kó Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria 15 Dec 2022 - 06 Feb 2023
BUNMI AGUSTO, A COWRIE APPEARED IN THE SKY, 2022
Pastel pencil, ink & acrylic on pastel paper
100.4 x 89.4 cm
kó presents Outside, an exhibition of pastel paper works by Bunmi Agusto. Outside is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Nigeria. In Outside, Bunmi Agusto draws us further into Within, the name she gives the imagined world that has remained at the heart of her practice. Focusing on the interactions of three hybrid siblings, Aruaro, Agama, and Irunoji, the paintings explore themes of ancestral memory, belonging, and love.
Agusto’s practice follows the inhabitants of a surrealist wonderland in her mind called Within. She uses this world as an exploratory site for how psychological and cultural theories contribute to the construction of selfhood. The indigenous inhabitants of Within are hybrids whose mutations are based on objects the artist finds integral to her sense of self and culture. Human family members, friends and passersby are also present in Within as cross-reality migrants. She works predominantly with pastel pencils and mixed media on paper.
Agusto renders Aruaro, Agama, and Irunoji as active participants in Within’s evolving landscape. The viewer sees their individual perspectives and motivations radiate at the centre of Agusto’s intricate and dynamic world-building. One sibling, Irunoji, is shown to possess a creative capacity that allows them to manipulate the natural and supernatural elements of their environment. In Irunoji Pulls Blessings Down with the Night, Irunoji brings the night into view with their hands. In Two Lizards The Day They Met and We Started Something, a romance unfolds between Agama, another sibling and half-human half-lizard hybrid, and an unnamed character. Their intimacy is emphasized through the angles of their bodies and a repeated motif of encircling agama lizards. In works like They Were Dancing With An Ancestor, we see the third sibling, Aruaro, play a more observant and meditative role. Using ancestral eyes, they are able to perceive spiritual agents and phenomena.
As highly conceptual as they are deeply personal, these works document the characters, customs, and experiences that make Within as much a testament to Agusto’s verdant imagination. The series is an an inventive mosaic, whose formal and thematic qualities extend the narrative possibilities of contemporary art.