Ayo and Ono Oshodi, Artists (BIRMINGHAM, UK)

Ayo & Oni Oshodi, Brown Eyed Girl, 2010. Found painting & frame with hand-­cut eye holes (Installation view of Ayo & Oni’s hiding space and diary). Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Alastair Levy

What are the up- and downsides of you guys working together as identical twins?
The upside is that you always have another voice to sing with, but that voice can sometimes go out of tune and the song doesn’t sound as you hoped. It’s a mixture of strength, discussion and confusion and most importantly, excitement when we both feel an idea is working and agree on that. Being a twin means that we are perhaps closer than most collaborating artists. It’s like asking yourself a question in the mirror and getting multiple answers. It gets frustrating or unnerving sometimes, but on the whole it keeps us engaged and focused.

Growing up, have you always wanted to become artists? If so, is this how you imagined it to be like?
We see ourselves as artists and writers. We didn’t know how it would be, art college can’t really tell you how it’s going to be on the other side. Can anyone really imagine the darkside of the moon? We do know that we are enjoying making our work more than ever and have been getting a good response, which means that something is working.

Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)?
They Are Here, Fischli and Weiss, Gilbert and George, Wood and Harrison, Smith and Stewart, June and Jennifer Gibbons, Marina Abramovic and Ulay (We want to feel like we could have an arrow pointed at our heart by someone we trust).

What is the most challenging thing about the ‘Their Wonderlands’ exhibition?
It’s demanding in a time sense in that we have now spent 6 weeks in a very small dark triangular shaped room, peeping out from a painting (Brown-eyed Girl, 2010-11), which has it’s eyes drilled out so we can look out through them and watch gallery visitors. We are by nature solitary people, who make work out of a desire to explore these types of subtle engagement with people. However, it makes a huge psychological demand to be in these kind of endurance situations, where all you can do is watch and respond through a journal in this case. We made a rule that we will never talk back, except with a blink of an eye. The responses to the work have also been challenging; most recently, we had to put up a piece of plastic to protect our eyes behind the painting as some people thought we weren’t real and were having fun trying to poke our eyes out!!

What are you trying to convey through your piece, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’?
We carefully chose a found portrait of a Caucasian women to question the pictorial representation (or absence) of women of colour historically – we are intrigued by how this affects our own sense of beauty. In doing so, we simultaneously foreground the act of watching, while remaining hidden. We are the ‘painting with eyes’ made real. The haunted house. The eyes follow you around the room. We like the idea that artists can make things that you always wanted to happen happen, in short we rate make-believe as a mode of existence, always allowing for the possibility of magic in the everyday.

Do you believe that it is more important for artists to explain the ‘real’ idea behind their works, or for the audience to interpret them as they wish?
Is there any ‘real’ idea behind anything? it’s all interpretation. We might think that we are doing something quite fixed and decisive and yet, when someone else with a different perspective comes, they see another thing altogether and maybe we realise that the ‘real idea’ behind the work is something unexpected. We are open to that. We enjoy that plurality.

You are keeping a diary of your observations from behind your painted doll’s eyes – what are the most interesting things or reactions you have seen so far?
Little screams are always a great reaction. It means the work has gone beyond the everyday safe art experience and actually impacted on someone’s pysche in a way they couldn’t control or articulate. That moment when your expectations are confounded and you realise the eyes aren’t a clever projection or hologram, but are real.  Everyday we see alot; learn alot about people, how they move around the space, maybe the most interesting is how people look when they think no one is watching… except we are!

Did the arts cuts have any effect on you at all? If so, how?
We have been lucky enough to have been well supported through a number of publicly funded institutions, including South London Gallery, Chisenhale, Battersea Arts Centre and most recently mac Birmingham and Vivid. However, it’s always tough and you’ll always need a part-time job to keep making work.

What does ‘art’ mean to you if you were to sum it up in a nutshell?
Freedom to recreate your world anew.

What words of wisdom would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Focus and don’t be afraid.

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Click here to read about Their Wonderlands, the art exhibition in which Brown Eyed Girl is displayed.

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One Comment on “Ayo and Ono Oshodi, Artists (BIRMINGHAM, UK)”

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