Rele Gallery Thursday, September 9, 2021 threw open the doors to this year’s edition of the Armory Show for the solo presentation of new work by contemporary Nigerian artist Chidinma Nnoli.
According to the gallery, the presented works “Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Wanderlust)” is a continuation of the artist’s earlier series “A Poetry of Discarded Feelings” which explores the idea of purity culture and the role it plays in restraining and policing sexual autonomy of women in contemporary society.
“This body of work focuses on the freedom of finding oneself and gaining autonomy over one’s body. The characters in Nnoli’s paintings are shown, slowly but steadily taking on a more relaxed and confident demeanor. Her use of the odalisque figures reference historical depictions of the female form especially in European Orientalist art from the 19th century. “Nnoli’s engagement with these figures, done almost exclusively by male artists of the period, highlights the centuries-long objectification of women’s bodies for a predominantly male audience while also reclaiming the gaze and agency by challenging and inverting the passive roles associated with these images. The figures here exist independently, offering access only on their terms. Her depictions of lush landscapes and vistas also convey a sense of wandering and an exploration of sexuality as opposed to the hiding and stifling that society has conditioned women to do through cultural and religious means”.
Chidinma Nnoli is a visual artist whose practice draws from personal, real-life experiences in challenging stereotypes, psychology and the cultural conditioning of women while exploring elements of identity, sexuality and mental health.
Working predominantly in oil, Nnoli, who currently lives and works in Lagos, confronts socially entrenched structures of patriarchal power and misogyny as enforced by the state, familial relationships and religious organisations. Fascinated with the notion of safe and enabling spaces, her work pushes back against reductive notions of femininity, gender roles and mental health in contemporary society.
Nnoli earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Benin and has participated in various exhibitions all over Nigeria. In 2019 she participated in the inaugural edition of Rele Arts Foundation’s Young Contemporaries Bootcamp and the following year was selected as part of Rele Arts Foundation Young Contemporaries. Her debut solo exhibition “To Wander Untamed” opened at Rele Gallery, Lagos in March, 2021.