Samuel Olayombo works with oils, acrylics, charcoal and pastels to create vibrant and large-scale canvases of predominately male, non-gender normative portraits. Using a palette knife to convey intricate, 3-dimensional skin textures, Samuel Olayombo pays homage to classic artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Arja Valimaki, El Dragg Okwoju, Joshua Mensirionye, Barkley Hendricks and Vittu Samuel in his work. His fascination with ’scarring’ prevalent in certain Yoruba cultures as well as toxic masculinity, macho male culture and constructs of sexuality, gender roles and gender equality are the key narratives he explores within his compositions. Growing up with five sisters in a patriarchal society has influenced his work in his choice of colour tones preferring traditionally “female” colours, like rose and pastel pinks, to depict his seemingly “brute” masculine subjects: “I saw a lot of unfairnesses. For me, regardless of gender, we are all equal and this is the major reason why I employ the colour pink in my paintings. I want to correct the notion that pink is feminine”.
“I cross the boundaries of traditional masculinity, macho culture, societal gender assertions and associations. The pink clothing and background serve as an emblem of softness, kindness, nurturance, and compassion; qualities that are often thought of as feminine. The dark palette-painted skin pays homage to the body scarification culture of the Ife, a Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. The pink colour scheme accentuates the figures and imagines the notion of men in pink from a fresh perspective. I envision my portraits as an effort to change representations of masculinity, and shift ideas on what it means to be a man.”
Samuel Olayombo (born in 1991) is a Nigerian artist who studied fine and applied arts at the University of Benin. His work is part of collections including The Dean Collection, Los Angeles; Olym Collection, Brussels; Sir David Adjaye Collection, New York; Se Tinat Collection, Madrid; The Bentata Collection, Miami among others. He was a 2021 Visiting Fellow at the Noldor Artist Residency. He presented his first institutional solo exhibition curated by Fabiola Ondzounga at the Institute Museum of Ghana in March 2023. Samuel Olayombo is presenting his first solo exhibition at Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery Dubai in September 2023.