Art on the Underground presents 5 more minutes, a new commission by Joy Labinjo at Brixton Underground station
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Art on the Underground presents 5 more minutes, a new commission by Joy Labinjo at Brixton Underground station
Joy Labinjo, 5 more minutes, 2021. Brixton Underground station. Commissioned by Art on the Underground. Courtesy the artist and Tiwani Contemporary. Photo: Angus Mill, 2021.

LONDON.- Art on the Underground presents 5 more minutes, a new large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station by Joy Labinjo – on view for one year. Drawing on her personal experiences of growing up in the UK with British-Nigerian heritage, the London-based artist’s commission explores ideas of memory and belonging, and the significance of the hair salon as a centre of community in both Labinjo’s personal experience as well as in wider Black British female culture. This work is the fifth in a series of commissions at Brixton station, following on from Helen Johnson, Denzil Forrester, Aliza Nisenbaum and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the local murals painted in the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.

For her new commission, 5 more minutes, Labinjo depicts the interior of an imagined hair salon, an amalgamation of the spaces that the artist has visited over her life. The scene represents how the salon might look on a Saturday morning, with women and children of different generations gathered and interacting together, including recognisable and nostalgic details from the salon’s interior. The composition of the painting, brought to life using a vivid palette of colours, originates from the Labinjo’s lived experience, using images from memory and family albums, as well as online and historical sources. Hair salons are a core part of the Afro-Caribbean community in Brixton, and notably, have survived the gentrification of the surrounding area, continuing to play an essential role in this community.

Labinjo’s commission roots itself in the locality of the area and represents the fabric of Brixton’s vibrant and diverse community. Throughout her life, Labinjo would travel to Brixton specifically to get her hair done, and for the artist, hair salons evoke a strong sense of identity and emotional connection, exemplifying Brixton and the strength of its local community. The commission portrays the intimacy of the space – the conversations and relationships between the women taking place there, bringing this Black British female experience to the fore. The artist seeks to anchor the artwork in Brixton, and exemplifies a sense of place through her depiction of the salon, evoking sensual perceptions, smells and sounds, enabling viewers to imagine themselves there. At its core, the commission is a celebration of Black female culture.

Joy Labinjo’s large-scale figurative paintings often depict intimate scenes of historical and contemporary life, both real and imagined and often based on figures appearing in personal and archival imagery that include family photographs, found images and historical material. She explores themes including but not limited to identity, political voice, power, Blackness, race, history, community and family and their role in contemporary experience.

Joy Labinjo, Artist, said: “I am delighted to create this work and it is a homecoming of sorts. Brixton is where I have worked for the past few years and visited my entire life. Its vibrancy and people inspire me daily and has done for many years. As soon as you get out of the station, you know you've arrived: the smell of incense; the buskers; the street raconteurs; the fashionable looks; there’s swagger, charisma and thought all around. It’s irresistible. I wanted to make work that reflects not only my own lived experiences but other Black women in London and in the UK. In a city undergoing gentrification and, in a country, in spite of recent discourses, still sceptical of race, immigration and Black culture, the beauty of Brixton needs to be celebrated and protected. It is a living and breathing memory and experience - containing a history and present we can and should all call our own."

Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said: “Joy’s commission is the latest in an inspiring series of murals that have been bringing the power of public art to Brixton station. It’s a beautiful commission that represents a very personal journey but also tells the story of so many immigrant families who have been contributing towards our city for decades, economically, socially and culturally.”

Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, stated: “Joy Labinjo continues Art on the Underground’s exploration of contemporary responses to muralism for Brixton station. This imagined scene uses the everyday intimacy of the hair salon as the foundation for a visual representation of Labinjo’s local community, celebrating Black British female culture. Labinjo has combined her personal experience with memories and reflection of the area to create this vibrant work which will be enjoyed by millions of people using the station.”

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