Marking Collins Obijiaku's inaugural solo presentation with the gallery, the exhibition brings together a new group of portraits created over the last year. Unexpected Sittings explores the potential behind every interaction, and how in these dynamic and–at times complicated spaces–one can become inspired to an unfamiliar degree.
As stated by the artist, 'there is an unlimited wealth of ideas that are bound within the fabrics of chance conversations or interactions that unfold and progress naturally. And many of these ideas, or fresh perspectives, carry the potential to nudge us, as [either] individuals and groups, into the path of positive change.'
Heavily influenced by a deep, familial connection to the cultural heritage and immediate environment around him, Obijiaku's paintings are infused with a sense of everyday life and personal experience. His portraits frequently depict human vulnerability, while examining identity and intimacy. Unexpected Sittings features family and friends—both old and new—painted in the same style: quarter-length portraits with unbroken eye contact, a shallow depth of field with no identifying background, and modern, organic colours. Fusing style with content, Obijiaku captures each of his subject's distinct personalities in the subtlest of detail.
Obijiaku's practice is recognisable for its distinct render, topographical linework, and emotive qualities. Working directly on the surface of either paper or canvas, he slowly builds out the contours of the face with considerable skill. The effect is one not unlike silverpoint, a technique of drawing difficult to correct mastered by Albrecht Dürer. This embrace of both spontaneity and skill captures the intricacies of mark-making, as well as the intangible qualities of the depicted subject. The contrasting color and light, and rich textural quality of painted details, further highlight the artist's hand.
Collins Obijiaku's (b.1995 Kaduna, Nigeria; based in Abuja, Nigeria) elegant portraits of Black men and women gaze directly at the viewer. The artist uses various materials, often mixing oil, acrylic, and charcoal to achieve soft gradients, seductive texture, and beguiling linework; seen up close, the arrangements of his brushstrokes are almost cartographical in appearance. The artist's subjects are both people close to him and strangers he meets on the street, which allows Obijiaku to create intimate records of his home and surrounding community. Obijiaku has exhibited internationally, including New York, London, Lagos, and Accra. He was an artist-in-residence at Black Rock Senegal, a multidisciplinary residency program founded in 2019 by Kehinde Wiley in Dakar, Senegal.
Press release courtesy Roberts Projects.