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Abe Odedina

Abe Odedina

Abe Odedina

Abe Odedina


You were born in Ibadan,Nigeria, a place considered to be the centre of Yoruba history and politics. How has your background contributed  to the artist you are today?

I was born in 1960 the year of Nigeria's independence, the fourth of five children. My parents were both young professionals,like many in their generation full of optimism about the prospects of a newly independent Nigeria, of course we all know that things haven't  gone strictly to plan. But what has stayed constant through the decades,  is a sense that i can determine who I want to be which is a direct legacy of my upbringing.

You identify as a folk artist with a focus on African oral tradition and magical realism. Is this as a result of your travels to Bahia or have you always been interested in these ideas?

Our parents brought us up to understand that  being a modern Nigerian and a traditional Yoruba are not in any way incompatible. I was nourished on a daily diet of  family praise poetry oriki establishing a link with the ancestors. Even as a child i was fascinated by the Egungun festival, so the interest was always there expressed as a general appreciation of the sophistication of traditional practices and rituals which has underpinned my world view till this day.

However, what  happened in Brasil was a reawakening of these instincts when realised just how versatile and resilient the orisha are, having formed associations with the catholic saints they were simply phenomenal.

Your style is reminiscent to that of the street art we see in various parts of Nigeria, the ones used especially for local ads. What are your earliest memories of being drawn to art apart from being an architectural artist?

My formative years were spent living in Nigeria. Hand painted advertisments for barbers, vulcanizers, mechanics, tailors, fruitsellers, traditional healers along with the beautifully painted lorries were part of the urban landscape i grew up in and while in some respect i simply accepted them, they also seemed to be offering me important information about my community.

They have a quality of engaging fully with the observer and almost demanding a response.

What beliefs of yours,  are of most value to you?

They all are, the important thing is to wear them lightly.

What questions do you ask yourself? or rather, what questions do you seek to answer through your work and process?

What I think we do as artists is to process experience. My interest is to explore our shared humanity, the triumphs and tragedies of dailylife through figurative painting.

I am committed to working with the human form, as it is something we all share. However, the figures i paint are not  drawn from nature but abstracted from an imaged world in order to better convey ideas without the burden by the baggage of a specific location or actual biography. My hope is not to answer  but to ask questions by trying to make the ambiguities of life somehow concrete.



We understand that you live between London and Bahia. How would you say these two places have influenced your work in terms of their varying cultures?

I often start paintings in Salvador that are subsequently finished in London. In my art practice, external influence are often distilled into an imaginary hybrid landscape with elements from  a number of different places. Apart from amazing acrylic paints, what Salvador offers is unparalleld access to the Gods ,the full pantheon of Orisha,  the catholic saints , the ancestors, the spirits  their prescence can be felt powerfully in the daily life of the city.

London on the other hand is a splendidly indifferent megacity, if you want to find the Gods you really have to look for them.

Your style and perspective are things we consider brave for someone with Nigerian roots. Have you always been confident or did you learn it overtime?

I dont think I'm particularly brave i think we all have a right to give full expression to our true selves , i have generally  felt comfortable being me.

We are focused on lifestyle as practice and how it affects the work we do. Tell us a bit more about a day in your life.

I lead a fairly monastic existence. My wife and i get up around 6.00 am walk/run Belle our Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Brockwell park for an hour, shower, breakfast and in the Studio by 7.45. The Studio is a small shed at the back of our garden and the commute is painless.

I  paint hard till lunchtime, stopping only for coffee and high grade. Lunch is a variable feast from a quick sandwich to something more civilised depending on whether Sarah my wife is around or not. Then it would normally be back to the studio to paint for the rest of the afternoon, but today i have to prepare for a talk I'm giving to the Royal Academy young patrons group at  the historic Get up Stand up exhibition curated by Zak Ove at Somerset House.

The exhibition provides a snapshot of Black creativity over the last 50 years, and I am honoured to be one of the contributing artists.

I arrived at Somerset House, met my Gallerist Ed Cross and  gave a personal tour of the exhibition to the RA young patrons during which i spoke about selected works in the exhibition that i found particularly interesting. It was a pleasure to  walk around and share my enthusiasm for art with a group of fellow art lovers.

When the event was over, Ed and I went to a cafe to have a catch up meeting, i had only just returned from holiday  and there was a lot to catch up on. We had also received confirmation that our application to show in Art X Lagos in November was succesful.

Back home, have supper, go to the studio, prime a sheet of plywood ready to start a new painting tomorrow, go into the house, go to bed, repeat.

What are some objects, books, musings, films and sounds that are of deep significance to you?

The single most significant object to me is our family house in Brixton and while it is objectively an unremarkable late Victorian house on the outside, on the inside the protective aura it emanates is nothing short of Talismnic. We have lived here for over thirty years and it has been shaped to meet our requirements. It is full of all our work, art , music, film, our culture is embedded in this object.

Name 1 thing that's overrated?

