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ABSTRACT

This thesis focuses on pothole as subject matter. Artists in the Renaissance epoch, laid much emphasis on the subject matter, while the Expressionist artists gave less importance to it. However, the coming of Pop artists, reintroduced the subject matter as a structural method in painting, by moving it from insignificance into a concrete device. The subject matter presently inspires many artists all over the globe. In Africa, artists like Gani Odutokun, Akin Afuwape, Jerry Buhari, Philip Gushem and David Koloane have been stirred to paint ordinary subjects within their environment. Their subjects address sociological issues like bad governance and problems of human existence. Potholes are a deficiency on a roadway, which is caused by excessive weather factors like heat, rain as well as heavy-duty vehicles, with overloaded goods. These factors create several cracks, which result into shallow or deep holes on the road; these are known as potholes and potholes are also known as sinkholes. Potholes can be found on both tarred and un-tarred roads. Vehicle tyres, human and animal footprints, create the patterns found on the roads and the patterns can be simple or complex. Potholes have inspired many artists who have done performance, installations and photography, which are mostly found in the European and Asian continents. Pothole as a global social phenomenon is not peculiar to the developed nations. As a developing country, Nigeria experiences greater problem of potholes on roads yet, there seems to be no painter who is interested in painting anything related to potholes as a subject matter, except late Gani Odutokun who painted Kaduna –Zaria Road in 1975 -about Forty-One years ago. This is observed as a gap and a problem by the researcher. This study sought: to explore pothole as a subject matter in abstract compositions; create satirical paintings using pothole; use conceptual ideas; create motifs of pothole patterns and explore the possibilities of creating three-dimensional paintings on a two-dimensional format, using pothole as a research subject. This study does not completely depend on either the potholes or the painting generated but rather, depends on the conceptual ideas generated by the challenges, which affect Nigeria as a nation. The researcher adopted two methodologies: practice-based and action research methods. These methods are harmonised by reflective practice. The paintings produced were categorised into four: preliminary, exploratory, developmental and abstracts stages. The
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study has created a critical platform for discussion about the pothole as a social issue. It has established that it is possible to achieve the stated objectives. This study established that: potholes as subject matter, if studied within their setting along with other objects such as trees, stones and shrubs, can create impressive landscapes; it is possible to generate satirical abstract paintings from potholes; it is possible to generate new motifs from potholes; using a subject matter like potholes, there are several possibilities in approaching conceptual ideas in painting; it is possible to create three dimensionality on two dimensional formats using upholstery foam for colour application. The study also engaged viewers in how to perceive potholes from the artist‟s point of view. The research recommends that: further research on related areas such as road signs should be encouraged; artists who wish to realistically paint potholes as a subject matter should be encouraged as a strategy for visual communication; a post-doctoral painting research should be encouraged on the subject matter of potholes in the area of the sociological effects; and artists should be encouraged to study “ordinary” subject matter like cracked walls which may appear mundane, but on closer scrutiny, exhibit a wide variety of exciting discoveries.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover page – – – – – – i Fly leaf – – – – – – – ii Title Page – – – – – – iii Declaration – – – – – – iv Certification – – – – – – v Dedication – – – – – – vi Acknowledgements – – – – – – vii Abstract – – – – – – – viii Table of Contents – – – – – – ix List of Figures – – – – – – xiii List of Plates – – – – – – xv CHAPTER ONE Introduction 1.1 Background of the study – – – – – 1 1.2 Statement of the Problem – – – – 6 1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study – – – 6 1.4 Research Questions – – – – – 7 1.5 Justification of the Study – – – – 7 1.6 Significance of the Study – – – – 8 1.7 Scope and Delimitation of the Study – – – 9
1.8 Conceptual Framework – – – – 9
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CHAPTER TWO
Literature Review 2.1 Introduction – – – – – 13 2.2 Pattern as Principle of Art – – – – 13 2.2.1 Philosophical Account of Patterns – – – 15 2.2.2 Pattern and Rhythm – – – – 16
2.2.3 Texture and Pattern – – – – – 18
