Rising Star painter Joy Labinjo has shows on two continents. She told us how she gets it all done

British Nigerian painter Joy Labinjo has something to celebrate.

Last month, she inaugurated Tiwani Contemporary’s new space in Lagos to open her first ever solo show on the African continent, titled “Full Ground.” Looking forward to May 7, it marks a new direction for the artist, who presents a series of monumental nude self-portraits based on photos taken on her phone.

In the new works, Labinjo has replaced his vibrant saturated colors with more muted earth tones, and social exchanges have been replaced by solitary figures. (We can relate.)

When we spoke to the artist, she was also about to open another solo exhibition at the Chapter Gallery in Cardiff, Wales, with a different theme. The exhibition presents history paintings that confront the misconception that blacks only arrived in Britain with the Windrush generation in the late 1940s. Informed by art historian David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History, this work also draws inspiration from the life of 18th century author Olaudah Equiano.

We’ve talked to the artist from her studio in London about how she prepares for her exhibitions, the artists who excite her, and why she can not tolerate faint marks on paintings.

Joy Labinjo's study.  Courtesy the artist.

Joy Labinjo’s study. Courtesy the artist.

What are the most indispensable things in your study?

Michael Harding oil paint and liquin!

What is the study assignment on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

It’s honestly just painting. I’ve had the morning without interruptions, so [I hope] to lose myself and make some good progress on a few works.

What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence?

I always listen to something. I do not enjoy silence. But what I decide to listen to depends on my mood and the task I am doing, so it varies between different podcasts, music and radio.

Joy Labinjo's study.  Courtesy the artist.

Joy Labinjo’s study. Courtesy the artist.

Which feature do you admire most in a work of art? Which trait do you despise the most?

I admire the techniques in many works. Whatever media, works of art that make me think, “Wow, how did they do that?” Sometimes when I look at paintings, I do not really look at the subject, but rather find the materiality fascinating. The layering, the dripping of paint, texture, etc. I think maybe I’m attracted to works that are completely different from my own.

What I most despise is a little hard to explain. Contempt is perhaps too strong an expression. However, I really do not like paintings with very faint marks or thin paint. I think they may look as if the artist is running out of paint, and overall I do not find it aesthetically pleasing.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

I try not to eat too much in the studio. But when I work towards a deadline, I turn to super noodles with a taste for a quick lunch or dinner and big grapes as a snack. I also constantly drink coffee throughout the day.

Joy Labinjo's study.  Photo by Deniz Guzel.

Joy Labinjo’s study. Photo by Deniz Guzel.

Who are your favorite artists, curators or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

I actually only use Instagram, and currently only seem to be looking with a few days, so I’m not sure. However, I’m really excited about Rachel Jones’ exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get loose?

I read articles, flip through books that are loosely related, read a novel, or I just go home and relax. Ideas can come when I do really mundane tasks or just before I fall asleep.

What is the last exhibition you saw that impressed you?

I actually saw two exhibitions last. I went to Tate Britain and saw “Hogarth and Europe” and “Life Between Islands”. I really enjoyed both exhibitions for different reasons. Hogarth helped me put my research on Equiano into perspective, and “Between Islands” was really fun because I got a chance to see a lot of works I had heard about but never seen, which was really special.

If you were to put together a mood board, what would it say right now?

I’m finishing the work I’m preparing for my upcoming show, so I can not really think. The moodboard I made in preparation had pictures of Thomas Gainsborough, Hogarth and flower bouquets. I’m not usually a moodboard person. But with this work, I really needed to visualize the period I was interested in, and found the mood useful.

“Joy Labinjo: Full Ground” can be seen in Tiwani Contemporary, Lagos, through May 7th.

“Joy Labinjo: Ode to Olaudah Equiano” can be seen in Chapter Gallery, Cardiff, from March 26 to July 3.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Do you want to be at the forefront of the art world? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest news, eye-opening interviews and sharp critical take that propels the conversation forward.

Leave a Comment