Abe Odedina: EYE TO EYE
In association with Ed Cross Fine Art, EYE to EYE, an exhibition of new paintings by Abe Odedina opened on November 29 and will run till December 1, 2016 at the Copeland Gallery in London. EYE to EYE hosts a community of figurative portraits. Curated by Katherine Finerty, the works invite us to relate directly to a single figure or couple on display and immediately put ourselves inside the frame – to look at ourselves, see within, and sense a ‘looking–back’: a moment of recognition. “EYE to EYE acknowledges the role of the spectator in completing each work, each armed with their own unique point of view,” the artists declares. This type of seeing ‘eye to eye’ is not just about looking, or agreeing, but rather about communicating and connecting.
Odedina describes himself as a folk artist and his practice is inspired by the rich figurative and oral traditions of African art, infused with a trace of magic realism.The legibility of his allegorical vernacular, warmly hailed as “Brixton Baroque”, is paramount. His work is operatic and mythical whilst intimate and accessible. Odedina references objects and symbols from a global glossary and activates them with timeless, relatable characters –magicians like Professor Peller, goddesses like Mami Wata and Pomba Gira, young passionate lovers –to engage us in a conversation filled with personal and universal references that summon a sense of camaraderie. “The struggle is to reconcile bold imagery with ideas about ambiguity or indeterminacy. My intention is to arouse the imagination and heart of the viewer and to detonate ideas in another realm.”
Furthermore, Odedina is influenced by a diverse range of creators – Voodoo practitioners from Haiti, the Painters of the Sacred Heart, anonymous African craftsman – championing those who choose to be makers. His practice seeks to revive and deconstruct quintessential classical themes spanning from ancient Greek to Yoruba mythologies to create a charged dialogue between epochs, cultures, and peoples. The stories breaking through the surface of his paintings surpass physical borders. They activate a uniquely contemporary conversation that oscillates between life and art, and in the folk tradition, life trumps art.
EYE TO EYE encourages all who are present to engage in a world of human agency: the Eye of the painting looks directly, deeply, and invitingly into the Eye of the viewer – establishing a connection that enables us to see the world, objects, symbols, and ourselves much more clearly and powerfully.
Abe Odedina was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1960 and currently lives in London and Salvador Bahia. He trained as an architect but started painting on a trip to Brazil in 2007. Now a full-time painter, Odedina works with acrylic on plywood, making flat surfaces with vibrant, stylized subjects that delight in the use of colour and celebrate the power of both the every day and the mythical. Solo exhibitions include HI-LIFE, Brixton East (2014), Under the Influence, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout (2013) and Recent Paintings, Snape Maltings Gallery, Suffolk (2013). Group exhibitions include Brixton Design Trail, Street Gallery (2015), Global Artists Consortium, Knight Webb Gallery (2013) and the BP Portrait Awards 2013, National Portrait Gallery, London (2013), for which he received a nomination for his painting The Adoration of Frida.
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