Alake Shilling

Alake Shilling’s warped and wild dreamworld is alive with emotion and whimsical nostalgia.

Shilling is known for her vibrant paintings and ceramics of creatures and landscapes drawn from her imagination. Dogs, cats, bears, ladybirds, rabbits and even Minnie Mouse all appear with wide, expressive eyes evoking the barefaced emotion of a young child. These relatable feelings are carefully crafted by the artist through precise rendering of form and colour, resulting in works that are at once intimate and peculiar.

  • Group show, Dirty Protest: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection at Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2019
  • Solo show, Monsoon Lagoon at 356 Mission, Los Angeles, 2018
  • Group show New Acquisitions at Rubell Family Collection, Miami, 2018
  • Group show, GO AWAY ROAD at LOYAL, Stockholm, 2019
Tiger, Alake Shilling, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and the Rubell Museum.
Screenshot 2021-03-03 at 11.13.34
Buggy Bear Loses Control in the Long and Winding Road, Alake Shilling, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

The Chicago Imagists and Californian Funk Art have had an important impact on Shilling’s work, two movements active during the 1960s and 70s known for their psychedelic palettes and surreal compositions. She is also inspired by contemporary painters such as Ida Ekblad and Rebecca Morris, as well as nature, jazz, cartoon characters and the children’s stationery designer Lisa Frank. Combining such disparate influences, Shilling’s unique vision manifests as an enthralling childhood daydream.

Ladybug, Alake Shilling, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and the Rubell Museum.

Shilling’s wonky worlds hold opposites together: sadness and excitement, comfort and angst. A Ladybug (2018) is a bright canvas depicting a downcast ladybird surrounded by giant mushrooms, with a concerned moon looking on from above. The lilac and neon green swirls of its surroundings appear as if they are melting. Through the painting, Shilling toys with notions of empathy by placing the viewer in a position of responsibility towards the ladybird’s feelings. However, unable to change what happens within the frame, the viewer is ultimately unable to help. Tapping into these real emotions through endearingly absurd scenes, the work swings between sincerity, melancholy and humour.

“It’s all about duality really.
You’ve got to have sad if you
want to convey happy.”
Big Eyes Bear
Big Eyes Bear, Alake Shilling 2018. Courtesy of the artist and LOYAL Gallery.
Big Fat Lady, Alake Shilling, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and LOYAL Gallery.

Shilling’s process is incredibly careful and reflective. Her ceramics often take a few months to complete, and her paintings can take up to a year. “I love the rush I get when I finish a piece,” says Shilling, “it’s so exhilarating, […] the victory I feel from solving an equation that essentially has no answer!This balance of fastidious attention to detail and lawless creativity brings an uncanny surrealism to Shilling’s practice. The familiar and the strange merge exquisitely as Shilling opens up her inimitable world welcoming us to reflect on the boundless yet universal nature of human emotion.

Alake Shilling's Studio
Alake Shilling's Studio
Alake Shilling's Studio
Alake Shilling's Studio
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