"They are hybrid figures. They are part Victorian, part African, part Dutch. They are an expression of the identity of a contemporary post-colonial birth."
Our interview with Turner Prize nominee and MBE Yinka Shonibare
Could you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you study?
I was born in London but grew up in Nigeria. I came back to London when I was 17 and studied art.
Art X Lagos is West Africa's first international art fair. Could you talk about the art fair a bit and the work you have on show there?
I'm going to be showing a screen print, which is a self-portrait based on Warhol self-portraits. And then I will have a couple of other prints based on the myths surrounding twins in Nigeria.
Could you also tell us a bit about the guest projects? How did that start?
Yes, the guest projects. It's a project base for emerging artists. It's an experimental space that's part of my studio. An artist sends in proposals and the successful applicants get a month to use the space. They can either make work in the space or show their work. At the end of that, it's up to them. Some just want to put exhibitions, some want to use it for both. And next year it's going to be 10 years old. But as you know in London, it's very hard for the emerging artist to find spaces to show their work so I wanted to offer that.
Can you tell us a bit about how you spend your day and your studio routine? What's your studio like?
I work across many studios. A studio in my garden, which is where I do my drawings. I also have a larger studio with about five other people working it. And the studio where the projects base is. So that one is more of a social studio, where meetings take place. And then there are other affiliated studios where really big things get made as well. And there's a painting studio. But the big studio is mainly where the project space is. That's mainly the design studio, really.
With Brexit and Trump and the general feeling of things kind of going backwards, do you feel artists have a role to play? Can art help in any way, you think?
I mean not directly in politics or within culture– of course an artist can work to challenge the kind of nationalist development. Curious people, anyway. So I don't think that those nationalist views are very creative. They're kind of separatist and rigid in a way, and so I think that's where art can actually counter that. Through their own curiosity, really.
Could you tell us a bit about the figures you make. Where the fabric's from and why do they have globes on them?
Well those figures have a relationship to my own background. They are hybrid figures. They are part Victorian, part African, part Dutch. They are an expression, if you like, of the identity of a contemporary post-colonial birth.
What artwork can we see recently that has resonated with you at all?
I saw a show that I really liked which was the Giacometti show. I loved the way his work has evolved over time.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
Anything new and exciting. Yes. There is a public sculpture I'm going to be installing at Central Park in New York in March next year.
Photographer credit, image courtesy: Courtesy the artist, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, James Cohan Gallery, New York.Photographer: Stephen White
Publish Date: 23/11/17