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NEW WAVE: Love at a Distance by Claire-Anne Abi Ola

19 Oct 2020–3 Sep 2021

Claire-Anne Abi Ola is winner of the 2020 Bloomsbury Festival Art Competition. This exhibition presents new and existing works responding to the Festival theme, Vision.

Abi’s artworks play with pattern, visual shapes and illusions inspired by the British and West-African fabrics and textiles worn by her family. Her work uses techniques including screen printing, oil painting, acrylic and collage. She is influenced by African Dutch wax prints as well as traditional European painting techniques. Abi is at the Slade School of Art studying an MA in Fine Arts (Painting).

The award panel praised Abi's creative and technical ideas, and how she uses them to tell both a personal and a world history. Abi shows this through colour, patterns, visual shapes, and illusions, in a way which resonates with the diverse populations of today's Bloomsbury. 

"The patterns show where my family come from, and what type of people they are. It also links to the history of Dutch wax batik textiles, a signifier of Africa, and what some of the symbols represent in that culture."

Patterns in my bedroom © Claire-Anne Abi Ola

Abi paints pictures of family members - some that she knows, and some that she does not, because of time or distance. She does not paint their faces in order to bring more attention to the clothing and patterns. Her aim is for the viewer to focus continuously on the paintings and, by doing so, find new motifs within the designs.

I hope the audience will connect with the idea of knowing about their distant relatives, but never meeting them in real life, which is what my portraits are about. The artworks represent the influence of the two cultures in my life and how these form my identity. My work focuses on representations of my family even though the figures remain ambiguous with the faces of the figures missing – but the patterns of their clothing reveal where they are from and what they are like”.



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