Toyin Odutola | On Inspiration & Identity

toyin

Toyin Odutola is one of my favourite artists. I first wrote about her here where I posted about her exhibition titled My Country Has No Name, an exhibition of pen ink drawings on paper, metallic marker drawings, ink on black board and lithographs. Together, the range of works represent Odutola’s practice which is grounded in an obsessively fine and meticulous application of line that has become the specified visual language through which she explores the human form. Odutola’s work is an extension of being Nigerian born and growing up in the conservative South’s Alabama. She is making a firm indent in the art fraternity with her crafted, multi-layered, textured black ballpoint pen illustrations. Represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, her growing popularity has also landed her a spot on the 2012 Forbes ‘Art & Style’ 30 under 30 list.

SouthXeast: Contemporary Southeastern Art is an exhibition featuring emerging and underrepresented mid-career artists from several southeastern states in the US. This is the fourth edition of this exhibition, which has been presented every three years at Florida Atlantic University since 2005. Co-curated by Rod Faulds, University Galleries director, and guest curator Sybille Canthal Welter, the exhibition results from a thorough review of hundreds of artists recommended by curators, critics, past “southXeast” artists and FAU art faculty. Figurative painter Toyin Odutola’s (Alabama) selected pen and ink drawings focus on identity, specifically the “sociopolitical concept of skin color.”

Odutola and musician/artist Solange Knowles took part in NOWNESS’ series created in conjunction with EDITION Hotels. In this episode entitled “Inspiration,” the pair unpack their shared appreciation for one another: Knowles’ first correspondence with Odutola was after she looked to track down the artist’s intricate, embossed pieces after a sold-out exhibition at New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery; she went on to commission an artwork which brought the two creatives closer,

I think the essence of collaboration is being able to lay yourself on the line…The best collaborations are not knowing what to expect; being completely open-minded and having a sense of vulnerability.

– Solange

The pair have a mutual muse in Africa, as reflected in Knowles’ most recent EP release, True—co-written with Dev Hynes—which gave rise to the Cape Town-filmed video to “Losing You,” and My Country Has No Name, the third solo show from Odutula.“It was months and months of creating, so it was really nice to have Solange’s voice in my head as I’m working,” explains Odutola of listening to her friend’s music. “Your message is something that really connected with me; I see myself in your work.”

Toyin Odutola’s work plays with perceptions of identity, questioning the construction of race and the politics of skin colour,

Where some may see flat, static narratives, I see a spectrum of tonal gradations and realities. What I am creating is literally black portraiture with ballpoint pen ink. I’m looking for that in-between state in an individual where the overarching definition is lost.

Odutola is also taking part in the I SEE YOU: The Politics of Being exhibition. The exhibition presents the work of six contemporary artists who expand the constructs of female identity in the 21st century. Surveying the range of ideas and illusions of the feminine mystique, this exhibition explores how women of the African Diaspora are seen, from their perspective and through the eyes of others.

Juxtaposing historical ideologies and the contemporary, and self-presentation and imposed representation, the viewer is centered within a global community of image making and identity from a female perspective. Whether through implications of the body, or figurative representations of women, this mixed-media exhibition explores the artists’ desires to deconstruct and redefine history, identity and culture.

Odutola also took part in The Art Assignment series. The Art Assignment is a weekly PBS Digital Studios production hosted by curator Sarah Green. They visited Toyin Odutola in New York where she is based where they received the challenge to create a GIF! But not just any GIF–it must articulate something intimate that is indispensable to you. The series takes you around the U.S. to meet working artists and solicit assignments from them that we can all complete.

Toyin openly shares her process on social media.

Follow her on InstagramFaccebookTwitter, her official website and her tumblr where she blogs her work; providing insight for her audience and a direct reference point and living archive for herself.

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