Yinka Shonibare MBE at the YSP

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After a thoroughly miserable March and awful early April, it seemed as if Spring might have finally arrived last Saturday. It was sunny in Wigan during the morning and it also felt significantly warmer – a slightly higher air temperature and no bitterly cold wind and in the sunshine it felt quite warm. Which was just as well as we’d planned to drive over the M62 into Yorkshire to spend the day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see the exhibition by the Anglo-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE, who’s probably best known for his oversized ship in a bottle which was displayed on the “Fourth Plinth” in Trafalgar Square.


According to the YSP website

His work shrewdly explores and confounds stereotypes of race and class, engaging with ideas around identity and authenticity as well as dislocation, multiculturalism, global food production and revolution, often addressed through playful conceits. This approach is part of his determination to avoid being categorised:

Having looked at the pictures on the website I had thought I wouldn’t be so keen on the exhibition, but I was wrong. The pictures don’t really convey what the works are like in the flesh and I thought it was excellent. I should have known better really, as I very much enjoyed the exhibition of African art that was shown last year at the Whitworth and Manchester City Art Galleries last year.

Alien Child and Alien Woman on Flying Machine, 2011

The exhibition was quite different from some of the others I’ve seen at the YSP with works created from stone, wood and bronze. But in some ways it was a natural follow on from the Miro exhibition that had preceded it, in that the works on display were quite surreal in many ways. It’s titled "Fabric-ation" and that is quite deliberate as the artist uses Dutch Wax printed fabrics (African style fabrics) extensively.  As a consequence there are only two works displayed outdoors as most of his creations aren’t suitable to be shown outside the gallery. These Wind Sculptures, which are made from brightly painted fibreglass, look like giant pieces of African style fabric blowing in the wind, but frozen in time.


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Many of the works feature mannequins clothed in African fabrics. Some of them fantastical hybrid creatures – humans with animal heads, with no heads at all or with their heads replaced by objects representing the four elements.

Cannonball Heaven, 2011

There were life sized friendly aliens – two of them flying Leonardo da Vinci style flying machines, a space capsule and two astronauts in space suits made from Dutch Wax Fabric, murals, photographic works, collages and a couple of videos (we didn’t get chance to see one of these that was being shown in the old Chapel, mainly because we wanted to spend some time walking round the grounds enjoying the sunshine). A number of the works, such as Boy on a Globe, Girl on a Globe and Climate Shit Drawings, were inspired by Green political sympathies.

Alien Woman on Flying Machine (detail), 2011

Unfortunately no photos allowed in the gallery (although I did sneak a few of the spaceship and astronauts, as they were hung up in the main building and there were no signs saying no photos here). But photos don’t really do the works justice to be honest. They are much more interesting and fantastic in real life.


Space Walk, 2002

This is an excerpt from one of the video works inspired by the assignation of the Swedish King Gustav III in 1792


I enjoyed the exhibition immensely. We usually have a return visit to YSP exhibitions, and especially as we didn’t see one of the videos, I think we may be going back soon for another look.


One thought on “Yinka Shonibare MBE at the YSP

  1. Pingback: Art or Engineering? – James Capper “Divisions” at the YSP | Down by the Dougie

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