Boldness exuberates from Texas-born Nigerian surrealist artist Chinaza Agbor’s artworks. That boldness is not only in the way she depicts figures – with vibrant colours and deep contrast – but also in the themes she portrays: the multi-identity experience, internal conflict, and Black womanhood.
Currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Painting at the Royal College of Art, Agbor shows an artistic refinement that makes it hard to believe this is her first solo show. For this monumental moment, her purpose, above all, as she puts it, is motivated by the cycle that runs from ‘the death of self-esteem’ to the ever-repeated process of learning to love oneself anew as a Black woman.
She depicts this in her signature surrealistic style where auratic heat around certain bodily features – particularly hair – produces unique portraits that capture some of the nuances of Black womanhood nowadays.
In The Lady, a pitch dark background makes her subject, a young Black woman, dramatically stand out with vigour of stoicness and power; the composition is simple, with details, from the bright jewelry to the midnight blue lipstick, catching the viewer’s eye.
In The Tender Side, Agbor depicts a sweet moment of embrace between two subjects embedded in darkness but with palpable love and joy emanating. The two look into each other’s eyes with a fond expression that’s hard not to smile at.
In Kindness and Hospitality from a Foreigner, Agbor is not only showcasing her signature medium of painting, but the artist will also be sculpting work to develop her ideas further. Reminiscing the colours and surrealist oeuvre of the illustrations, she takes these works a step further with an installation that reproduces a Texan sunset and a tea-set clad in Afro weave fusing the idea of homemaking with a sense of difference.
Throughout her work, Agbor merges some of the difficult experiences she had in her formative years in the American South with an aesthetic acuteness that exudes nostalgia. Kindness and Hospitality from a Foreigner may be her first solo exhibition, but it’s surely setting the parameter for many more to come.
Kindness and Hospitality from a Foreigner is showcasing at Cob Gallery, 205 Royal College St, London NW1 0SG, 25 November – 16 December 2023.
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