Abe Odedina’s paintings speak through a highly legible allegorical vernacular. His work is bold and mythical whilst always accessible – their readability is paramount. Odedina describes himself as a folk artist and his practice is inspired by the rich figurative and oral traditions of African art, infused with a trace of magic realism. 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 triumphs over art. ‘The struggle is to reconcile bold imagery with ideas about ambiguity or indeterminacy. My intention is to arouse the imagination and heart of the viewer and to detonate ideas in another realm.’
Abe Odedina (b. 1960, Ibadan, Nigeria, lives in London and Salvador Bahia) had a successful architecture career before starting to paint on a trip to Brazil in 2007.
Odedina, together with The Underground Museum, Los Angeles was awarded the 2017 Ellsworth Kelly Award from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts, New York.
Solo exhibitions: True Love, The Department Store, London (2018); Say it Loud, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House, London, (2017); Eye to Eye,Copeland Gallery, London (2016); Hi-Life, Brixton East (2014); Under the Influence, The Lookout, Aldeburgh (2013).
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.
Odedina’s work is in a number of major international collections including The British Government Art Collection and the Serge Tiroche Collection.