Jadé Fadojutimi's Unstoppable Dance with Colour

Jadé Fadojutimi's Unstoppable Dance with Colour

S wirling masses of electrifying colour stand over 6ft tall. You would not expect these paintings to have been created by petite 28-year old, Jadé Fadojutimi. The style and power of the works seems years too advanced, whilst logistically the scale appears disproportionate. This is paired with an explosive career to date; BA from Slade, MA from RCA, the youngest artist in the collection of Tate, London, with paintings residing in The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

And yet when you first speak to Fadojutimi her success no longer seems surprising. She is warm and sincere, but a power house, bubbling with conversation. She gesticulates when she talks and wears her heart on her sleeve. Within a few minutes of meeting her you feel you’ve had a good glimpse of her personality. It is this ability to distill herself, to understand who she is and what is important to her, which comes through in the work. Every painting draws you into her world.

Whether it is a joyous memory, an object which has inspired her or a deep emotion, the feeling is transmuted into larger-than-life brushstrokes; “Whether that's through form, colour, or texture, or pattern. I always wonder what [my works] reflect about myself. They become environments… They become spaces for me to exist…” (Tate, 2020)

Jadé Fadojutimi in her studio
Jadé Fadojutimi in her studio, 2020. Photographed by Anamarija Ami Podrebarac.

Painting is her form of self discovery and self exploration. When Teddy Left is a work she states she will never sell due to its sentimental value. Painted whilst imagining the loss of her most beloved toy, the work has become a capsule for her emotions. Having had Teddy since birth, she speaks of it as an extension of herself, as well as a representation of her childhood. “I remember at the time I was like “Oh, Black. I feel very dark and deep! I was crying when I was painting this actually… it’s really exciting, when you finish a work and you look back and you’re just like “Wow, where did that come from?”

Jadé Fadojutimi, When Teddy Left, 2017. Courtesy the artist.

This process of total immersion in an idea is key to her practice. As well as explorations of thought and feeling, nostalgia and fantasy also regularly come into play. In her own words, she "treasure’s living in an escapist reality” (Studio International, 2021), a space she often reached through cartoons, anime and the video games she used to watch and play obsessively when she was younger. As a young adult this escapism took the form of trips to Japan, who’s culture fed her imagination and allowed her to access a fantasy world within reality. Nowadays she explains that her collection of soundtrack’s, ranging from Disney classics to video game’s such as role playing game The Journey, are all that is needed to transport her to another mental plane. “Whenever I'm in the studio, soundtracks become a diary of my childhood in some way. They helped me return to the moments where I first experience them and which are really special to me.” (Tate, 2020).

When asked to explain her process, she is very clear on the point that there isn’t a set approach. Each painting is formed instinctively and at a fast pace. She is constantly in motion when painting, often having to leap to reach the outer edges of her canvas. Whether she is using oil paint, with a small dose of liquin to allow it to flow, or thick oil pastels which bring her closer to drawing, she enters ‘a weird trance’ (Twin, 2021) often guided by the ‘strong will of the painting’s desire to exist’ (Jesture, 2020). This approach has been compared to Abstract Expressionism, which also valued painting using the unconscious mind.

“Imagination should expand our world, not hold us in place.”

This free-form way of working also influences her use of colour, arguably the most important element of her practice. Not unlike a synesthete, colour influences Fadojutimi’s vision of everyday things, the way she stores memories and the way she interprets emotions: “I think we can translate a lot of moods into colour, and see it literally, too. I’ve been thinking about a lot of what it means to talk about identity, or question it... We are all colours that are constantly fluctuating… I am constantly changing, and the colours I am experiencing are constantly changing" (Vogue, 2020). Her surroundings become notes for her paintings. Colours are often drawn from other objects of admiration, such as her passion for clothes which she collects en masse, or cut flowers whose arrangement’s can often form the starting point for the colour palette in a painting:

“I noticed that the colours of these flowers flowed very naturally into the colours in a painting I’ve been working on… I feel like that's a really wonderful thing to notice, that the choices that I’m making outside of the studio, they're not separate, they're all one. Everywhere I am is an opportunity to take inspiration or notice something that's always been there.” It is perhaps the final stage of her process which is the most beguiling. The naming of the piece. For while many of her artworks are explorations of her own identity, she is also conscious of giving them their own identity too.

“I think we can translate a lot of moods into colour, and see it literally, too... We are all colours that are constantly fluctuating…"

Pages of jotted down notes and poetry line her studio wall and unusual combinations of words often feed into the artwork name. Her note ‘Frolicking through lands of sustainable burden’ lead to the title There Exists a Glorious World its Name the Land of Sustainable Burdens whilst a line from her poem Imagination is the prelude to the catalogue text for her painting I’m pirouetting the night away: “Imagination should expand our world, not hold us in place.”

Perhaps her inclusion of this line is a nod to the intense mark-making of the piece, which leaves the impression of a force expanding out, or a vortex pulling inwards. The title, I’m pirouetting the night away is also a nod to her partiality for painting at night. Made in 2019, the piece is an oil on canvas, painted with swirling blues and orange tones which offset one another in dazzling vibrancy. The transparency of layers mimics a stained glass window or the deep blue of an ocean alight with flames. The piece was debuted at PEER, London in 2019 as part of the exhibition Jadé Fadojutimi: The Numbing Vibrancy of Characters in Play. This was the artist’s first solo exhibition at a public institution in the UK and therefore a momentous moment in her career.

I'm pirouetting the night away will be offered in the Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 29 June at Sotheby’s London.

Contemporary Art

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