Authenticity



Abe Odedina

Arts & Culture

July 20, 2019

Abe Odedina

WRITTEN BY:

Olamide Jinadu(Founder)


You were born in Ibadan,Nigeria, a place considered to be the centre of Yoruba history and politics. How has your background contributed  to the artist you are today?

I was born in 1960 the year of Nigeria's independence, the fourth of five children. My parents were both young professionals,like many in their generation full of optimism about the prospects of a newly independent Nigeria, of course we all know that things haven't  gone strictly to plan. But what has stayed constant through the decades,  is a sense that i can determine who I want to be which is a direct legacy of my upbringing.

You identify as a folk artist with a focus on African oral tradition and magical realism. Is this as a result of your travels to Bahia or have you always been interested in these ideas?

Our parents brought us up to understand that  being a modern Nigerian and a traditional Yoruba are not in any way incompatible. I was nourished on a daily diet of  family praise poetry oriki establishing a link with the ancestors. Even as a child i was fascinated by the Egungun festival, so the interest was always there expressed as a general appreciation of the sophistication of traditional practices and rituals which has underpinned my world view till this day.

However, what  happened in Brasil was a reawakening of these instincts when realised just how versatile and resilient the orisha are, having formed associations with the catholic saints they were simply phenomenal.

Your style is reminiscent to that of the street art we see in various parts of Nigeria, the ones used especially for local ads. What are your earliest memories of being drawn to art apart from being an architectural artist?

My formative years were spent living in Nigeria. Hand painted advertisments for barbers, vulcanizers, mechanics, tailors, fruitsellers, traditional healers along with the beautifully painted lorries were part of the urban landscape i grew up in and while in some respect i simply accepted them, they also seemed to be offering me important information about my community.

They have a quality of engaging fully with the observer and almost demanding a response.

What beliefs of yours,  are of most value to you?

They all are, the important thing is to wear them lightly.

What questions do you ask yourself? or rather, what questions do you seek to answer through your work and process?

What I think we do as artists is to process experience. My interest is to explore our shared humanity, the triumphs and tragedies of dailylife through figurative painting.

I am committed to working with the human form, as it is something we all share. However, the figures i paint are not  drawn from nature but abstracted from an imaged world in order to better convey ideas without the burden by the baggage of a specific location or actual biography. My hope is not to answer  but to ask questions by trying to make the ambiguities of life somehow concrete.



We understand that you live between London and Bahia. How would you say these two places have influenced your work in terms of their varying cultures?

I often start paintings in Salvador that are subsequently finished in London. In my art practice, external influence are often distilled into an imaginary hybrid landscape with elements from  a number of different places. Apart from amazing acrylic paints, what Salvador offers is unparalleld access to the Gods ,the full pantheon of Orisha,  the catholic saints , the ancestors, the spirits  their prescence can be felt powerfully in the daily life of the city.

London on the other hand is a splendidly indifferent megacity, if you want to find the Gods you really have to look for them.

Your style and perspective are things we consider brave for someone with Nigerian roots. Have you always been confident or did you learn it overtime?

I dont think I'm particularly brave i think we all have a right to give full expression to our true selves , i have generally  felt comfortable being me.

We are focused on lifestyle as practice and how it affects the work we do. Tell us a bit more about a day in your life.

I lead a fairly monastic existence. My wife and i get up around 6.00 am walk/run Belle our Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Brockwell park for an hour, shower, breakfast and in the Studio by 7.45. The Studio is a small shed at the back of our garden and the commute is painless.

I  paint hard till lunchtime, stopping only for coffee and high grade. Lunch is a variable feast from a quick sandwich to something more civilised depending on whether Sarah my wife is around or not. Then it would normally be back to the studio to paint for the rest of the afternoon, but today i have to prepare for a talk I'm giving to the Royal Academy young patrons group at  the historic Get up Stand up exhibition curated by Zak Ove at Somerset House.

The exhibition provides a snapshot of Black creativity over the last 50 years, and I am honoured to be one of the contributing artists.

I arrived at Somerset House, met my Gallerist Ed Cross and  gave a personal tour of the exhibition to the RA young patrons during which i spoke about selected works in the exhibition that i found particularly interesting. It was a pleasure to  walk around and share my enthusiasm for art with a group of fellow art lovers.

When the event was over, Ed and I went to a cafe to have a catch up meeting, i had only just returned from holiday  and there was a lot to catch up on. We had also received confirmation that our application to show in Art X Lagos in November was succesful.

Back home, have supper, go to the studio, prime a sheet of plywood ready to start a new painting tomorrow, go into the house, go to bed, repeat.

What are some objects, books, musings, films and sounds that are of deep significance to you?

The single most significant object to me is our family house in Brixton and while it is objectively an unremarkable late Victorian house on the outside, on the inside the protective aura it emanates is nothing short of Talismnic. We have lived here for over thirty years and it has been shaped to meet our requirements. It is full of all our work, art , music, film, our culture is embedded in this object.

Name 1 thing that's overrated?

Authenticity



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