Artist Joy Labinjo’s vibrant portraits of family and friends offer a unique window into her personal experience of growing up as a Black, British and Nigerian woman in the UK during the 1990s and early 2000s. From stolen moments before a wedding to casual conversations around the kitchen table or lounging in the living room, each composition serves as a separate landmark in a constellation of people and places that extends across generations and geographies, from Essex to Lagos. Fashion, hair, textiles, plants, interiors and bold colours also play an important role, helping to capture the distinct flavour of Labinjo’s upbringing. The atmosphere is warm and candid, welcoming and intimate. Her bold and distinctive aesthetic is hugely seductive.
A recently discovered family photo album provided the primary basis for these works, pictures from which Labinjo collages together with other images soured from Instagram and Flickr, or her own street photography, to create new narratives. Rendered in household paint, acrylic and oil on large scale canvases and paper, each scene emerges out of a blend of different visual styles and techniques that neatly echoes the patched-together, somewhat improvised nature of childhood memories and Labinjo’s own sense of multiple identity.
Though she now lives and works in London, the artist studied Fine Art at the University of Newcastle and Our histories cling to us at BALTIC in Gateshead represents her first major institutional solo presentation, featuring new pieces created specifically for the exhibition. A recipient of the esteemed Woon Foundation Prize and with work held in collections around the world, Labinjo is, without doubt, an artist to watch.