Toyin Olubamiwo X
“There’s a lot of pressure with being an adult and becoming independent, learning to do everything yourself so watching, drawing and speaking about cartoons helps me to relax. I wanted to focus on this for the curatorial mentorship because it takes me back to those childhood memories and I can connect with other artists about our love of cartoons.”
– Toyin Olubamiwo, 2023
For our fourth Curatorial Mentoring Indonesian curator Ignatia Nilu was paired with UK based studio artist Toyin Olubamiwo. This partnership forms part of Art et al. X Ketemu – a year long collaboration between the UK and Indonesia. This collaboration was completed in early 2023.
Le Visible et l’invisible (The Visible and The Invisible) brings together 10 artists from the UK and Indonesia, whose practice features superheroes and cartoon characters directly or indirectly, as well as showcasing their sketchbook works. The title alludes to the fact that we don’t often get to see the sketchbooks and inner mind workings of artists, so this is a real treat! Read on to find out more how Toyin and Nilu worked together to realise this digital presentation.
Le Visible et l’invisible (The Visible and The Invisible)
“This project is about expanding experiences and accommodating Toyin to learn new skills around curating an online art project. Toyin and my role has been to curate the work from UK and Indonesian artists, with me stimulating Toyin with my knowledge as a curator. Despite the lack of internet and different time zones, we had many conversations, many discussions, and an exchange of knowledge and aesthetic values. I shared my experience on working with artists, how I choose artists, and how I define my relationship with artists as a powerful tool to develop art projects. Toyin defines social interaction in a different format to me, so that was interesting to learn.
Toyin’s artistic practice started back when she was a child. She started to watch American cartoon shows, like Sailor Moon and Power Puff Girls and X-Men. She watched a lot of these from the 90s and 2000s. They made her feel happy and joyful – and they’re entertaining. She loves the way the programmes and films make the villains so evil, nasty and terrible – like a worst nightmare. “I don’t get scared by them but they are entertaining”, she said. Toyin shared that superheroes and villains bring back childhood memories and the good old days to her – “There’s a lot of pressure with being an adult and becoming independent, learning to do everything yourself… so watching, drawing and speaking about cartoons helps me to relax. I wanted to focus on this for the curatorial mentorship because it takes me back to those childhood memories and I can connect with other artists about our love of cartoons. And I want for other people to see this kind of art and for it to be given attention.”
The mentoring project itself introduces 10 artists that have never met each other before or even had a working relationship with Toyin. The sketchbook examination became the basis to observe the artistic practice of each artist. Toyin applied her experience as an artist to understand each artist’s statement with their work and chose to ask them a series of questions. The choosing process itself consisted of several stages together: communication and observation, mapping, selection and contextualisation. The communication and observation stage became the foundation for us to connect interpersonal and intercultural contexts. We listened to each other’s point of view, to help envision the project together. Toyin came with a strong topic — superhero characters. It seems in her subconscious, superheros have become an inspiration, role models, and plots of stories that represent the universal values for many people in this world. For each artist represented, we witness their artistic process and story through their lines of figures and sketches.
After many weeks of meeting, we decided to embrace sketchbooks as a window of artistic vision. The invitations we sent out to the artist’s has resulted in many colours, characters, motifs and stories being shared. Superheroes live in each artist’s sketchbook. Through this digital showcase we have explored the invisible part of most artist’s processes – sketchbooks. Artists often revisit sketchbooks after they have formalised their ideas or concepts. And by revisiting the invisible part of their artistic process, we see the broader scope of the artworks themself.
Through this collaboration and digital output, we have visited the visible and invisible part of an artist’s journey.”
