In Turin, from January 13 to February 12, 2022, Luce Gallery presents the solo show “Behold, Sun’s People” of Barry Yusufu.
The exhibition brings together new oil works by the emerging Nigerian artist, who paints his own people with the desire to elevate their image conditioned by stereotypes. The portraits depict real women and men who belong to his daily life, expressing intimate dimensions. The intense faces of black subjects appear against colored backgrounds, sometimes with delicate floral elements.
Barry Yusufu, an artist living and working in Abuja, Nigeria, paints portraitures of people around him. He sees his brush as a tool to bring consciousness to the power of self and the collective greatness of Africans. With these tools, he aims to open a path for his people to rediscover the true essence of their being and the importance of defining beauty for themselves. The paintings of Barry Yusufu center around unearthing stories and identities lost to jaundiced history. His works seek to renarrate and memoir the African experience by personifying the apotheosis of his subjects. Barry sees his approach as a design to reconcile years of stylistic arm-wrestling on the documentation of African history. “Behold, Sun´s People” brings a new reflection of his subjects which he approaches from a perspective nourished in royalty and god-likeness. He unmasks this narrative from the depths of misrepresentation and misinterpretation by skillfully painting his subjects with skins of bronze, an ode to African nobility. In the demeanor of an efficient painter with a melodious sense of duty, the artist deftly creates solid layers of oil on canvas seeking to immortalize and chronicle the existence of his people.
Inspired by the reminiscence of the beauty and nobility of the African people, the Nigerian artist reimagines and creates representations of his people, exalting their heritage with brush strokes. In the exhibition, Barry Yusufu heralds a new consciousness on the visualization of Africans, strengthening the relevance of rediscovering their true essence. To retell this story, there is a dire need for reflection, to reclaim parts of our collective consciousness that chroniclers failed to document. Barry uses his art as a medium to eliminate the opacity of the lens through which Africans are seen. This body of work is a bold proclamation of that. These paintings spotlight the glory of the African people and our buried histories, histories that need to be retold. Barry Yusufu finds the mutuality between him and his subjects, using his brush and technique to paint them honestly, consciously avoiding perfection and stereotypical acceptance. He reveals the glory that societal constructs have beaten out of their minds by using these bronzed portraits as archetypes, composite of many different histories merged to parse the evolution of African royalty and power as form.
“Six-Stars”, which word-plays with sisters, is a series of six works that illustrates the lives of African women. It presents the subjects as standing before a burning furnace, the furnace being a metaphor for their struggle and a symbol of their revival, just like the phoenix. “Date Night” shows a lady who prioritizes her safety even when unwinding. This piece shows one of the many struggles of women. “An Old Line Tale” is a depiction of a traditional African matrimony, exceptionally respected and deeply rooted in community. Here, the artist portrays the man as a protector of his household and the woman as his partner. Finally, these works also draw influence from the historical depictions of African royalties and deities such as the Benin and Ife bronze sculptures. History documents bronze as a significant element in Africa’s creative culture. These are the ones born of the sun, those whose skin shines like bronze, the children of the sun; Sun’s People. Behold them!!!
Text by Avan-Nomayo Ikponmwosa
The exhibition walkthrough video will be online at www.lucegallery.com/video.php.