Abe Odedina’s Just Looking takes its name from precisely that phenomenon: the basic unit of currency in a transaction between artist and viewer. Conducted across the fertile territory spanning intention to interpretation, the implicit exchange — just looking, thanks — is literalised rather than incidentally represented.
Just Looking at Art X Lagos will be Odedina's first exhibition in the country of his birth; based between Brazil and Brixton, and anchoring his practice in mythologies drawn from across myriad world traditions, the stories breaking through the surfaces of his paintings surpass physical borders. Odedina’s work speaks through a highly legible allegorical vernacular, holding the wildly specific and the universal in generative tension.
It is within this landscape — across lines of seen and seer — that love, hate and indifference become available in equal measure. After all, it is only in considering a piece of art that we bring to it the temporal quality of narrative. Language used, passively or actively, to coax a story from an image is determined not only by our personal experiences but also by our experiences of global iconography. The tale's resulting architecture is often built on the foundation of much older stories: in the words of Odedina, 'such structural components include historical and technical knowledge, gossip, self reflection and delusion, illumination, prejudice, wit, compassion, ingenuity and so on. It is worth noting that no story elicited through an image is final or exclusive’.
While much of his work is bold, mythical — characters larger-than-life, settings suffused with technicolour dreaminess — its inherent logic remains always accessible. In fact, readability is paramount to Odedina's practice. Seeking to revive and deconstruct quintessential classical themes, and drawing on sources from ancient Greek to Yoruba fables, from love to betrayal and camaraderie to heartbreak, the practice instigates a powerfully charged dialogue between epochs, cultures, and peoples. Alone and as oeuvre, Odedina’s paintings activate a uniquely contemporary conversation. Oscillating between life and art, the work returns to its foundations in the folk tradition — here, life triumphs.