2.3 Subject Matter – – – – – 19
2.4 Action Painting – – – – – 19 2.4 .1 Jackson Pollock – – – – – 20 2.4.2 Willem de Kooning – – – – 22 2.4.3 Hans Hoffmann – – – – – 24
2.4.4 Helen Frankenthaler – – – – 25
2.5 Yves Klein – – – – – 28
2.6 The Liquefiers and Social Art Commentators – – 29
2.6.1 Gani Odutokun – – – – 29 2.6.2 Jerry Buhari – – – – 32 2.7. Ugandan Pothole-Painting-Artists – – – 33 2.8 Examples of Pothole Performance and Installations in the United States of America- – – – – 37 2.9 Leo McRee – – – – – 45
2.10 Juliana Santacruz Herrera – – – – 49 2.11 Faith Rumm – – – – – 50
2.12 Global Voices – – – – 51
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2.13 The Montrealer – – – – – 53 2.14 Kolawole Kosoko (b.1970) – – – – 54 2.15 Daniel Knorr – – – – – 56
2.16 Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) – – – – 56
CHAPTER THREE Methodology 3.1 Introduction – – – – – 58 3.2 Practice-Based Methodology – – – – 59
3.3 Action Research Methodology – – – 61
3.4 Research Procedure – – – – – 62
3.5 Preliminary Studies – – – – – 65 3.5.1 Preliminary Studies and Drawings (First Stage) – – 67
3.6 Exploratory Studies (Second Stage) – – – 75
3.7 Developmental Studies (Third Stage) – – – 76
3.8 Abstraction Studies (Fourth Stage) – – – 76
3.8.1 Grey Series – – – – – 77
3.8.2 Black-and-White Series (Conceptual Series) – – 77
3.9 Colour – – – – – – 78
CHAPTER FOUR
Analysis of Paintings Produced 4.1 Introduction – – – – – 80
4.2 Exploratory Studies (Second Stage) – – – 82
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4.3 Developmental Studies (Third Stage) – – – 87
4.4 Abstraction Studies (Fourth Stage) – – – 102
4.5 Abstract Gray Series – – – – 115
CHAPTER FIVE
Curatorial Statement And Catalogue of Works 5.1 Introduction – – – – – – 120 5.2 Artist‟s Curatorial Statement – – – – 120 5.3 Portfolio of Works Produced – – – – 123 5.4 Exploration- Second Stage: – – – – 153 5.5 Third Stage (development series – – – – 161 5.6 Fourth Stage, Abstraction – – – – – 179 5.7 Abstract Black-White-Series – – – – 200
CHAPTER SIX Summary, Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Preamble – – – – – 211 6.2 Summary – – – – – 211 6.3 Findings of the Study – – – – 212 6.4 Conclusion – – – – – 213 6.5 Recommendations – – – – – 214 REFERENCES – – – – – – 215 APPENDICES – – – – – – 221

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
The modern and contemporary styles and movements could be characterised as being liberal, spontaneous, unrestricted, creative and experimental with less or no emphasis on subject matter. The art world changed forever when Jackson Pollock, picked up a can and poured paint unto a vast canvas across the floor of his house. Fifty years on, art theorists recognised his patterns as being a revolutionary approach to aesthetics (Taylor 2006). Potholes as a subject matter for this study, are so common on Nigerian roads that they hinder the free-flow of traffic. Aderounmu (2007) captures the situation on Nigerian roads with this expression: “Look at Nigerian roads! Look at madness!” In the United States of America, pothole is a social phenomenon. It was reported that Governor Daval Patrick of Massachusetts, asked town officials to fill potholes before First Lady Michelle Obama‟s visit near Berkshines for fund-raising (Boston News Leader, 2012). This report shows that, the issue of bad roads as a result of potholes can be found everywhere in the world and is not peculiar to developing nations such as Nigeria.
From the Renaissance period, artists were active in serving the Church, the rich, and the affluent. The artists‟ works were found in castles and state houses with mostly religious, historical, mythological, portraiture, landscape and still life as subject matters. Towards the end of the 18th century, things began to change as a result of the French Revolution of 1789. The insurgency weakened the grip of traditional art on world artistic
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culture. There has been great changes in the society because, art has become philosophical and has opened to discussion. The traditional thinking about painting was therefore challenged, which gave way to Contemporary art. The result is that new concepts and techniques, became appreciated over the traditional ideas (Adams, 2007). In the contemporary era, new innovation in art is no longer tied to any movement or style but to creative ideas found in everything (Marilyn, 2009). The modern era, which has experienced many movements and styles like Cubism, was considered as the beginning of Abstract Art where forms were reduced to geometrical elements. Artists responding to World War I, led to Expressionism in which colour was treated subjectively. After World War I, the artists, in reacting to the destruction of values, morality and society, brought about Dadaism, a (protest art). Another style of painting known as Surrealism emerged from psychology, the art of the subconscious and dreams.
