Abi Ola

Emojis in my Garden, 2023
Abi Ola
Single channel video
4 minutes 07 seconds

The use of emojis helps me explore simple facial expressions and what they mean. They are very easy to draw due to the simplistic lines used to depict a smile, or a frown. This motif is understandable to many different cultures and transcends different languages.

– Abi Ola

Textile collage, headless elongated woman figure with red block printed pants against a blue tie-dye background and framed with orange triangular shapes

Elongated body of a woman, 2023
oil, plasticine, and fabrics on natural indigo dyed fabric
30 x 42cm

Flora and fauna motifs against a red and pink arrow pattern in the background
Pink flowers and triangular blue-purple patterns against blue background

William Morris and African Textile inspired Digital Designs, 2023
installed on Fore Street in Edmonton, London, commissioned by Enfield Council, Fisher Cheng, and R.E.A.C.T

Select the image to enlarge

Colourful textile collage of woman sitting

The Front Sitting Room, 2023
oil, oil pastels, acrylic, fabrics, screen print, and plasticine on canvas

Throughout history, humans have used similar pictographic languages to communicate simple ideas, understandable to people across vast distances.


Bringing focus to patterns is also a way for me to divert people’s attention from their faces, encouraging them to find out about others simply through their choice of clothing.

– Abi Ola

Pink, light blue, red, orange flowers against a indigo blue background
Floral pattern (above), red blocks in L shape (below floral pattern), leaf pattern sits in the middle of the L shapes - against a yellow background

How can you show who you are through found materials?

Take inspiration from Abi’s works, then cut, combine, and collage as you create your own mixed-media self-portrait.

  1. Draw the shape of your face on a sheet of paper.
  2. Choose an assortment of magazines, papers and old clothes. Cut shapes and place them onto the face.
  3. Place the shapes and experiment with composition before gluing them in place. When you’re confident in the placement, glue the first layer of shapes.
  4. Add features such as eyes, lashes, nose, fringe, lips, etc.
  5. If you like, use pens/paints/markers to accentuate the features. You can add patterns for the background.

    Send your collaged self portrait to info@intransit.space for it to be displayed in the Open Gallery. 

About Abi Ola

Abi Ola’s art practice centres around family portraiture and patterns. Originally, she used to paint the details of the figures’ faces. However, over time, she became more interested in the patterns on their clothes. More recently, she has been exploring the use of emojis alongside traditional African textile motifs, and British floral designs by popular artists such as William Morris. Abi Ola’s patterns go beyond two dimensional paintings as they find their way onto the interior design of buildings, clothes, and skin. Ultimately, Abi Ola is collecting a plethora of symbols to create her own vocabulary of patterns. These are then used to express through her own made-up language of her experience of the world, as a black British female artist.

Abi Ola gained her BFA from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2019, and MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, in 2021. Recent exhibitions include ‘New Contemporaries’, a group exhibition at South London Gallery; ‘All Are Gone The Old Familiar Faces’, a solo show with Flatland Projects, Battle, 2022; ‘Love At A Distance’, a solo show as part of the Bloomsbury Festival Art Prize, 2020-21; a duo show with Ilke Cop at the VCRB Gallery, Belgium 2022; and The Slade School of Fine Art’s 150th Anniversary exhibition, 2021-22.