OSI AUDU, Self-Portrait: Benin Head, 2016, graphite and pastel on paper mounted on canvas, 36 x 40 ins



I explore the light sheen of graphite, the matte, light-absorbing quality of black pastel, the white of paper and canvas, and interactions of color, investigating how all of these optical attributes can suggest something evocative about the shape of the head. I am interested in the dualism of form and void, and the ontological relation between the tangible and intangible, something and nothing, light and dark, body and mind, the dual nature of being - the self in portraits.

The development of a sense of self is a very complex process, more so in our increasingly global age, in which the boundaries between race, nationality, gender and sexuality are becoming more blurred. I am interested in issues of identity, those rooted in my cultural experiences growing up in Nigeria, as well as broader metaphysical, scientific, and social concepts of the self. There is a Yoruba thought that consciousness, referred to as the “head,” has both a physical dimension called the “outer head” and a non-physical one: “the inner head.” The visual implications of concepts like this are what I find intriguing. The title Self-Portrait in my work is about the portrait of the intangible self, rather than a literal portrait of the artist.