Informed by the artist’s summer residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York, Fadugba explores the social history of communal swimming pools, portraying powerful black figures in water together, within the greater context of visibility, access and representation. Fadugba’s exhibition, titled Dreams from the Deep End, is influenced greatly by Jeff Wiltse’s publication Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools, which explores the history of public pools and their privatisation in relation to race politics and community life in America.
Fadugba’s characteristic use of burnt paper overlaid with colour and gold leaf are now applied to new motifs such as turbulent waters, heroic lifeguards, melting ice cream cones and intergenerational swimming lessons. Pastels and monochromaticity are punctuated by deep sea blues and strong reds, presenting a new spectrum of the colours of water.
Some of the works on show see Fadugba collaborating with the New York based Harlem Honeys and Bears, an all-black synchronised swimming group for senior citizens who also offer free swimming lessons to children. Relating to the artist’s ongoing series Synchronised Swimmers, Fadugba continues to explore moving bodies, focusing on teamwork and unity, whilst developing a new interest in inter-disciplinary collaborations with other artists and local communities. The recreational and educational perspective of these works are a direct extension of the artist’s award-winning project The People’s Algorithm (2014), an installation where participants play an interactive game, seeking to address the critical situation of education and unemployment in Nigeria.
As an avid and lifelong swimmer herself, Fadugba has a profound personal affinity for the pool and uses it as a visual tool to explore challenges experienced by artists, whilst navigating hierarchies relating to race, gender and representation.