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Issue 232

Jadé Fadojutimi’s Ode to the Resilience of Nature

At Hepworth Wakefield, the artist’s light-sensitive paintings are an ongoing work in progress

BY Lauren Dei in Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 20 OCT 22

Jadé Fadojutimi’s collection of eight acrylic, oil and pastel paintings on canvas overspill with hope, joy, light and mischief. These enormous works sit within the quiet grace of the Hepworth Wakefield’s galleries for the artist’s first major UK institutional presentation. Natural light pours in through the windows that, in turn, afford vistas of the surrounding landscape, in which nestle the 14th-century Chantry Chapel and nearby River Calder. This balance of elements was the inspiration behind Fadojutimi’s ode to nature’s resilience and evolution, ‘Can We See the Colour Green Because We Have a Name for It?’

Another of Fadojutimi’s painterly series contemplating nature, ‘The Prolific Beauty of our Panicked Landscape’ (all works 2022), was selected by curator Cecilia Alemani for inclusion in ‘The Milk of Dreams’, the central exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennale. All the works in the Hepworth show were produced in summer 2022. How to Protect a Smile – a vast, five-metre abstract canvas of blues, greens and purples – includes light-sensitive paints that change colour over time, rendering the piece a work eternally in progress, an ongoing state of becoming.

Jadé Fadojutimi, Autumn, summer, spring and winter... don’t forget to colour in between the lines darling, 2022, 1.9 × 1.7 cm, acrylic, oil and oil pastels on canvas. Courtesy: the artist; Photograph: Michael Brzezinski

‘Can We See the Colour Green Because We Have a Name for It?’ communicates a vivid spectrum of emotions, exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns evolved our collective conversation with and need for connection with nature. Woven Futures exemplifies the interplay in Fadojutimi’s practice between abstraction and figuration: hints of flowers, stems and organic forms peek out from behind a haze; angular spirals emerge as jumbled thoughts. Autumn, Summer, Spring, Winter, Don’t Forget to Colour in between the Lines Darling is snaked through by a network of reeds and vines, rogue drips and spills intoning a childlike playfulness.

The multiple layers in these canvases belie the physicality and flow of Fadojutimi’s practice. Accompanied by a massive sound system, she renders the works in responsive bursts to the music. These are some of the largest paintings Fadojutimi has produced, the biggest being The Empress of the Plants, an eight-metre-long immersive environment designed to envelop the viewer in its expanse.

Jadé Fadojutimi, A Permeable Existence, 2022, 1.9 × 1.7 m, acrylic, oil and oil pastels on canvas. Courtesy: the artist; Photograph: Michael Brzezinski 

The last two paintings the artist completed for this exhibition act as polarities: the heightened upheaval of 40oC and the regeneratively serene Once Upon a Hill are summations of the thoughts and themes in the works around them, tracing routes through cycles of chaos and calm. There is a buoyancy to Fadojutimi’s brushwork, her markings communicating her connection to memory with figurative punctuations. It is Permeable Existence that calls to me most. Its textural layers, inky floral swells and moody indigo shades are reminiscent of a stained-glass window, promoting a harmonious coexistence between the states of levity and deeper reflection.

Fadojutimi’s gestures are unabashed and sincere. She dispels any fears that might come with emotional exploration in a self-possessed and confident painterly language. In An Empathic Revolution, a cluster of contrasting tones and contours orbit an irrepressible allusion to a heart: blood red with endings that could also mark the beginning of something indestructible. She is processing turbulence. The variety and expressive freedom of this work brings the unnameable closer, each brushstroke a release of the need to be sure.

Jadé Fadojutimi's ‘Can We See the Colour Green Because We Have a Name for It?’ is at the Hepworth Wakefield until 19 March 2023.

Main image: Jadé Fadojutimi, How to Protect a Smile, 2022, 3 × 5 m, acrylic, oil and oil pastels on canvas. Courtesy: the artist; Photograph: Michael Brzezinski 

Lauren Dei is a writer based in London, UK.