Artist Toyin Ojih Odutola draw complex pictures of black life

Artist Toyin Ojih Odutola draw complex pictures of black life

written by Jackie Palumbo, CNN

Nigerian American actress Tuen Oger Odutula is famous for her rich, black-rich images, which were drawn through a ballpoint pen, charcoal and pastel colors.

Ogiola Odutula was born in 1985 and is a storyteller essentially influenced by the narrative traditions of her childhood. Her 2017 exhibition at the Whitney Museum, her first solo exhibition in New York, revealed a coherent dual narration of two fictional aristocratic families in Nigeria.

Recently, when the Barbican Center in London closed due to Covid-19 restrictions in March, it was just days before its first UK show,Compensatory theoryIt opened. Now, with the show being delayed, Ojih Odutola has assembled a virtual exhibition of the Jack Scheinman Gallery in New York,Tell me a story, I don’t care if it is true, “Created primarily from artwork created while the artist has been at home for the past few months.

Ojih Odutola showcases new works, done during the close, at a virtual showcase of Jack Scheinman’s Gallery in New York. credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola

Barbican shows not yet seen revolve around legend making and feature 40 drawings based on an ancient legend, set in Nigeria, imagined by the artist herself. Meanwhile, her more intimate virtual program for Jack Scheinemann focuses on solo stories that flow freely through images and text.

Here, Ogie Odutula discusses both galleries and her rich exploration of black identity and how art can be a balm and space for agency in a time of crisis.

The 2017 Ojih Odutola Show in Whitney, New York helped raise its international profile.

The 2017 Ojih Odutola Show in Whitney, New York helped raise its international profile. credit: Pete Wilkinson / Twin Oger Audutola

CNN: Can you walk us through? Your Will Barbican show appear when it is revealed?

Toyin Ojih Odutola: Some of the pieces are seven feet long and some are really small. It all depends on a legend I wrote about last year that includes an ancient civilization and was developed in Plateau state in central Nigeria. For me, there was a need to delve into visual storytelling in an engaging and different way, and I felt very present.

There are these lines in each drawing, and they may look like decorative motifs, but in reality, it’s the order at work. When you see a drawing completely filled with these lines, you see the non-operative or invisible system, but it is everywhere in the world of these characters. It affects and affects them, but they do not recognize it. It is just there. So of course it affects everything.

(The exhibition) deals with gender, power, hierarchy, oppression and imperialism in a manner that I hope, once it is revealed, is hidden and very accurate and talks about the virulent nature of systematic repression.

The Barbican show Ojih Odutola gave the opportunity to work on an ambitious scale, mixing large and intimate mono works based on an imagined old legend.

The Barbican show Ojih Odutola gave the opportunity to work on an ambitious scale, mixing large and intimate mono works based on an imagined old legend. credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola / Barbican

How did the new virtual show happen, “Tell me a story, I don’t care if it’s true”?

The offer title came to me in February before closing. It was something that seemed right and workable at the time. It is a series of diptychs, independent graphics, and stand-alone texts. It’s the stories that come to mind, which were new to me because I tend to plan things a lot. This presentation was more introspective.

These are stories. They are small inscriptions. There is not much context, but only enough information to understand it. A conversation is taking place between the image and the text. In one, you encounter a character leaning on a sofa, and you may have your thoughts on what this number is thinking – inside that moment. Then you read the text, go back and forth between the two, and form your own meaning.

Watch an activity. Take a moment, take a rhythm. I hope this is a way to ask what you see and read.

What oral or written traditions related to myths influenced you?

I grew up in a house where rhetoric was the medium. Meeting and listening to someone who tells a story is a big part of Nigerian culture. I also grew up in a house with amazingly funny parents who love to tell stories about anything. I have always been so dear. And I didn’t realize how important it was to get that experience and get there, until I got a lot older.

When I first started my career, I was just drawing characters and not thinking about narration. But there is a wealth of knowledge that I already have in my personal history and my own experience – and I can apply that to visual narration and really help people see the potential of figurative work.

Ojih Odutola showcases new works, done during the close, at a virtual showcase of Jack Scheinman's Gallery in New York.

Ojih Odutola showcases new works, done during the close, at a virtual showcase of Jack Scheinman’s Gallery in New York. credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola

I am very touched by comic books and animation. As for the Barbican Show, engaging in mythological myths was my way of being completely free and creating something from scratch. Unlike “Tell me a story, I don’t care if it’s correct”, there is no text (on Barbican Show) – there is no reference to the audience, and everything else is weird and wondrous. But what I hope for is that when they walk in that space, they start adapting to my visual language.

You often explore the texture and meaning of leather in your business. How did you develop this with your practice?

At first I wanted to figure out a way to visually translate what skin looks like. I use winding lines. It’s layered, and I’ve mostly been doing ballpoint pen ink. Then I started to include other drawing materials like charcoal and pastel, and now, recently, colored pencil and graphite.

Ojih Odutola compares black leather with water, describing it as

Ojih Odutola compares black leather with water, describing it as “a mercurial surface, a terrain … a place of great beauty and positivity.” credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola / Barbican

When I think of the surface of the skin I think of the work of multimedia artist Ronnie Horn, Who uses water as a metaphor For a mysterious and constantly changing surface. Thinking of the skin in a very similar light. Skin topography. It is the landscape on which meaning is presented. It has its own history.

When I look at black leather, I think of it as a mercurial surface – topography, brown, projection, but also a place where a lot of beauty and positivity are common. It includes a lot and carries a lot.

After the death of George Floyd, there was a lot of conversations about black shock, portrayal of blacks in the media and how these images were circulated. How do you think art can play a role at this time?

There is a lot of noise – the pictures can be noisy. But with art, only you and this work. You are in dialogue with her, and there is no right or wrong way to participate. Art provides an opportunity for people to remain calm, to think, digest this moment and try to understand it.

Ojih Odutola wants her art to provide a space where viewers can think and come up with their own interpretations.

Ojih Odutola wants her art to provide a space where viewers can think and come up with their own interpretations. credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola

I made a deal with myself, as a photo-maker, that if I were to contribute pictures to a large number of those available on the Internet that I would not suffer from black pain, deaths or shocks.

This is my choice. And if you’re an artist that deals with these things, that’s fine. I am not saying it is wrong or wrong, but for me it is very important that I present pictures and texts that give people something else to interact with because we already know that shock and pain is a sad and unfortunate thing that connects black people all over the world.

Blacks are catalysts. In every society we were part of, our culture left an indelible mark. This is not a coincidence. So we should not always think that we are coming from a place of shortage, and that we are impotent. I am not saying that these are not facts. But it is not how we should read ourselves as a community, as a group (and) as a diverse and wonderful dispersal.

As a part of the diaspora, I want to give people a space to interact with potential, and interact with our capabilities. Yes, they are afraid of us because they do not know what we are capable of. But we They should not be afraid of our ability.

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