Other movements kept emerging as a reaction to situations of the war. At the first half of the twentieth century, different American artists painted American scenes that comprised “ordinary” subject matter, in a form of satire. Feldman (1982) states that during this period, there was no hierarchy of subject matter, any theme was as good as the other. The hostility of the art-interested public toward experimental art had evaporated. At a point, subject matter was not visible in some paintings around 1950s to 1960s. Another art movement emerged in the United States known as Abstract Expressionism, a different style in painting. The method of colour application included dripping, splashing and other forms of application on canvas. Some of the leading exponents were Jackson
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Pollock, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman and Willem de Kooning. It is from this background that several artists have developed their art by interrogating subject matter that are outside the traditional trends like landscape, portraiture, still life and among others. They looked at the common everyday objects to derive their inspiration from. It is also in this that potholes on roads have become a veritable subject matter for a painting research. Various African artists are also inspired by their environment to create contemporary paintings in an expressionistic manner. Among them are Nigerian artists such as late Gani Odutokun, Jerry Buhari, Akin Afuwape and Philip Gushem. Odutokun, Buhari and David Koloane who are expressionist painters, also engaged in social art commentary. Babalola (2004) observes that, both Jerry Buhari and late Gani Odutokun are experimental painters. It was reported by other scholars that both of them are social commentators who have commented on the social problems of human existence, bad governance, military despotism and greed. Potholes are found on roads or pathways. A pothole is a defect on a road caused by environmental factors like, heat and rain as well as heavy-duty vehicles and trucks. These elements erode the road creating a series of cracks. As the cracks start to grow deeper, chunks of pavement materials separate, and are pulled out by the wheel of passing vehicles. The resulting hole on the surface of the road is known as a pothole. If it overtakes the boundaries of the road and starts to erode the dirt below, it is known as a sinkhole. The major ones are formed when disruption in the surface of a road causes a portion of the road material to break away leaving a hole. This is sometimes known as sinkhole or kettle.
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Pothole Sinkhole Crocodile Cracklings
Plate I: Typical examples of pothole photographs
Source: Oladesu, J.O. 2009.
The formations of most potholes result from the wear and tear of the road surface. When fractures develop, they are interlocked in a pattern known as crocodile cracking. These patterns also served as a source of inspiration to artist. Vehicle tyres, human and animal footprints, create road patterns that exhibit simple and complex patterns, which may be inspiring to painters.
Mbahi (2013) opines that, the act of looking for new sources for making art and the “willingness to make anything from anything is an important artistic trait”. Feldman (1982) acknowledges that highways, parkways, bridges and viaducts constitute art objects; they serve as a source of aesthetic experience for many artists. He also expresses that a “road is part of a kinetic continuum of amazing complexity and varied occasion for
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pleasure”. Working with road-potholes has created public awareness in some countries. A typical example is that of the Ugandan artists painting potholes while onlookers watched them, published on the BBC news website in May 2007. Different themes and subject matter such as road patterns have inspired many artists globally. According to Lamp (nd), the source of inspiration is very vital in studying art. The researcher therefore, decided that exploring pothole patterns will not be out of place. Wachowiak (1985) writes that, the most assured source of inspiration is through nature, to study variety of shapes. According to him, shapes from nature such as nuts and fruits amongst many, are far better than measured and mathematical formulae, which are cold. Potholes have created a lot of inconveniences for road users on Nigerian roads. As the roads are repaired and potholes filled, the roads go bad again due to continuous use by motorists and other environmental factors such as rain and heat. These potholes are the concerns for this study because of the patterns they create. Inspirations drawn from the potholes are for the purpose of painting. The specific location of potholes will not affect the process of inspiration for painting. Also, there are no specific characteristics of determining types of potholes in this study. This research relied on potholes found within Zaria and Sabon-Gari Local Governments areas of Kaduna State, connecting some of the villages like Bomo, Basawa, Samaru and Shika.
