Brixton-based painter Adjani Okpu-Egbe will be opening Underdogs, a solo exhibition at Bloomsbury’s renowned centre for international art, Mokspace gallery on 9 October. Arts co editor Ruth Waters went to his studio to preview the work he’ll be showing.
Adjani’s paintings, produced at an astounding pace, each carry the imprint of his journey, from a day dreaming boy in Cameroon to a soldier to living in Brixton’s D Convenience Store and, finally, to becoming a celebrated South London artist.
“It’s like my autobiography” Adjani tells me, talking about the largest painting featured in his upcoming exhibition. “This is where I’m up to now” he says pointing to a photograph of him, incorporated into the work, within layers of paint sitting within a kite, “I’m free….but there have been so many obstacles in the way.”
In all of the paintings featured in Underdogs, there’s a sense of raw balance. The good and the bad, his heroes and enemies, emblems of trauma and hope are layered and scraped bare across the canvas for the viewer to work out. And that working out is often quite hard.
Artists, critics and collectors love his paintings, which pull the viewer in and demand to be worked out like a murder mystery to be solved by dream logic: “I like to think of my paintings as being the beginning, of needing some research and starting a journey for someone else…”
If you’re around Bloomsbury in the next month, pop into Mokspace to start puzzling Adjani’s paintings out for yourself. If you can’t make it along, visit the Brixton Blog to see more of his work or check out his work on Instagram @adjani_okpu_egbe