Below we share the 10 artists - 5 from the UK and 5 from Indonesia, that Toyin and Nilu have decided to share under the title: Le Visible et l’invisible (The Visible and The Invisible)
Toyin Olubamiwo has a very bold, innovative and experimental style, which manifests itself in many complex drawings and paintings. Her practice is varied, incorporating many different artistic styles to produce books, paintings, drawings and three-dimensional assemblages. These are often rendered with gel pens that create very vibrant and complex compositions. Toyin is very passionate about art and she continually immerses herself in history of art books and galleries. This energy and enthusiasm for art generates many ideas and means that Toyin is a very prolific artist that continually develops and pushes her work. Toyin creates stories with characters that become metaphors for the human condition. Many of these are observed from real situations and environments, which are then fictionalised and rendered into a variety of different outcomes.
Toyin decided on a series of questions that she wanted to ask all the artists involved, based on her interests and the themes she covers with her work. She decided to answer those questions herself too, so that she was able to compare answers with others:
Do you date the back of any of your works? Yeah I do that
How long does a work take you to do on average? Doesn’t take that long – I just go slow and steady but I don’t count the minutes and hours it takes
How long have you been making art for? I started when I was at nursery school and carried on throughout my education.
Where do you get your inspiration from? From cartoons, like Justice League, Marvel Avengers, Disney (like The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King)
Who is your favourite superhero and why? To be honest with you I have lots of superheroes on my list – choosing one would be too hard and unfair
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Yeah – thanks to my mum, she made me watch other programmes like Dallas, but I watched programmes like Power Puff Girls, Dexter Laboratory, and American Dragon
Do you buy superhero comic books? I used to buy Disney Princess magazines but I was not happy with my mum, she threw them away to give space in the house as I had too much and she thought I didn’t need them anymore. So now I create my own
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? It was fun – nice and relaxing
Leslie Thompson has a highly developed style, drawing both from memory and through live observational drawings. He depicts scenes from television and film from 1970–1990. His drawings are punctuated with fascinating anecdotes from film, music and TV and he also has a vast collection of superheroes, which he binds and protects as he incorporates them into selected artworks. Leslie has been a regular artist at the Venture Arts studios in Manchester for over twenty years, and through this has been able to extend his innate illustrative gifts into stitch, animation and printmaking. He has shown his work widely regionally, nationally and internationally.
Leslie tends to work by producing originals on paper rather than sketching an idea out. He then transforms his drawings into other work, or something else off the paper. For the works selected for this project, which are drawings from his ‘In The Making Since a Hundred of Years’ exhibition, Leslie explored the history of black comic book superheroes from 1935 – 2020. These drawings are a reinterpretation of the characters Leslie researched during the pandemic, made using his ‘memory and imagination’. Here, we can see how his drawing of his superhero ‘Storm’ started as a black outline drawing, which Leslie then added colour and shading too from his iPad.
Toyin asked Leslie a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you date the back of any works? Yes, but these aren’t the dates that I did the drawing.
Do you write dates on your work? Sometimes I write dates on my drawings. I write dates on the front. Sometimes it is today’s year and sometimes it is the old year at the time of the characters, like the seventies, eighties, nineties or two thousands.
How long do they take? My drawings can take about an hour. But sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes I work on it for weeks.
How long have you been doing art in general? I drew picture of snoopy and animals when I was a young boy. I did good drawings when I was young, working with Sandra Warhurst at the Grange School ever since it was 1986. It was two thousand when I did years of working on art with Venture Arts.
Where do you get your inspiration from? I use my memory for drawing and sketching. My favourite things are TV like The Muppets, Tarzan and He-man. And animals like the Brown bear. And Films like the original King Kong. I also draw lots of musicians in cartoons.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? My favourite superhero is Superman and Super Girl. They wear a red cape and fly in the skies of New York from Krypton in the movies of the 1970’s. Superman is the best.
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? I did. They were The Jetsons, Buford Files. and Dinky Dogs. On the old TV when I was little and very young. It was great fun. Good times. To turn back time of the 70’s and 8o’s.
Do you buy superhero comic books? Yes. I do sometimes buy Superhero comic books. It’s quite interesting. My favourite thing is action figures plastic toys.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? I feel good watching the animation of the cartoons. I am comfortable in the tv room year after year.
