Abe Odedina was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1960 and currently lives in London and Salvador Bahia. Odedina, who is a trained architect, began painting during a trip to Brazil in 2007 where he fell in love with the popular arts of Bahia and Pernambuco. A full-time painter, Odedina describes himself as a popular artist. The ideas that inspire his work are rooted in the rich figurative and oral traditions of African art, imbued with a touch of magical realism. His work is exuberantly non-elitist, celebrating the power of the everyday and the mythical.
Odedina paints with acrylic on plywood, creating flat surfaces with stylized and vibrant subjects that delight in the use of color and symbols to create a figurative pictorial representation and imaginative. The bold and hybrid visual language of Odedina evokes the energy of the streets and surfaces of cities such as Lagos, Salvador de Bahia and Port-au-Prince: temples walls, beer parlors and motels of love – commercials for barbers, vulcanizers and healers.
The legibility of Odedina’s vernacular stylistic language, warmly praised as “Baroque Brixton”, is paramount. His allegorical works simultaneously inhabit different dimensions and gestures, engaging the audience in a conversation filled with personal and universal references. “Odedina references objects and symbols of our collective imagination and activates them with timeless and treatable characters – magicians, goddesses, lovers – to create accessible acts of communication”. His work is operatic while triumphing over the power of the everyday, the vocabulary of the street, where religious iconography meets publicity and where everyone walks has an inner superhero poignant power.
He is influenced by a wide range of creators – Voodoo practitioners from Haiti, painters of the Sacred Heart, an anonymous African craftsman – defending those who choose to be decision makers. Her practice seeks to revive and deconstruct classic quintessential themes ranging from ancient Greek mythologies to Yoruba mythologies to create a charged dialogue between eras, cultures and peoples. The stories that cross the surface of his paintings transcend physical boundaries. They activate a unique and contemporary conversation with the viewer who oscillates between life and art, and in the popular tradition, life takes precedence over art.