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Yinka Shonibare exhibitions

Today's post comes from Abi...

Remember the giant ship in a bottle that sat on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square a while back (and now on permanent display at Greenwich Maritime Museum? That was by Yinka Shonibare, one of my favourite artists, and now he's got not one but two exhibitions on this month.

His work makes heavy use of the most fabulous textiles and he cleverly riffs on race and class drawing on themes of identity, multiculturalism, globalism and revolution. Phew. But thankfully his work demonstrates a lightness of touch and easy ability to engage thanks to his playful approach.

At Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) a huge exhibition of his work has just opened. Called FABRIC-ATION it features over 30 new and established works covering sculpture, film, painting and photography; outdoors in the park are the giant Wind Sculptures painted with Shonibare’s signature batik-inspired surface pattern; there are some freaky animal-human hybrids: Revolution Kids,waving gold Gaddafi guns about and toting Blackberrys and, like his earlier works, there are a few aliens flying space ships; all clad in the same gorgeous, bright batik prints.

Shonibare says his use of the textiles are “...signifiers of ‘African-ness’ insofar as when people first view the fabric they think of Africa”. This is all the more ironic when noted that this type of fabric was first mass-produced in Holland, based on Indonesian batik, and sold into West Africa in the 19th century; yet again Shonibare questions notions of 'authenticity'.

There's also a show opening in London on the 16th March: POP! At the Stephen Friedman Gallery. Featuring new work that explores the corruption, excess and debauchery of the banking industry this promises to be a show that hits hard – the central display is a giant tableau based on Da Vinci's The Last Supper... I can't wait.

There's really so much going on in his work it's difficult to keep up; but persevere – he's saying a lot about the way we live today and the clues are there in his fun, disquieting and provocative work.

In the meantime I might invest in a small Shonibare artwork of my own. These cushions,  the top one featuring one of his batik aliens, is on sale at YSP for a snip at £23.

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