Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) 'Mother of Twins'
Lot 66
Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo
(Nigerian, born 1934)
'Mother of Twins'
Sold for £ 146,500 (US$ 187,414) inc. premium

Lot Details
Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934)
'Mother of Twins'
signed and dated 'GRILLO/ 70' (lower left); label inscribed with artist's name, title, and date (verso)
oil on board
117 x 60cm (46 1/16 x 23 5/8in).

Footnotes

  • The subjects of Grillo's paintings are largely drawn from his experiences of daily life in Nigeria's towns and markets. The figures who people these scenes are not individualised portraits; rather they are expressive of an idea, the "dignified simplicity" of the Nigerian people (Kojo Fossu, 1993 p.57).

    Grillo's pictures frequently depict women, and the theme of motherhood in particular. His father died in 1947 when he was aged only thirteen. His mother subsequently became the sole provider for the family, developing a successful trade in food products and textiles. This upbringing shaped his perceptions of women and their capacity for survival. The female figure in his work symbolizes resilience and fortitude as well as fertility and love.

    Painted in 1970, Mother of Twins is an early example of the theme. It depicts a woman in profile holding her two babies. Grillo claimed the work was inspired by the sight of young mothers performing ritual dances to protect their offspring. In Yoruba culture, twins are thought to bring good luck and are held in high esteem. These dances were originally performed by poor mothers, who were seeking aid from their community. It has since become a tradition, and the rituals are practiced by wealthy and poor mothers alike.

    The academic, Patricia Oyelola, has described a similar work by Grillo titled Mother and Child thus:

    "(the painting) is a two-dimensional study of a theme often treated by Yoruba sculptors. Even though Grillo has chosen paint as his medium, references to sculpture are immediately apparent in his treatment of the mother's face which is based on the form of a...mask...Grillo has softened and humanised the mask-like face of the mother...her eyes are cast down, focused on the child, the object of her care and affection. The affective relationship between mother and child is further reinforced by other features of the composition. If we follow the line of the mother's shoulders and arms, the child's head and left shoulder, we have an ovoid shape which encloses the child recalling the security of the child in the womb." ('The Image of the Woman in the Yoruba Art of the Twentieth Century'. Nigeria Magazine. Vol. 57, nos. 1 & 2, Jan-Jun, 1989).

    The present lot conveys a similar impression. The rounded lines of the child's body merge seamlessly into the mother's robed form, emphasizing their deep connection. The woman's expression is serene and reassuring. The palette of blues and purples lend the painting a harmonious and calming quality; the atmosphere is meditative, even spiritual.

    Grillo's aesthetic demonstrates his commitment to 'Natural Synthesis', a principle pioneered by the Zaria Art Society. This was a group of young artists determined to throw off the influence of Western artistic tradition, and forge a uniquely Nigerian aesthetic. Grillo looked to indigenous arts and crafts for inspiration, masks in particular. Fellow Zarian, Uche Okeke, described their mission thus:

    "We must relate to our past, document it, analyse it and adapt it with much profit for the benefit of the present and the future generation. Our land and people, their myths, legends, flora and fauna, past and present occupations and preoccupations, religion, habits and technical products must be documented graphically and presented to the young and old alike."

    Mother of Twins reveals Grillo's pioneering status, incorporating Yoruba concepts and traditional artistic idioms into a modernist framework. The elongated, angular forms of Yoruba carvings are echoed here in the lines of the mother's robes, and the geometry of her profile.

    Bibliography
    S.O. Ikpakronyi, 'Uche Okeke in The Growth of Modern Nigerian Art', in P.C. Dike and P. Oyelola, NKU DI NA MBA: Uche Okeke and Modern Nigerian Art. (2003) p.79.
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