Yinka Shonibare (MBE) – Artist Research

Self-portrait (after Warhol) 1 (2013)

Self-portrait (after Warhol) 1 (2013)

Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962 to Nigerian parents. He has dual nationality being a British Nigerian and describes himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid. He moved to Lagos, Nigeria when he was 3 years old and returned to the UK at 17 to study A-Levels. He studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art (now Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design) followed by a Master of Fine Arts degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Shonibare is a contemporary, multi-disciplinary artist – he uses a range of media which includes painting, sculpture, photography, installation art, film and performance. He is best known for his sculptures of headless figures dressed in 18th century costumes. His work is influenced by the similarities and differences between both Nigeria and Britain encompassing wide-ranging themes including political and economic histories, religion, literature, colonialism, globalisation, race, class as well as specific events such as the London riots, Falklands War and the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. A recurring theme in his art work is the use of brightly coloured “African” fabrics wax batik-printed cotton). He found this material in a market in London but discovered that it wasn’t authentically African but inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced in Holland and imported to Africa. This idea, that a fabric signifying African identity was not really African, excited Shonibare and he has used this fabric as a medium to convey his message of double-meaning in many of his pieces.

Being disabled, Shonibare works collaboratively with a studio of people to help him realise his vision. He stages most of his photographs – some images are like an over-the-top costume drama recreating famous paintings or stories from literature such as Oscar Wilde’s novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’, others are entirely original compositions that evoke the weight of European history through the use classical aesthetics such as Romanticism, Rococo, Post-Renaissance and Classicism. Many of his photographs are self-portraits and his duel nationality, or the feeling of not sitting within either culture, is central to every aspect of his work. The photographic developments that have happened during his career are Young British Arts (YBA – also known as Britart), Neo-Pop Art, Neo-Expressionism and Installation art.

Shonibare’s work has been exhibited internationally in both single and group exhibitions. His work can be found in both public and private collections. Shonibare was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004 and was given an Empire Medal (MBE) – an award of merit for services to the arts.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monster (Europe) (2008)

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monster (Europe) (2008)

The Death of Chatterton Henry Wallis (2011)

The Death of Chatterton Henry Wallis (2011)

Diary of a Victorian Dandy 1900 hours (detail) (1998)

Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 19:00 hours (detail) (1998)


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