Historical Fictions presents portrait paintings by the emerging artists David Olatoye and Victor Ubah. Both artists are heavily influenced by their adolescence, Olatoye by his familia environment and Ubah the pop-cultural animation and social hierarchy cartoons introduced him to. Additionally, these painters portray intimate, captivating portraits vibrant in colour with textures as palpable as Wayne Thie baud’s eponymous confections.
Close proximity to his mother growing up gave Olatoye a sense of connection and pride in his family. He watched his mother make immeasurable sacrifices to overcome the confines of life as a single mother. He looks up to her, how she bends her ego to God’s will and the life she models through her faith. He inherited her sense of devotion and modesty and this is where Olatoye’s heritage became the focal point of his visual practice.
At 14, his mother remarried and Olatoye gained two step-sisters. The care he has for and hope he wishes for his sisters is his point of departure. He grew up dreaming for a better life, a better home for his family and these desires manifest as an imagined sphere of calm, beautiful domestic spaces in which his sisters exist. These works have an acute attention to form and patina which correlate to the love he has for his sisters. Kindred to Ubah’s highly textural and vibrant portraits, Olatoye utilizes acrylics to stage lush and muted decorative interiors and delicately renders their flesh in ballpoint pen. He seems to summon the young ladies through their long, natural, virgin hair mimicking the abundance of respect for women’s long hair that exists in his culture.
His domestic scapes create a bond between subject and environment emulating a filial piety and forging an emotional attachment between his subjects, himself, and the home life he dreams of. These works offer a historical fiction, as they blend the adolescence he desired with the familia values and bond he shares with his mother and two sisters. He fashions a heritage of the past that he also wishes to attain and these comforting visions are an extension of the legacy he hopes to create.
Victor Ubah grew up watching anime and cartoons, emulating their figures and imagery in his own drawings and paintings. Realizing the power of nonverbal expression, he developed his own visual language in adolescence.
His practice reflects on social infrastructures, each piece generating an intimate study of each individual. Similar to Olatoye, Ubah delineates the tonality of skin and form of his subjects from the vibrant colours and textures of their surroundings and garments, only he utilizes the geometric structure of Cubism. He captures the personality of each person in his relaxed, intimate portraits with unique posing that displays their individual demeanours. The flat backgrounds – with minimal if any reference to setting – enhance his figures’ style with bold textile patterns and rich colour palettes.
Expanding upon his visual vocabulary, Ubah is crafting his poetic expression. Anchored by his fervent evocations of individuals and how they use style to project their self worth, WE ARE WHO WE ARE conveys the symbiotic correlation of individual to community.