Seven Questions with... Claire-Anne Abi Ola

This week we meet Abi, a Slade School of Fine Arts student who won the Bloomsbury Festival 2020 Art Competition. Here, Abi chats to us about the influence of African Dutch wax prints and British textiles on her work.

What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I am studying Painting at The Slade, and I am interested in this subject because I love creating things with my hands. My art practice looks at my family history and clothing to inspire my vocabulary of patterns. These symbols represent what type of people wore the clothes, some of the shapes are also used as a type of made up, written language only I understand. The clothing that I take influence from are African Dutch wax prints and British textiles. These represent the influence of these two cultures in my life. I hope for my work to bring up conversations about the textile and cultural trade between these two regions.

In the future I hope to continue researching about African and British textiles to inform my art practice. I would also like to develop new interactive installations and exhibitions with my patterns. 

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

The Arts and Board Games societies, The UCL Yoga and Meditation Club and the many workshops and artists’ talks on offer as part of The Slade. I love that I can learn new skills and interact with different departments at UCL. For example, last year I sometimes participated in both the Arts and Board Games Societies, here, I came out of my comfort zone and socialised with Maths. Engineering, etc, students, that I would not have been able to do outside of UCL. I also enjoyed doing yoga every week with The UCL Yoga and Meditation Club last year, which helped me to exercise and relax. I have always wanted to join a yoga club, but I did not have the time. However, because the yoga club is part of UCL, it made it easier for me to attend classes due to it being close by. The workshops and artists’ talks are also valuable because I learn new artistic skills, and interact with contemporary artists, some of which are famous. These experiences have helped me improve my social skills and have informed my art practice.

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

UCL is at the centre of London and is nearby many valuable learning centres and galleries such as the Senate House, SOAS University, The British Museum, The British Library and The Welcome Trust. These places have been an excellent resource for my research into African and British textile history and art. 

There are also lots of great artist opportunities to exhibit your artworks. For example, I am part of The Bloomsbury Festival Art Prize , where I got to have a solo show at the Building Centre. This gave me a lot of exposure as an artist. The show has been extended from October 2020, to the end of March 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so more people can see the exhibition.

Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

  • The British Museum - I have visited the British Museum on multiple occasions, but I still have not visited every room or exhibition there. The museum is a great place for me to draw and paint from life the ancient African, British and Oceanic art, which is very important for my art practice.
  • Piccadilly Circus - Here, I like to travel around to visit small and large galleries such as The Koppel Project, The Almine Rech Gallery and the Royal Academy Of Arts. The atmosphere is also wonderful, such as the beautiful billboards, lights and major shopping centres.
  • Enfield - This is where I live, and there are lovely farms with animals, fruits, and vegetables nearby, there is also 40 Halls Park, which has a small museum/gallery, beautiful greenery, and a small café. This is a nice place to visit in the summer.
  • What’s one thing you’d like to see in a post-Covid world?

    I want people to not take life for granted. COVID-19 has shown the world that human lives and civilisations are fragile, and something as small as a virus has the potential to cause economic, physical, and mental damage to people. I hope that everyone will embrace their loved ones more and continue to wear face masks and respect people’s personal space. I hope that people can also be more caring for one another, such as by donating money to people less fortunate.

    Who inspires you and why

    My father is an inspiration to me. He always works very hard; despite the difficulties he has endured with a health condition. He has always pushed me to be the best I can be, and always helps me with everything. 

    What would it surprise people to know about you?

    I can play the piano, sing and dance. I particularly enjoy dancing and singing to K-POP music with my sister such as, BTS, Red Velvet and Ateez. 


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