Shaquille Oyenyinka, who has recently joined ActionSpace in London, has been drawing for over five years. He takes his inspiration from video games characters and memes found on the internet capturing their graphic forms usually in his favourite medium of a 6b pencil. Through his studies of the characters Shaquille combines and merges elements of the carefully observed forms in his drawings to create new characters.
Shaquille does not work in a sketchbook as such. He works on separate pieces of papers, that he stacks up, as you can see in this photograph provided by ActionSpace. He places this selection of his drawings next to him whilst he is working, to refer to and to flick through in a similar way to a sketchbook.
Toyin asked Shaquille a series of questions to learn more about him:
Where do you get your inspiration from? Animé, video games, comics
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Iron Man, because he is super smart and has a sense of humour
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Yes, they were Pokemon, Super Mario, Kirby Right Back At Ya and many more.
Do you buy superhero comic books? No
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? I feel excited and have a sense of wonder
Jonathan McKinstry creates his paintings with flatly applied colour, often in thick oil-slick strokes with a sketchiness and air of caricature. These paintings, made with haste but certainly not unconsidered, are a remarkable balancing act of picture-making and gesture. He is inspired by comic books, films and pop culture as well as landscapes and animals, and enjoys large scale painting and murals. Jonathan’s work is pleasurable with a dark edge; it’s lush but laid bare, it contains the pictorial rules of associated traditional landscape painting, but also breaks them. it is unpolished, but also with a stunning delicacy of touch. It is fascinating, but also diverting – and that is no mean feat. Jonathan attends the Project Ability studio in Glasgow, Scotland.
Toyin asked Jonathan a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you make sketches before you do your bigger paintings? I do sketches beforehand – mostly little thumbnails. I also have a sketchbook that I use a lot for drawing superheroes
Do you put dates on your work and how long do they take? I put the year of the work on the back of the painting, usually. A big painting usually takes me a day and a bit. I have been doing art since approximately 2006
Where do you get your inspiration from? I get my inspiration mostly from other artists, and also things from my childhood
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Difficult to answer, but I’d say Wolverine. I like him because he is un-killable, and has cool claws
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? I watched cartoons, yes – one’s I remember liking are Transformers and G.I. Joe
Do you buy superhero comic books? Do I? Of course! I’ve been buying them since I was 7 years old and have a big collection now
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? I still enjoy it – It’s very nostalgic
Joel is a sculpture artist who has found a unique and innovative way to create his characters – he will create a Lego skeleton, build it up with clay and other materials, and bring it to life with paint, fabric, and even LED lights. He loves to explore important themes and their effects on people through his art, such as violence, mistreatment of minority groups, injustice and exploitation of power – subjects that are important to Joel as a black and disabled artist. Joel uses animals and characters that portray the issues close to his heart, and is particularly inspired by 80s and 90s comic book characters, using them as the basis of his sculpture work and developing them until completion. He will also use creatures of his own invention, including cyborgs, robots, monsters, heroes and villains, illustrating his imaginative ideas on a computer and building them physically. Joel attends Artbox London.
Toyin asked Joel a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you date the back of any of your works? No
How long does a work take you to do on average? About a year now
How long have you been making art for? Since when I was little – from when I was about 5 or 6
Where do you get your inspiration from? I got it from the TV show, I got some of it from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aladdin and Addams Family and then sometimes from Youtube
Who is your favourite superhero and why? The Red Ranger, Jason because I like the 90s and 80s characters – I like Jason as he’s the leader of the Rangers. The others follow his orders. He’s good. He’s fighting evil. He’s funny and powerful.
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Yeah – I remember Tom and Jerry, Two Stupid Dogs, The Swat Cats, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby Dooby Doo.
Do you buy superhero comic books? No I don’t. I remember my mum never used to buy things like that so I just draw it myself.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? It’s alright. I watch it on the internet. I feel all emotions when watching them. It’s good and it gives me ideas to copy into my art.
