Shonibare's paintings combine emulsion, acrylic, found objects and textiles and explore his interest in aesthetic and post-colonial issues. The textiles used in the works first became popular in West Africa after independence for being constructed as an "African" cloth. The fabric is, in fact, Indonesian-influenced, manufactured in Holland and purchased by Shonibare at Brixton market in London. The combination of emulsion, acrylic paint and ornate fabric creates a sensuous, exciting visual experience.
In Play With Me, every painting is round. Here Shonibare plays on the knowledge that roundness can imply physical geometric perfection or internal perfection. While earlier Shonibare paintings were based on a parody of the minimalist/modernist grid, the new paintings literally disrupt the idea of a tight formal structure in favour of a baroque sensibility. In these works, Shonibare explores his personal fondness for tactile enjoyment and play and he handles his interest in the post-colonial condition with a poetic lightness of touch. In Play With Me, Shonibare will include a new series of Toy Paintings, in which multiple plastic toys form a frame around the edges of delicious round paintings. Here, it is the formal excitement of the surreal coalition of colour, manufactured material and improvised organic forms that are celebrated.
Shonibare has exhibited widely all over the world. Recent solo exhibitions include Double Dress, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel which toured to to KIASMA, Helsinki, Finland and Padiglione d'arte contemporanea, Milan, Italy in 2003; Studio Museum, Harlem, USA, Be-muse, The British School in Rome, Rome, Italy; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, USA; Camouflage, Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. Shonibare has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, most notably, Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, New Museum, New York, USA in 2003; The African Exile Museum, Migros Museum, Zürich, Switzerland in 2003, Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany; Spoleto Festival, Charleston, USA in 2002 and Authentic/Ex-centric: Conceptualism in Contemporary African Art, 49th Venice Biennale, Fondazione Levi, Venice, Italy in 2001. This month, Shonibare will present a newly commissioned work for Looking Both Ways at the Museum of African Art, New York. In February 2004, a new mid-career exhibition of Shonibare's work will open at Beuijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, which will travel to Kunsthalle Vienna. Also in February 2004, Shonibare will unveil a recently commissioned work for Moderna Museet, Stockholm.