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1.2 Statement of the Problem
From the literature reviewed, art works on the subject of potholes are produced in the areas of stage performance, photography and installations, which are commonly found in the European and Asian continents. However, here in Nigeria where one assumes that potholes are significantly in greater number than in those continents, there seems to be nobody else interested in painting anything related to potholes since late Gani Odutokun painted “Kaduna / Zaria Road” in 1975. There appears to be an increase in the number of potholes on the Nigerian roads. These potholes continuously pose challenges to motorists, vehicles and sometimes pedestrians. This is a gap, that the researcher worked on, thus leading to creating paintings inspired by potholes that would generate art discourse. Furthermore, as far as academic research in painting potholes is concerned, this researcher is not aware of predating efforts in Nigeria.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The aim of this study is to contextualise potholes found on the Nigerian roads as a source of inspiration in painting, while the objectives are to:
1. generate painting compositions using pothole patterns as source of inspiration;
2. contrive new motifs in painting using pothole patterns;
3. create satirical abstract paintings inspired by potholes;
4. use conceptual art approach to create pothole paintings;
5. explore the possibility of three dimensional impression by creating apertures on the paintings.
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1.4 Research Questions
To achieve the objectives of this study, the following research questions were set to guide the researcher:
i. What are the possibilities of creating painting compositions using pothole patterns as source of inspiration?
ii. What are the possibilities that, new motifs in painting can be created from pothole
patterns?
iii. Through which ways can potholes be created to inspire satirical
abstract paintings?
iv. How can conceptual approach be utilised to create pothole paintings?
v. What are the possibilities of creating apertures on the paintings to achieve three dimensional impression?
1.5 Justification of the Study
Most of the literature and related works studied are found in European and Asian continents, they revealed works of art on potholes in photographs performance and installations. In Nigeria, where one would assume that potholes are considerably more in number than in other continents, there seems to be nobody else interested in painting anything related to potholes since late Gani Odutokun painted “Kaduna / Zaria Road” in 1975. The researcher therefore contextualise, pothole within Nigeria as a subject in painting. This study is justified in the sense that potholes, which constitute a global issue, are worthy of artistic attention.
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1.6 Significance of the Study
New discoveries come with lots of practice, experiments and perceptions, which have to be systematic. According to George Braque in Baker and Baker (1981), “Real discoveries‟ are made beyond the limit of knowledge, using odd materials to create wide variety of patterns of pleasing forms”. Creating painting compositions with pothole patterns would inspire artists to break new grounds in painting. It would also evolve new motifs and style of painting that can influence artists who wish to further explore potholes. The researcher perceives the potholes as object that possesses an intrinsic value. Adams (2007) affirms that, the intrinsic value of artworks depends largely on the general assessment of the artists who created them based on their own aesthetic character. Painting pothole patterns in series will make this research significant in that, painters‟ perception will be heightened in a new way of understanding issues through the use of “ordinary” objects. The problem of bad roads in Nigeria has become an embarrassing stigma, and a frustration in many parts of the country. In recent times, some scholars have made their contributions to the state of the Nigerian roads. Just as some artists and members of other disciplines have been reacting to their environment, advocating for social change, painting potholes may challenge the authorities to have a positive re-think and make a policy that would enforce the re-habilitation of roads in Nigeria. Adewumi (2003) writes that, there is an urgent need to discuss the departure from past wastefulness, negligence, deceit and bad policies on road construction in the country.
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The researcher believes that, when keen interest is devoted to painting common themes as “potholes”, the Nigerian society may be inspired to look and appreciate paintings better. Reacting to the environment through creating visual works, is a strong form of art protest and this may open up public discussions that can bring a positive change in the society.
1.7 Scope and Delimitation of the Study
There are many motorable roads in Nigeria such as Federal, State, and Local Government roads. The total road network is estimated to be about 198,000 km and out of this only 45 per cent is maintained (FRSC 2011). Potholes have created a lot of inconveniences for road users on Nigerian roads. As the roads are repaired and potholes filled, the roads go bad again due to continuous use by motorists and other environmental factors such as rain and heat. These potholes are the concerns for this study because of the patterns they create. Inspiration drawn from the potholes are for the purpose of painting. The specific location of potholes will not affect the process of inspiration for painting. Also, there are no specific characteristics of determining types of potholes in this study. This research relied on potholes found within Zaria and Sabon-Gari Local Governments areas of Kaduna State, connecting some of the villages like Bomo, Basawa, Samaru and Shika.
