Yinka Ilori’s work is unmistakably bright and optimistic, not least because of his palette (a swathe of pastels and intensely punchy primary colours). Whether a decorating a public pavilion or designing a pop-up playground, his message is clear: enjoy yourself.
Born in Britain to Nigerian parents, Yinka’s workshop is filled with references picked up in Lagos, as well as from his late grandmother’s village – fabrics, paintings… and music. Deeply inspired by Nigerian afrobeat pioneers such as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Ebenezer Obey, you can feel those rhythms even in the static objects that he produces.
The uniqueness of Yinka’s process lies in “making mistakes”, playing around and allowing himself to recognise when something unplanned or unusual in fact deserves to become the final product. An example of this is a series of upcycled (or “pre-loved” as Yinka says) chairs, which were sawed, painted and upholstered to create bold, kaleidoscopic pieces for a show called If Chairs Could Talk. A cross between useable chairs and sculptures, a more pragmatic series was then produced in support of social enterprise Restoration Station.
In June 2019, he unveils two new projects in London: the Dulwich Picture Gallery pavilion, in collaboration with Pricegore architects, and another called Happy Street, an art installation on the Thessaly Road Railway Bridge, in Battersea.