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Scrolls of Elegance

Exploring Female Autonomy and Personal Space in Janet Adebayo's New Works

In our ongoing exhibition, "In the Spaces, We Exist," Janet Adebayo presents a powerful narrative on the reclamation of female autonomy and the liberation from societal expectations. Her work serves as a visual statement, challenging the reductive stereotypes that have long constrained women's expressions and achievements. 

Forme Femine's exhibition at AMG Projects showcases Adebayo's personal journey, portrayed through her signature artistic styles and mediums.

Image of Janet Adebayo. Courtesy of the artist.

Janet Adenike Adebayo, a self-taught Nigerian artist, embarked on her painting career in 2017. Born and based in Lagos, she identifies as a "confessional" artist, creating works that are extensions of her intimate moments and personal truths. Adebayo's use of acrylic and mixed media on canvas, combined with her recent explorations with traditional handcrafted scrolls, form a unique visual language that is both cathartic and revelatory. Her distinctive "mosaic skin" tones combine a collage of colours to produce humanoid figures with emphasised characteristics that offer a moving reflection on identity and self-discovery.

Janet Adebayo, Rehearsing Elegance, 2024, Acrylic on Traditional Scroll, 26 × 23 in

Themes like 'Elegance Unbound' and 'Unbridled Elegance,' in which Adebayo creates a space for women to express themselves freely and without apologies, steer her current body of work. Adebayo challenges and subverts cultural norms and gender stereotypes with her art, she recounts personal experiences where her autonomy and achievements were questioned and undermined due to ingrained gender biases. Her paintings, which honour female empowerment and the defiance of social rules, eloquently bring these stories to life.

The artist converts physical environments into symbols of psychological and emotional liberation. Depicting her living space—a semi-luxurious lifestyle that she has meticulously curated to reflect newfound confidence and elegance—Adebayo defies the expectation that women must downplay their possessions and successes to be accepted. Beyond documenting her personal metamorphosis, her works also serve as a nudge to other women to embrace their individuality and share their untold struggles and triumphs. 

In her own words, Adebayo says, "I'm transforming my life by embracing elegance and empowerment. I've created a semi-luxurious lifestyle that reflects my newfound confidence, free from societal expectations." This sentiment is vividly reflected in her art, where she challenges the conventional narrative and advocates for the autonomy and capability of women.

Adebayo employs a combination of acrylic and mixed media on canvas to express her themes.  The skin tone of her subjects  are created with a distinctive technique that blends a collage of colours to create iconic and expressive figures.  Working with traditional handcrafted scrolls, Adebayo connects her contemporary narratives with historical methods of storytelling, conveying a feeling of timelessness and continuity in the struggle for female empowerment.

Her scrolls present images of achievements and personal fulfilment, encouraging the observer to think about how spaces—both physical and metaphorical—can become acts of defiance against reductive labels. Adebayo's work raises critical questions about autonomy and community, prompting viewers to reflect on their roles within these constructs.

Adebayo has participated in several notable exhibitions, including Transtemporal Travel by Nomadic Gallery (2023), Identity by 1952 Africa (2022), Spectrum by Dica Art Gallery (2022), and Contemplation by Yenwa Gallery (2022). Her evolving body of work continues to engage with themes of self-discovery, consciousness, and the reclamation of space. 

In this show, Adebayo's potent illustrations urge viewers to consider their own places and roles, fostering a more deeper  understanding of autonomy and community. 

Her introspective and visually striking approach not only reclaims space for herself, but also celebrates women's fortitude - a call to embrace unbridled elegance, and an invitation to inhabit spaces with confidence and autonomy.

Janet Adebayo is on view at AMG Projects, Lagos until June 29th, 2024. Discover more here


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