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Toyin Ojih Odutola

Artist Statement Submitted 2016

Where some may see flat, static narratives, I see a spectrum of tonal gradations and realities. What I am creating is literally black portraiture with a variety of media--be it ballpoint pen ink, charcoal, pastel, pencil or marker--looking for that in-between state in an individual where the overarching definition is lost. Skin as geography is the terrain I expand by emphasizing the specificity of blackness, where an individual’s subjectivity, various realities and experiences can be drawn onto the diverse topography of the epidermis. From there, the possibilities of portraying a fully-fledged person are endless. Overall, I create drawings which emphasize how an image is a striated terrain to tactically mine, traversing such themes as the unreliability of memory, how skin can render place and time as opposed to a person, and how identity is often varying, suspect and ever-changing. For me, the portrait is the occasion not the representation, an event or space where my marks happen.

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