Davd Otaru: FACE-ME-I-FACE-YOU: Lagos

Rele Gallery, Lagos is pleased to present Face-Me-I-Face-You, the second solo exhibition and first in Lagos of Lagos-based artist David Otaru. The exhibition draws from the artist’s personal experiences growing up in a ‘Face Me, I Face You’ apartment — a residential building arrangement common in low-income areas in Nigeria, where a group of one or two-room apartments have their entrances facing each other along a walkway. Here, Otaru references familiar settings and objects in reconstructing distinct memories.  For the artist, these moments form a point of inquiry into a distant, yet pivotal period, one marked by hardship and financial crisis. Ideas of childhood and the familial take center stage, offering access to emotive, interior lives. In Face-Me-I-Face-You, nostalgia becomes a tool for joint remembering, a ‘simple’ exploration of being and mutual existence. 


Done primarily in acrylic, the paintings employ realistic figuration in creating carefully composed scenes of play, intimacy and the mundane. The exhibition presents us with domestic images of daily life, these undefinable ‘minor’ moments that offer a glimpse into familiar lives. Scenes of reflection and recollection — a couple dancing, cosplay, a game of checkers — takes the viewer on a trip through nostalgia into spaces long forgotten. This deliberately direct representation of life — as played out in the home — positions the ‘instant’ as a trigger for conversations surrounding family histories, class struggles and the banal, yet defining qualities of the everyday.


Otaru’s paintings, populated with transistor radios, old TV sets and family photographs, situate his characters and environments in a specific time, examining the full presence of being from the singularity of a moment. These moments, often existing beyond the reach of language, consider the commonplace as a communal experience as well as a site for the reading and creation of complex lives. With this exhibition, Otaru maps out areas of memory embedded in spaces and objects. Household items, interior spaces and bodies become vehicles for excavating parts of an event.

The exhibition will also be traveling to our Los Angeles gallery in September.