Pippy Houldsworth Gallery presents young Lagos-based artist Nengi Omuku’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Parables of Joy.
Using oil paint on sanyan – a traditional Nigerian fabric used for draped clothing – Omuku’s work interrogates ambiguity and liminality with a focus on interior psychological spaces and how they manifest within the physical world: multiple bodies depict a physical rendering of the multifaceted subconscious. Creating ethereal scenes of spectral figures in constant flux, their faces are deliberately blurred, becoming featureless silent observers whose gaze still seemingly penetrates out towards the viewer. Resisting singularity, they instead embrace the collective experience, echoing the chorus in Greek theatre. In exploration of the complexities surrounding her cultural heritage, race and personal identity, Omuku also draws on current and archival images taken from the Nigerian press and media.
Having trained as a florist and horticulturist under her mother, Omuku takes inspiration from the botanical. In reaction to the past two years of intermittent lockdowns during the global pandemic, these works seek a reconnection with the natural world. Sitting between the figurative and the abstract, Omuku presents spaces in which the distinction between bodies and nature is often blurred, reflecting on the intricacies around navigating place and belonging. This is also explored through her use of materials – Omuku stitches together strips of sanyan, often combining those with similar patterns before applying layers of oil paint to the reverse. The dichotomy between the intricately woven and carefully designed materials, combined with the fluidity of the oil paint, speaks to living between cultures while at the same time feeling deeply connected to her country of birth.
Nengi Omuku (b. 1987, Nigeria) lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria. She received her BA (2010) and MA (2012) from the Slade School of Art, University College London. In addition to her forthcoming solo exhibition, Parables of Joy, at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, Omuku is currently included in What Lies Beneath: Women, Politics, Textiles, at New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, and will participate in the Bangkok Art Biennale (2022-2023). Recent solo exhibitions include Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London and Berlin (2020-2021); Stages of Collapse, September Gray, Atlanta (2017); A State of Mind, Omenka Gallery, Lagos (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Self-Addressed, curated by Kehinde Wiley at Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, USA (2021); The Invincible Hands, Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Lagos, Nigeria (2021); Karim Kal and Nengi Omuku, La Galerie, Contemporary Art Center, Noisy-le-Sec (2021); and Dancing in Dark Times, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2021). Omuku is currently included in The Company She Keeps at Tiwani Contemporary, Lagos, and will also be part of Dissolving Realms, curated by Katy Hessel, at Kasmin Gallery, New York, later this year. Omuku is also represented by Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.
Courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London