Currently on display at Federation Gallery in the Keiller Centre is the work of Shona Inatimi, a recent graduate of Fine Art from DJCAD who grew up in the city too. Her exhibition, See You Glow, is a celebration of radiant women in the form of thirteen glorious oil paint portraits. We visited her in the space to find out more about the inspiration and journey to creating her first solo show.
“It was tough graduating in the pandemic, not having a degree show”. After leaving university in 2021 in the middle of continued uncertainty and pause on in-person events, this is Shona’s first opportunity to share a substantial body of her work with others in person.
With the support of social empowerment organisation Front Lounge, she moved from her post-graduation studio in her kitchen to a space at their workshop in the Hilltown, which allowed her to experiment with larger scale work for the first time. Though her practice has previously ranged from murals to textiles to photography, since January her focus has shifted to working on this collection: “It feels like portraiture is what I’m meant to be doing.”
Each of the women captured in her portraits are real, but unknown faces to Inatimi. Using found imagery as the reference has allowed her to create a whole new persona and back story for each of the individuals. She sees her practice as a place for escapism. As an introverted maladaptive daydreamer, her mind fills in the blanks.
Though she hints at how she perceives the personalities of the women in her titles and their descriptions, she’s reluctant to share her own exact mental picture of them. Instead, whilst chatting, she asks us if there are any that we’re drawn to. The viewer is allowed to reflect on each of the portraits individually, and from their own story of who the individual is and what they feel like. She’s taking this thinking one step further, with her portraits being used as writing prompts for a workshop with Front Lounge.
Though it’s the faces of the women that draw you in instantly, the collection is really brought together by pattern and colour. Taking inspiration from her Nigerian heritage and her grandmother’s patchwork, the backgrounds of each of the portraits are heavily inspired by the textile traditions of women too. Each portrait features a slightly different pattern, playing with scale or composition to reflect the feel of each of the women painted. And there’s something about the texture of the oil paints she’s used to create the work that makes it feel tactile, like real cloth.
See You Glow is a powerful collection of portraits that allows viewers to explore what they see in the faces of the women it features. Though the making of her work may be a cathartic process for Shona, she shares the same opportunity with viewers for escapism and daydreaming.
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