Spotlight

Spotlight artist Joy Labinjo

Championed by public art specialist Kirsten Dunne
The Wick - The Swimmers by Joy Labinjo
Above  The Swimmers by Joy Labinjo
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The Wick - Artist Joy Labinjo in the studio
Above  Artist Joy Labinjo in the studio
Interview
Joy Labinjo
17 January 2024
Interview
Joy Labinjo
17 January 2024
Joy Labinjo has a visual language that is all her own. Playing with flatness, geometry, abstraction and collage, the London-based painter uses a vivid colour palette to capture intimate moments in everyday life in works that explore love, relationships and the Black British experience.
Fresh from the success of her show Beloved, Take What You Need at Tiwani Contemporary late last year, Labinjo is working towards a solo exhibition at Southwark Park Galleries in July, during the organisation’s 40th anniversary year. She will dig into local archives to celebrate acts of communing in historical and contemporary life.

But it was her public installation 5 More Minutes at Brixton underground station between 2021 and 2022 that particularly struck a chord with her champion for The Wick, Kirsten Dunne, who leads the Space for Culture team at the Mayor of London’s Culture & Creative Industries Unit.

Dunne says: “Public art is a powerful expression of engaging with the city and putting yourself out there – a very different experience to exhibiting in a gallery. Joy’s work 5 More Minutes was rich and personal, harking back to her frequent journeys to Brixton’s hair salons and reminding us of the joy and importance of shared community spaces and intimacy.”

For 12 months, Labinjo stopped commuters in their tracks with an imaginary scene that brought together fragments of the salons – centres of community in both the artist’s personal experience and in wider Black British female culture – that she has visited throughout her life. Commissioned by Art on the Underground, the vibrant composition explored notions of memory and belonging.

Dunne, who specialises in increasing the reach of arts and culture in London, adds: “Joy foregrounds and visualises Black culture and history in her work, which is so integral to the London experience and yet still virtually unrepresented in public space.”

Labinjo draws inspiration from everyday life. She says: “It can come from current news, a shop window, a picture on Instagram, conversations with friends, where I’m at emotionally, an exhibition I’ve seen or a book I’ve read – whatever incites my curiosity and makes me want to learn more. Then I take what I need and run with it. The outcome is quite a varied body of work… but I think that’s ok.”

Success came fast for the artist, whose busy exhibition schedule kicked off while she was still studying for her MFA at The Ruskin School of Art between 2020 and 2022. Labinjo adds: “Everything happened at once during my second year. I had to write my thesis and open two solo shows, which was definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I wasn’t sure I could do it all but I did and felt very proud of myself when I graduated.”

Since then, the momentum has only increased. The Southwark Park Galleries exhibition will be her first institutional solo show in London – a milestone for Labinjo and one not to miss.

About the champion

The Wick - Spotlight artist Joy Labinjo

Kirsten Dunne joined the Mayor of London’s Culture & Creative Industries Unit in 2012, where she now heads up the Space for Culture Team. She and her team work to ensure that culture, creativity and community are hardwired into the fabric of our city, by protecting, creating, improving and promoting the many types of space that make up London’s rich ecosystem. This includes the delivery of flagship projects, Creative Enterprise Zones, Creative Land Trust, Culture & Community Spaces at Risk, the Fourth Plinth and Diversity in Public Realm.

“Joy’s work 5 More Minutes was rich and personal, harking back to her frequent journeys to Brixton’s hair salons and reminding us of the joy and importance of shared community spaces and intimacy.”

Kirsten Dunne

Place of Birth

Dagenham, Essex

Education

MFA at The Ruskin School of Art, 2020-2022
BFA at Newcastle University, 2013-2017

Awards, Accolades

Winner of the 2017 Woon Prize and the 2022 Mansfield-Ruddock Art Prize at the Ruskin

Spiritual guides, mentors

I’m a spiritual person but I take from everywhere: I read a lot, journal, pray and have a great therapist.

Advice

Believe in your practice and block out external noise. Do not compare your career with other people’s – . comparison is the thief of joy. I truly believe that there’s enough for everyone, so cheer people on and share resources.

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