In episode 43 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews one of the most incredible artists working in the world right now, the brilliant TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA.
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
Working exclusively in drawing materials including pen, pastel, charcoal, and chalk, the Nigerian-born and New York-based artist is known for her astoundingly-beautiful, electric-like and meticulously rendered figurative works. Based on imaginary characters who inhabit opulent interiors and verdant landscapes, Ojih Odutola’s work can be exclusively monochrome or drenched in dazzling colours.
With her starting point being not the pen, but rather her mind, she begins each series by creating narratives that play out through a series of works that suggest the structure of episodes or chapters, in their cinematic-like ways.
As viewers, these sometimes-immersive series leave you physically and psychologically transported into other worlds as they probe questions about the state of our current world through their presentations of alternative histories, with the artist herself joining the story as she takes up fictional roles including a private secretary, or the director of a research initiative.
A 2017 exhibition, To Wander Determined at The Whitney Museum in New York, which I was lucky enough to witness, presented an interconnected series of fictional portraits chronicling the lives of two aristocratic Nigerian families, and her most recent exhibition, A Countervailing Theory at London’s Barbican Centre, tells the story of an ancient civilisation ruled by female warriors (the Eshu) and served by male labourers (the Koba).
Referencing ancient history, popular culture, anime, fan-fiction, to contemporary politics, Toyin is reinterpreting the artistic landscape like no other. By playing with traditions of portraiture, she is pushing the genre beyond its roots into the realm to the psychological, the speculative and the seemingly impossible.
And it is her most recent exhibition, A Countervailing Theory, which features a staggering cycle of forty new large-scale drawings that explore the complexities of our system, and challenge established norms!!!!
WOW. I am completely blown away by Toyin Ojih Odutola in this episode. PLEASE LISTEN !!!! and thank you :)
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Amber Miller (@amber_m.iller)
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield