Where the Ocean Meets the Beach is Sola Olulode’s end of residency show at V.O Curations, a three-month period dedicated to Olulode’s research into representations of QTIBPOC (Queer Trans Intersex Black People & People of Colour) and romance. The artist presents a new series of paintings where narratives of Black queer womxn culminate in the representation of romantic relationships and their complexities, directly drawing upon Olulode’s experiences. Focusing on love, Olulode delves into the intimacy, complicity of dating and the impassioned ‘honeymoon’ phase.
Taken from artist Travis Alabanza's poem The Sea, the exhibition title refers to Alabanza’s feeling on gender fluidity as a boundless place similar to ‘where the ocean meets the beach’. Analogously to the poet’s sentiment, Olulode renders the fluidity of emotions that chronicles the process of falling in love. The constant malleable shift and undefinable identity, a central theme of Alabanza’s poem, enhances and sets the stage for Olulode’s characters to tell the untold, but timeless, stories that remain crystallised in calming moments of reflection and joy.
By creating a space that encapsulates the lovers, Olulode transports them into a placid and tranquil bubble that transcends reality. Exploring love as a protective barrier, a refuge from the misrepresentation and the confinement within a heteronormative ideal, that both denies and depreciates queer relationships. Reflecting the intimate and complex relationships of Black queer womxn, be they romantic or deeply platonic, Olulode questions the dynamics of the same existence of these relationships. The lovers’ genders are undefined and devoid of eroticity, straying away from a grazing patriarchal gaze of male desire and traditional heterosexual relational aesthetics. The figures are intrinsically naive and exude an aura of innocence, parting from references to eroticisim and crude sexuality, which queer relationships often become victim to. The perspective offered is delicate, creeping softly into a space, where only the deeply profound bond remains.
Safety (2019) represents Olulode’s depiction of a safe and intimate space for the lovers resting under the duvet covers; inundated by a veil of indigo, the painting recalls Olulode’s experimentation with the Adire technique, a dyed textile made by the Yoruba people in Nigeria. Dyeing textiles and the use of melted wax directly references the artist’s Nigerian roots, echoing and informing her oeuvre through the lens of her background and history.
From the deeper tones that evoke the atmosphere and intimacy of nighttime, to the warmer hues that veil daily interactions between the lovers, indigo and turmeric envelop the characters and almost blend with them, becoming both part and background for them to exist. A Perfect Summer’s Day (2019) amalgamates the lovers in a honey- glazed lens, where they lay imperturbable, suspended in a dimension without time nor space.
Olulode emphasises the undefinability of the characters and their gender, hair and clothing remaining the only signifier of personal identity. Curly afros, twists, locs with thick deep black lines and cornrows: the appearance of detailed hairstyles allows for more agency and reality to each figure. The intricate details are delicately interwoven and applied, either sewn or drawn upon, generating unique patterns that become an identifiable detail within her works. The lovers in Good Vibrations (2020) are distinct from other figures as their clothing becomes a prominent part of their depiction, with polka dots and pinstripes gently laying down on their bodies and raising them from the background where they emerge from.
British-Nigerian artist Sola Olulode (b. 1996, London) graduated from the University of Brighton in 2018. After successfully completing a residency at Lewisham Art House, she was recently shortlisted for the Evening Standard Art Prize, and featured in V&A’s 2020 exhibition ‘In the Palm of Your Hands’ . Olulode has been developing a narrative investigating queerness and black identity through the lens of social interactions.
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