Yinka Shonibare (MBA) at the RCA 23 of October
This was the first of a series of lectures where Artists have been invited to discuss their current modes of practice and what it means to be an Artist today.
Yinka a Turner prize nominee 2004 but perhaps most well known for his work “ship in a bottle” on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square was the first Artist to discuss his practice. He was greeted by an eager crowd in the full lecture hall in the newly built and very impressive Dyson building. On my way up the stairs to the lecture hall I saw the new printing room and facilities. I was struck with how strongly I felt that I need to at some point do a MA at the RCA. So strong a realisation of why I am studying and what for took over my existence. I love when I have those moments of clearest clarity!
I hadn’t been following Yinka’s work but it’s been near impossible not to have seen his work the last couple of years. His characteristic use of bold colours and fabrics are hard to miss! Shonibare’s work explores issues of colonialism and globalisation often touching on issues of class and race. He has a strong interest in power, in the institution and aristocracy. But what he really deals with is deal with is the construction of stereotypes
Yinka was born in London but he moved to Lagos, Nigeria when he was three years old. He then at the age of 16 moved back to London for his A-levels and afterwards studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art. Moving between cultures has had a big influence on his work and his work fuses the European with the African.
Being a minority Artist has made Yinka is not a term that he wants to be linked with in his work and practice. He does not want to be producing Art under the category “minority art” but rather he wants to produce a post relational aesthetic. Relational aesthetics projects tend to break with the traditional physical and social space of the art gallery and the sequestered artist studio or atelier. He constantly eludes easy categorisation and says that what he wants to do is “reoccupy the space of the imagination” to have the luxury of being irresponsible – even as a minority Artist! Yinka does not want his work to be moralistic even though it often comes across that way.
I saw Yinka in the foyer before he entered the lecture hall, I recognised him but I had not understand the severity of his handicap. honibare contracted transverse myelitis an inflammation across the spinal cord, at the age of eighteen, which resulted in a long term physical disability where one side of his body is paralysed. I then realised that he needs assistance to carry out his work but also how tough it must have been a tough journey to be fully taken seriously in the beginning. Having a team of assistance executing his visions really takes conceptualism to another level. So does questions about authorship to a certain degree.
Erudite and wide ranging Yinka’s work in mainly sculptural but he also works with film and photography. I personally enjoy his work but the themes and materials he uses can feel repetitive (for me at least).
During the Q&A there came quite an interesting question but an even better answer. A woman in the audience asked if Yinka could produce something else then African Art? Where upon Yinka asked in what way she considered all his work to be “African”. Where she replied saying that she meant his constant African works and materials giving the examples of frequently working with African fabrics. Yinka then very rightfully explained that the “African fabrics” were actually Dutch wax-printed cotton. Once again showing how his work is more than what catches your eye, it is often more an illusion a mirage as a response on stereotypes.
Work by Yinka Shonibare: http://www.stephenfriedman.com/artists/yinka-shonibare-mbe/artwork
Photo from google