‘Constellations’ brings together works by London-based artists Ebun Sodipo and Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin, whose practices use found imagery and objects, collage and assemblage, to establish connections, create lineage, and enact reclamation through gestures of identification and symbolic association.
Three sculptural collages, coated in resin, see Sodipo overlay digital prints of found internet images, film and cartoon stills onto reflective silver mylar grounds, their liquid, mirror-like quality evoking the slippery fluidity and reflectiveness of watery surfaces. There is arguably a generationally-specific, Tumblr-informed impulse to this conveyance of self through the selection and bringing together of once-disparate found imagery. Sodipo’s iconography frequently features historical women, cartoon characters, pop cultural figures, and symbolic cyphers that embody and personify aspects of the artist’s journey through processes of transformation, sexuality and identification. Transgender model Connie Fleming, for example, appears in both And yet you kept going and Let the body be a blade, accompanied in the former by a central priestess figure, and a shot of the artist with her close friend, the poet and artist Chloe Filani, establishing a lineage of trans sisterhood, kinship, and care across time and across the surface of the work.
Sodipo’s artistic enquiry extends to mining history for black transfeminine experience, using processes of research, excavation and fabulation to imagine and connect to the lives of forebears. In Prosthesis for freedom - Mary Jones’ ‘piece of cow [leather?] pierced and opened like a woman’s womb’, Sodipo presents an imagining of the prosthetic vulva worn by Mary Jones, an American soldier and trans sex worker born in New York in 1803, whose conviction of grand larceny during a trial in 1836 provides one of the earliest recorded insights into the lives of gender non-conforming people in U.S. history. The object becomes at once votive and totemic, an offering and a conjuring, a line of communication across time and space.
Personal magic and spiritual practice are central too to Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin’s practice, which deploys found objects in minimalistic and poetic assemblages that draw from and reflect on her diasporic British-Carribean identity. Often using domestic items, her work reflects on the home as a hybrid site of mundanity and mysticism, habitude and ritual. Here, Baulcombe-Toppin creates
two floor-to-ceiling columns of stacked cut crystal glasses, anointed with moon-charged water from the Caribbean, Mount Gay rum - commonly drunk during celebrations in Barbados - and vitamin D. Invisible to the eye, these blessings both materially and energetically bridge England and Barbados, grappling with dialectics of proximity and distance, and the unseen connections that can exist in between. The glasses, vessels used daily and on occasions of celebration, have a liquidity and portal-like quality, triggering memory, personal association, and speaking to ideas of togetherness and communion.
Like Sodipo, Baulcombe-Toppin also identifies kinship and lineage in the pop cultural canon: ~mantra~blessedwithcaribbeansunlight.com/ hope~ centres a lyric from the 2000 song ‘Try Again’ by American singer Aaliyah. In its incantational, spell-like quality, the dictum - or demand - echoes the rallying calls for resilience implicit in Sodipo’s works. At the bottom of the frame hover a number of hematite beads, lustrous iron oxide crystals believed to have healing properties and aid in mental clarity and emotional well-being. The work hangs across from Sodipo’s Protection Spells, which sees a composition surmounted by a cartoon figure casting a shielding, protective bubble over a scene below, indicating Sodipo’s own turn to personal magic as conduits to reclamation and sanctuary.
By constellating elements, objects and figures of personal resonance and mythos - stars and otherwise -, both Sodipo and Baulcombe- Toppin enact strategies of intentional self-narrativisation and personal abundance. Intersecting personal history, spirituality, pop culture, and magical potential, the work on display demonstrate agency in the establishment of personal identity, history and belonging that transcends the temporal and spatial, conjuring through collage and assemblage objects that both can speak to and form new - and more nuanced - narratives and histories of one’s own.