Detail from Abe Odedina True Love, (Triptych) 2017, Acrylic on Plywood, 120 x 446 cm
The Department Store
248 Ferndale Road
London SW9 8FR
September 15 – 23, 2018

In 2016, Danny Boyle, on behalf of the South African based charity Dramatic Need, commissioned Abe Odedina to produce a series of paintings in response to testimonies from young people in South Africa who had undergone extreme and in many cases highly traumatic life experiences. This culminated in animations of Odedina’s works being used as backdrops to performances of the testimonies by a star-studded cast at Carnegie Hall, New York in late 2017. Now, fittingly in his home area, Brixton, Odedina will exhibit the original paintings for the first time.

Abe Odedina’s paintings speak through a highly legible allegorical vernacular, warmly hailed as “Brixton Baroque”. He 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 surfaces 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. “The struggle is to reconcile bold imagery with ideas about ambiguity or indeterminacy,” The artist attests, “My intention is to arouse the imagination and heart of the viewer and to detonate ideas in another realm.” Odedina’s recent works present distinctly bold and colourful individual figures who find themselves emboldened physically and emotionally, practicing the power of taking up space. Their imaginative compositions and seductive symbols invite viewers to fall into a pool of dreams and daring.

Abe Odedina (b. 1960, Ibadan, Nigeria, lives in London and Salvador Bahia) is a trained architect who 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, stylised subjects that delight in the use of colour and celebrate the power of both the everyday and the mythical. Solo exhibitions: Birds of Paradise, The Underground Museum, L.A. (May 2019), EYE TO EYE, Copeland Gallery, London (2016), HI-LIFE, Brixton East (2014); Under the Influence. Group exhibitions: TALISMAN IN THE AGE OF DIFFERENCE, Stephen Friedman Gallery (June 2018), Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy (2017), Brixton Design Trail, Street Gallery (2015); Global Artists Consortium, Knight Webb Gallery (2013); and BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London (2013). Odedina was commissioned by director Danny Boyle and the South African charity Dramatic Need to create a new body of work for the digital set of The Children’s Monologues, at Carnegie in New York City, November 2017. In April 2018 Odedina’s work was acquired by the British Government Art Collection.