1.8 Conceptual Framework
This work was guided by the philosophies of perception and automatic picture-making, drawing insights from the works of Pop Art, through the mandate of Robert Rauschenberg. Lewis and Lewis (1995) observed that learning to look and see is often
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more challenging than what we think, just as viewers often equate looking with seeing; looking is passive while seeing is active. Seeing may be difficult to explain sometimes. Seeing could be termed as total gazing at something, but oftentimes when we are busy, worried or too familiar with something, the image becomes blurred. Being familiar with some objects in real life often makes viewers pass by the object unnoticed because it is “ordinary” such as a “pothole”. The good thing about a work of art is that it renews the pleasure of seeing and helps us feel more alive. In his works, Jasper Johns embraced the philosophy of looking and seeing. In his paintings, he focused on only few simple objects. Johns was interested in painting “things the mind already knows”. These are subjects that are instantly recognizable as stored in the memory. For instance, he painted the American flag in a series that he titled “flag”, more than twenty-five times. He also made drawings and prints using the same subject. Lewis and Lewis (1995) state-: Johns would vary his size, number, colour and materials, but the essentially flat flag would be the same in each. Most flags were built by painting thickly over a collage of newspapers, resulting in a very textured surface. The flag paintings seemed to follow the rules of Abstract Expressionism and slyly undermine them at the same time. Like a typical Abstract Expressionist picture, Johns‟ images were absolutely flat and non illusionistic and covered with lively, gestural paint strokes. But they also had subjects; they were unquestionably, instantly recognizable as flags. Johns‟ flag paintings were impersonal. He explains that he chose to paint flags exactly because they are “things which are seen and not looked at, not examined”. His flags paintings cause viewers to go beyond looking to seeing them freshly.
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Rene Magritte‟s, The Treachery of Image, contains some of Jasper Johns ideas of looking and seeing. Magritte shared the same philosophy with Jasper Johns‟ in the areas of seeing and looking and the use of “ordinary things” (Barron, Draguet, and Cochran 2006). Lewis et al (1995) state, “Magritte offered liberation to his viewers by understanding their confidence in the most ordinary things”. In The Treachery of Images, a format of Children‟s book was used with the image of a pipe. Below the image, a simple sentence was written ceci n’est pas une pipe meaning “this is not a pipe”. Magritte explained that his titles “were chosen to inspire a justifiable mistrust of any tendency the spectators might have to over-ready-self-confidence”. Magritte cautioned viewers on limitations of sign labelling and language.
From the background of Pop Art, it is observed that there is a commonality between Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists could not be classified strictly under a group; many of the artists‟ imageries and techniques differ significantly. Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg amongst others, oscillated between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art where they combined texture, painterly brushwork with emphasis on the object. One of the leading Pop artists is Andy Warhol, who painted “Two Hundred Campbell‟s Soup Can”. Warhol believed that every subject matter was of an equal importance. He worked on a large scale like Rothko and Pollock did. He emphasised that anything on a large scale would affect the viewer. He also worked in a series of repeated motifs like those of Jasper Johns. Warhol, Rothko, Jasper, Pollock, Magritte, and de Kooning are tied together in the philosophy behind Pop Art, which focuses on the ordinary things that are seen everyday Brommer (1988). This philosophy is immersed in the mandate of Robert Rauschenberg, which was on:
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i. the idea of actual looking and seeing subjects beyond the normative experience of the fact that they exist;
ii. the enlargement of things to give gigantic dimensions; and
iii. changing the material or the common place of the object.
This study adopted the same framework. Jackson Pollock and de Kooning were the two fathers of action painting. The action painters were inspired by their inner unconscious thought, a style known as “automatic picture making”, thus painting directly without studies. This study embraces the philosophy of the pop artists and action painters on the idea of actual looking and seeing subjects beyond the normative experience of the fact that they exist.

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