Tomi Olopade is a young artist from London, currently studying Fine Art, at Leeds College of Art. Having previously pursued a career as a freelance Illustrator, he found himself gaining recognition from the musicians such as Joey Badass, and Maverick Sabre, resulting in him getting the opportunity to design an Album cover for Sabre’s sophomore album, “Innerstanding.”
Despite this opportunity, Olopade found he had his own perspectives, ideas and stories to share with the world, concluding that he was better suited to the world of Fine Art. After enrolling onto the course at Leeds college of Art, he spent the first year and a half honing his painting skills, researching the industry, and finding his voice as an artist.
His journey begins with his current oil painting collection, ‘Good Hair.’ A celebration and exploration into the importance of hair amongst Black people.
"God in the details"
My Work has always been focused on portraiture and the figure. My father commissioned portraits of my siblings and I, painted by the Nigerian artist El Dragg Okwoju, when we were babies. These paintings have been hanging in my house for as long as I can remember; as a child I spent a lot of time looking at them closely, from the colours, to the brush strokes, attempting to figure out how to reach that level of realism.
I want to create work that explores people and their perceptions of other people. When I came to art school, I discovered a list of artists that we’re using painting to explore the black experience. Artists like Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshal and Barbara walker, were all making art about black people and challenging the way in which the world perceives them. I realised that growing up I rarely saw any art that I could relate to in this way, And that this was the place for me to start.
I remember seeing some of Wiley’s paintings and without ever even reading up on it felling as if I could understand what it is he was trying to do; the way he painted his subjects, elevating them above whatever assumptions and stereotypes society has cast on them.
With my first painting series “Good Hair” one of the things I wanted to do was give people that same feeling; by taking something as relatable and intrinsic as Hair styles and care to black people, and elevating it in a similar way.
“God is in the details” is an idiom synonymous with my work. Being inspired by the works of Kehinde Wiley, patterns and portraiture have become an aesthetic I began using to carry my ideas.Throughout both my painting work and illustration, this attention to detail has me occasionally attaching something of significant meaning or reference within detail. “the devil in the detail.”
“Tomi with an eye” became the title I would give my brand under which everything I create would be put out. The phrase has four meanings; Firstly in reference to the spelling of my name, Tomi, being shortened from my Yoruba name Akintomiwa. Secondly the phrase alludes to the Idiom “with an eye to,” here meaning that everything is done in reference to something in the future. Thirdly, the art I make is about challenging how people see each other. And finally it implies that you may sometimes have to look closely with in the details to find meaning.