Family portraiture has remained an emphatic compositional vernacular throughout art history.
Similarly, the family photo album is an object of popular cultural inquiry and ephemeral lodging that today’s contemporary artists continue to explore. In this vein, Joy Labinjo’s paintings capture the relational aesthetics of kinship. Equipped with tones of candidness and formal documentation, her figures are sourced from family photographs and a collaging of stock photos. They portray a studied image of Black British subjectivity, that depicts the daily (and even mundane) gestures and moments between loved ones — from gatherings in the living room and wedding portraits, to children sitting on the sidewalk. However, these works also express an intimate and sentient resonance, an inwardness. Through portraiture, Labinjo transforms the everyday domestic frame into a more complex, transpersonal inspection of the familial.
In the vein, Joy Labinjo’s paintings capture the relational aesthetics of kinship.
In a recent work on paper, Untitled (2018), Labinjo constructs a work with four figures in a nondescript domestic setting. At the center of the frame are a man and a woman, locked in an embrace. The woman has her eyes closed in the tender receipt of a kiss. The figure to the far left has a steely look, directed outside of the frame, while the smiling gaze of the fourth figure is the only one that directly meets the viewer. This work captures the plain sincerity of an outtake photograph between family and friends. We are taken by the effect of their familiarity and collective presence, grasping the tensions and love that are present when people convene in fellowship.
The uncoloured feel of real life moments.
From the cinema to the canvas, utilising hyper-saturation as a technique to render Blackness is a part of the historical fabric of Black image production by Black artists. Labinjo falls in line with employing these mechanics, as her figures and their surroundings are pictured in lush, highly saturated tones and patterns. This is evident in her color palettes and in the way she builds up the facial structures, styling, and expressions of her subjects. The works embody the texture and movement of images taken by one’s family photographer; filled with the spontaneous actions that occur in the setting of and in a relationship with the familiar. There is comfort and ease within the paintings. They are works of an imperfect interior frame, where the figures are not modelling a grand, self-possessed cool or posture, but rather displaying the uncoloured feel of real life moments.
An article by Ladi’Sasha Jones
This article was written for The Art Momentum | ART X Lagos Artpaper. [French version inside]
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