Mutia Bunga is a young artist based in Yogyakarta. Born in Denpasar, Bali in January 1995, she later moved to Yogyakarta in 2013 to pursue her Fine Art degree at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta, majoring In painting. She also a Co-founder of TacTic Plastic (established in 2016); and an art group in Yogyakarta focusing on experimenting with plastic waste as their media and material.
Actively participating in exhibitions in Yogyakarta and outside the city. Starting her media and material exploration with plastic waste in 2016 with her collective friends who focus on this material.
Toyin asked Mutia a series of questions to learn more about her:
Do you write dates on your work? I put the year as a time marker.
How long do they take? It really depends on the size, technique and how complicated the works would be. It usually takes around 2 weeks for one painting. For installation works, I usually spend more than a month to work on it.
How long have you been doing art in general? Since I was 4.
How do you use sketches, sketch books or visual journal for your creative process? It functions as visual reminder to some random idea that comes up at a certain time. Whenever I’m ready to work further and elaborate that idea into acertain work, I’ll look up the sketch.
Where do you get your inspiration from? I get my inspiration from my surroundings as well as my friend’s personal stories. I have also been using social media and current discussions happening there too, to take inspiration for my works.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Jessica Jones from Marvel
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Definitely! Every Sunday morning, my sister and I freed our time to watch our favourite cartoon together. Sometimes, when I’m in the mood and have more free time, I’ll accompany her to watch any cartoon of her choice while waiting for my favourite. We share our love for 5 cartoons: Doraemon, Ninja Hatori, Crayon Sinchan, Detective Conan and Inuyasha. Today, we keep exchanging information whenever there’s new releases or when our favourite ones get featured on Netflix.
Do you buy superhero comic books? I don’t think so.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? I’m always excited waiting for my favourite cartoon on screen.
Mulyana was born in Bandung, May 1984. Studying Art Education at UPI, Bandung, Mulyana started working with knitting media in 2009. Since moving to Yogyakarta, Mulyana’s work has experienced a rapid development with giant installation sizes and works with various knitting communities with a modular work system. He is known for his knitted installations and for creating The Mogus-his giant octopus-shaped alter ego which he uses as a medium to tell stories. The Mogus’ habitat is coral islands which are also made with knitted media.
Toyin asked Mulyana a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you write dates on your work? Sometimes as a time marker.
How long do they take? For a 2D works, it usually takes a whole day. for an installation, it ranges from a month to a year.
How long have you been doing art in general? I made artworks since I was in primary school.
How do you use sketches, sketch books or visual journal for your creative process? To record all the spontaneous ideas as well as to write what I want to create in the future.
Where do you get your inspiration from? He derives his inspiration from his surroundings, movies, books and internet.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Ranma ½
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Yes, I really love watching cartoons. I love how the creators create impactful cartoons out of great stories and imagination. They made me aware of cultures from abroad too. Through cartoons, I learnt many things, especially getting to know the spectrum of human characters.
Do you buy superhero comic books? No.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? Very happy.
Born in Gresik, August 25, 1992, Rizal Hasan graduated from the Indonesia Institute of the Arts Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He is currently based in Sewon, Bantul, D.I Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Selected exhibitions include POP Script: Encoding The Everyday at Indie Art House (2021); Special Art Project with Jogja Affordable Art at Jogja Art Gallery (2022); ARTJOG 2022; ART JAKARTA 2022.
Toyin asked Rizal a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you write dates on your work? Yes, to mark the time I finished a certain artwork.
How long do they take? Around 2-3 weeks, depends on the size of the artwork.
How long have you been doing art in general? Professionally since 2017 after I was named as one of UOB’s Painting of The Year finalists in the same year.
How do you use sketches, sketch books or visual journal for your creative process? It’s a medium for me to record the visuals and ideas that came to my mind.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Comics, animation, my surroundings.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Marvel and DC comics, Japanese cartoons.
