Studio International spoke to Omofemi just before the opening of his first exhibition in London, and before the coronavirus restrictions came in to place, at Signature African Art’s new Mayfair venue.
Oluwole Omofemi (b1988, Ibadan, Nigeria) always wanted to be an artist, despite opposition from his family. As a child, he learned about the civil rights movement and the natural hair movement of the late 60s and early 70s from his grandfather, who, at the time, sported an afro. Omofemi now uses hair in his paintings as a metaphor for freedom and power, and as a symbol of identity. Some of his series use the more muted palette of the old masters, showing how entrenched identity and culture are in a person’s belief system; others use a brighter, pop art palette, portraying energy and strength and looking to the future. Whatever the style, he considers his work to be African at heart.
Oluwole Omofemi. In Her, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 230 x 150 cm. Courtesy of Signature African Art.
One work in particular stands out from the others on display – In Her (2019), depicting a bald woman set against a bright, almost street art-style background, covered in words such as hope, love, aspiration and queen. This piece is dedicated to Omofemi’s grandmother, who died of cancer, as well as to raising awareness of the disease, and showing that a cancer diagnosis is not necessarily the end of everything: there is always hope. Other works are dedicated to his mother, through the use of floral patterns. In general, Omofemi sees women as close to God, in their ability to love, accept and forgive. This is why the majority of his subjects – and all of those in this exhibition – are female.
Oluwole Omofemi. Omonalisa, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 120 cm. Courtesy of Signature African Art.
Oluwole Omofemi: The Way We Were
Signature African Art, London
12 March – 16 April 2020
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Oluwole Omofemi. Self Love, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 70 x 70 cm. Courtesy of Signature African Art.
Simply Artful, Simply Functional, Simply Droog
The word 'Droog' (pronounced 'droach' with a hard 'ch' as in the word 'loch') has a number of related meanings in Dutch: dry wit; unadorned; direct; matter-of-fact; to the point; and casual. After viewing a few of Droog Design's products, it becomes clear that none of these labels describe the collective's mix of artful and functional.
The Danish Gift
In 1974, following a visit to the Furniture Fair in Copenhagen, the question was raised, How will Denmark follow the work of Borge Mogensen, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and Verner Panton, whose designs seemed so classically timeless that it was hard to see what was left for others to do? The exhibition, 'The Danish Gift', at the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen, provides the answer.
Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design
No major painter in the history of art has a surviving corpus of paintings smaller than that of Leonardo da Vinci. Only a handful of paintings remain, some unfinished, some of disputed attribution, and at least one of the most significant in a grievous state of decay which commenced shortly after it was completed. Ask most otherwise culturally informed people to name some paintings by Leonardo, and they will probably come up with no more than three: Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks and The Last Supper.
Beijing's 798 Art District
A decade ago, setting up radical art studios in the workshops of a largely abandoned military electronics complex on the fringe of Beijing was considered to be intriguing and provocative. Today, Factory 798 is a warren of contemporary art galleries, studios and cafes, luring artists and visitors, students and collectors from across China and overseas.