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In Full Ground, Joy Labinjo perceives woman’s nudity differently

…exhibition opens February 28th

Joy Labinjo, a British-Nigerian artist, is once again in the news for good reasons. She is in Nigeria to explore a hot topic; nudity of a woman, but in a more expository way, in-depth and in ways the society has never seen the subject.

Labinjo is doing so with her solo exhibition in Lagos, Nigeria, where she unveils her perception of nudity of a woman.

Titled Full Ground, the exhibition will be held at Tiwani Contemporary Art Gallery in Victoria Island, Lagos, from February 28, 2022, until May 7, 2022, and also doubles as the inaugural exhibition of the gallery.

Full Ground is a suite of new monumental works by the claimed British-Nigerian artist and it is the first showing of her work in Nigeria and on the African continent.

The exhibition unfolds an interest in the significance of the nude in the history of visual art and contemporary public practices of sending nude digital imagery as examples to lovers.

It will feature Labinjo’s work, which comprises a series of nude self-portraits.

The large scale works translate images that Labinjo took using her phone. Each work comprises loose geometric colour blocks where her body can be likened to a variegated landscape. Capturing a range of poses, the works are resolutely frank and unapologetic. By this, they point to an acceptance of self that is divergent from performative nudity and highlight self-love as erotic and feminine and at odds with patriarchy and sexism.

The visual artist’s figure is emphasized by muted and simplified backgrounds, distinct from the dense compositions of her previous paintings.

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Labinjo’s current work is departing in colour and composition from the earlier works and these present muted earth tones alongside a solitude that dominates each image and contrast with the vivid, saturated colours of social exchanges shown in previous paintings.

The Oxford University graduate of Fine Arts continues to hone distorted renderings that percolate between abstraction and representation. Each work positions Labinjo’s body against a new beginning or a space to be populated by unforeseen content.

In the context of historical arts in Nigeria, the works also point to the significance of female nudity and it links to collective action in the West African country. In the early 20th century, numerous accounts emerged of women using their nude bodies to dissent against onerous taxation structures and unfair laws during the country’s colonial period. Most recently, Nigerian women have threatened and used naked protest against a range of happenings in the country including the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, in the north-east and, in the north, anti-violence in Kaduna respectively.

As such, Labinjo’s work presents the body as a political agent and platform. By portraying herself nude, she invites the viewer to consider her position and the cultural loads that cover the body.

The exhibition coincides with Labinjo’s institutional and public art presentations in the United Kingdom at Chapter Gallery Cardiff, the United Kingdom from March 25 – July 3, 2022, while her acclaimed commission for the Brixton Underground Station in London will be on view through November 2022.

At a media chat with Labinjo in Lagos, ahead of the exhibition, the artist explained that the idea behind the painting is to appreciate the nudity of the black woman.

“It is about the identity of the African Woman. The painting depicts how a woman is perceived in society. The woman is a beautiful creature and her body is an amazing feature”, she said.

Speaking further, she said that her perception of the nudity of a woman may differ from the way society sees it, hence the subject of the exhibition.

“The way I see the nude body of a woman lies in my appreciation of her movement, hips and breast. It may be different from the way society views my painting based on the subject of the exhibition.”

She noted that the painting took her two months to complete. The images are a selection of photographs she took by herself.

Labinjo’s technique in the subject is oil paint on a large scale and lots of layers.

“The images are all made with oil paint. I paint on a very large scale and on lots of layers. I did not paint in one day; I painted severally while allowing the paint to dry. They are made on layers.

The exhibition is expecting a lot of creative artists in Lagos in attendance. Yinka Sonibare, a British-Nigeria born artist will grace the event as well as families and friends.

Labinjo’s recent exhibitions include; Royal Academy (2020), the Breeder (2020), Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gate head, UK, (2019), Bloc Projects, Sheffield, UK (2019), Tiwani Contemporary, London, UK, (2018).

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