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Dragon ball z, batman, superman dll
Do you buy superhero comic books? Yes, I bought Shaman King, etc.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? Imaginative and happy.
IDA BAGUS UDAYANA (DAPOTT)
Dapott was born in Denpasar, on November 13, 1995, and is an artist who focuses on visual explorations with various art mediums. His works are inspired by a collision between pop culture, memories of the past, and Balinese mythology.
Toyin asked Dapott a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you write dates on your work? Yes, I do! This helps me to remember when the artworks were finished.
How long do they take? It depends on the medium and the design of the artworks. It took me 4 days to finish any works on canvas, and 2-3 days for digital illustrations.
How long have you been doing art in general? Since I moved to Jogja.
How do you use sketches, sketch books or visual journal for your creative process? I treat sketchbook as a visual journal to help trigger the creative ideas I had in the past. For me, looking at my sketches feels like walking through the abstract ideas in my head.
Where do you get your inspiration from? I took my inspiration from my everyday experiences and anything popular.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? akira, conan edogawa, sinchan, spongebob, doctor strange, studio Ghibli
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? Sure, I did. So far, I’ve been so impressed by many cartoons from Ghibli Studio. I love how they show you diverse life lessons and values that are related to, for examples, the issue of environment, the relationship between human and other human as well as other creatures that live in the same ecosystem.
Do you buy superhero comic books? So far, I mostly read it on digital platforms. However, when I was a kid, I owned many copies of Bogbog and Bobo Magazine.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? It’s a joyful time for me as I got to watch it with my family.
Fatoni was born in Klaten, Central Java. He studied in Islamic-based school (Madrasah), from kindergarten, primary school, first high school to secondary high school. He continued his study at Modern School of Design (MSD) in 1998 before taking a fine art degree at Indonesian Insitute of Arts, Yogyakarta. After graduated in 2003, he dedicated his time to make paintings.
Being inspired by Picasso, Fatoni paints spontaneously in a neo-expressionist and pseudo-naive style. He is known for intricate canvases full of intersecting geometric figures. While many of his paintings depict normal life in abstraction, Fatoni also collaborates with the Prison Art Programs (PAPs) Collective and is deeply involved in social issues involving the rehabilitation of prisoners through art.
Toyin asked Fatoni a series of questions to learn more about him:
Do you write dates on your work? I used to do it but not too often. I mostly put the year, sometimes with the month or the place as I treat my sketches as a diary/journal.
How long do they take? It depends on the size and the complexity. For sketches, it only takes me couple minutes to finish. For a small or medium size paintings, I need 1-2 hours or sometimes more. For bigger size, I can be months.
How long have you been doing art in general? Since I was a kid or preschool, I like to doodle. I went to my first drawing competition when I was in kindergarten.
How do you use sketches, sketch books or visual journal for your creative process? I function it as a diary, a place wher I can share my personal stories about anything, to take notes, doodle up some thoughts and whatever I feel and I have in mind at certain time.
Where do you get your inspiration from? From comics, any cartoons on TV or sometimes from VHS/Betamax.
Who is your favourite superhero and why? Megaloman
Did you watch a lot of cartoons when you were growing up – and what were they? I used to watch Dragon Balls, Sailor Moon, Silverhawk, He Man, Megaloman and many more. Megaloman is the most memorable one as I had to go to other city to find a DVD/VCD rental that has it.
Do you buy superhero comic books? Yes! I used to have a bunch of collection of Kungfu Boy, Dragon Balls and Fist of The North Star.
How do you feel watching cartoons on the TV? It made me very happy, it surely made my day.
All images courtesy of the artists, and their affiliated studios, unless otherwise stated
Thank you to the staff at Artbox London for their support with Toyin for this project. Artbox London is a charity that, alongside art workshops, organises trips to galleries and exhibitions for people with learning disabilities and autism. They aim to improve the wellbeing and inclusion of individuals, whilst increasing their visibility and profile in the wider art world.