece telling?

"Making connections" has taken on so many new meanings with technology in the picture. Especially during the height of the pandemic when connections were almost all virtual. This piece reminds us that simple 'old fashioned' connections are hard to replace with technology.  The girl is reaching out to you to bring you close, so you can read together. The books are a place to sit with a friend, where you can share your stories. It's these connections, and places like Libraries that we need to heal and thrive.   

What would you tell the next generation of creators coming up in Brampton and beyond?

I would tell them to work hard and produce as much as you can, so people know that you're serious about your art. Work every day, even if you have to have another job sometimes, just keep creating. Also, there are a lot of opportunities out there! There are grants, scholarships, free training, contests, exhibitions etc. You just have to keep paying attention and keep working hard. Don't ever give up. WORK AS IF YOU WILL NEVER WORK AGAIN.


The CBC Brampton bureau, led by CBC journalists Ali Raza and Nav Nanwa, launched in November, 2021, and since has produced several stories such as: 

 

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