Samuel Olayombo: Challenging Norms and Redefining Identity through Art in Dubai Debut

Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery is set to lead the Dubai art scene with the inaugural solo exhibition of Ghanaian artist Samuel Olayombo. From October 6 to November 11, 2023, the Zidoun-Bossuyt Dubai gallery will play host to Olayombo’s striking display of artistic prowess.

Olayombo’s artistic repertoire spans across various mediums, including oils, acrylics, charcoal, and pastels. What distinguishes his work is the commanding presence of large-scale, predominantly male, and non-gender normative portraits. With a deft touch of the palette knife, Olayombo masterfully etches intricate, three-dimensional skin textures, paying homage to revered artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Arja Valimaki, El Dragg Okwoju, Joshua Mensirionye, Barkley Hendricks, and Vittu Samuel.

At the core of Olayombo’s creations lies a profound exploration of compelling narratives. He delves into the concept of ‘scarring,’ a cultural phenomenon deeply rooted in certain Yoruba traditions. Furthermore, he meticulously examines subjects like toxic masculinity, macho male culture, and the intricate constructs of sexuality, gender roles, and gender equality. Olayombo’s art serves as a mirror reflecting the complexities of the human experience.

Growing up amidst five sisters within a patriarchal society profoundly influenced Olayombo’s perspective. His unique choice of color tones, particularly the bold use of traditionally ‘female’ shades such as rose and pastel pinks, challenges stereotypes. Olayombo is on a mission to debunk the misconception that pink is inherently feminine. He remarks, “I saw a lot of unfairness. For me, regardless of gender, we are all equal, and this is the major reason why I employ the color pink in my paintings.”

In Olayombo’s art, traditional boundaries of masculinity, macho culture, and societal gender norms are blurred. The pink clothing and background in his compositions serve as symbols of softness, kindness, nurturance, and compassion—qualities often associated with femininity. The juxtaposition of these elements against the backdrop of dark, palette-painted skin pays homage to the body scarification culture of the Ife, a Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. Through this distinct color scheme, Olayombo offers a fresh perspective on the portrayal of men in art, challenging established notions of masculinity.

Samuel Olayombo, born in 1991, hails from Nigeria and pursued his studies in fine and applied arts at the University of Benin. His remarkable body of work has found its way into esteemed collections worldwide, including The Dean Collection in Los Angeles, the Olym Collection in Brussels, the Sir David Adjaye Collection in New York, the Se Tinat Collection in Madrid, and The Bentata Collection in Miami, among others. In 2021, he earned the title of Visiting Fellow at the Noldor Artist Residency—an acknowledgment of his exceptional talent. A defining moment in Olayombo’s career was marked by his first institutional solo exhibition, curated by Fabiola Ondzounga, at the Institute Museum of Ghana in March 2023.

As Dubai prepares to embrace this trailblazing artist and his compelling solo exhibition, audiences are invited to explore the boundaries of identity and masculinity through Olayombo’s extraordinary artistry. In a world where art has the power to challenge, inspire, and transform, Samuel Olayombo’s debut in Dubai is poised to make an indelible mark on the city’s burgeoning art landscape.

For more information on Samuel Olayombo’s solo exhibition in Dubai, please visit the Zidoun-Bossuyt Dubai website.

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