Twist Out

Joy Labinjo

Part of the following series:

Tube Map

Art on the Underground are pleased to present the 36th commission for the pocket Tube map cover by London-based artist Joy Labinjo.

Titled Twist Out, the artwork accompanies Labinjo’s large-scale commission, 5 more minutes currently on view at Brixton Underground station. This new map marks the launch of London’s Elizabeth line which opened on Tuesday 24 May.

Labinjo’s artwork for the pocket Tube map cover depicts an intimate shared routine between a mother and daughter. A mother combs and divides sections of her daughter’s hair in preparation for a ‘twist out’ hairstyle. The scene draws on Labinjo’s experiences as a British-Nigerian woman and her memories of having her hair styled by her mother as a child.

Throughout her practice, Joy Labinjo often uses the power of storytelling to connect the figures in her work with broader themes. In this case, she asks us to consider how we are shaped by the quiet domestic routines that we share with family as much as by life’s larger events.

Labinjo created her original artwork using pastel on paper in her signature style of bold and sculptural strokes that are tinged with the warmth of personal recollection. The artist’s subtle humour animates the work – a shimmer of boredom is captured in the sideways glance of the girl, as she perhaps imagines where she would rather be.

Twist Out also links to the themes of community and belonging that are present in 5 more minutes, Labinjo’s commission for Brixton station, which depicts the imagined interior of a Black hair salon. In her portrayals of everyday private and public rituals around hair, Labinjo reflects on the experience of Black women and celebrates the visibility of Black female culture.

Hair and hairstyling have long been an important part of Black female history, as a positive expression of identity and culture but also as a conduit for racial discrimination and oppression. The ‘twist out’ hairstyle is notable as a style that transitions to a more natural look, away from using chemicals to relax and straighten Black hair, in adherence to Eurocentric beauty standards. In her exploration of hair as a subject matter, Joy Labinjo invites the viewer to consider the fullness of the Black female experience.

Joy Labinjo’s May 2022 Tube Map cover and large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station coincided with two presentations of her new work, ‘Ode to Olaudah Equiano’ at Chapter Gallery Cardiff, UK (25 March – 3 July 2022) and ‘Full Ground’ at Tiwani Contemporary, Lagos, Nigeria (25 February – 7 May 2022).

Joy Labinjo’s large-scale figurative paintings often depict intimate scenes of historical and contemporary life, both real and imagined. She uses sources including family photographs, found images and historical material. Her work connects to broad themes around history, identity, political voice, power, Blackness and race, and also relate to personal experiences of community and family.

Joy Labinjo said: ‘Here we have a mother and daughter, the daughter is sat in front of her mother whilst having her hair done. It isn’t me and my mother, however the scene reminds me of my mum doing my hair which was often the case before I was allowed to go to the salon. The mother is doing a twist-out hair style which is the title of the drawing. It’s a protective hairstyle for natural hair. The daughter has a bored distant look on her face and that was definitely my experience of having my hair done.’

Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, commented, ‘Joy Labinjo’s Pocket Tube map commission is breaking new ground centring Black female experience on the cover of the Tube map.  Drawing on similar themes of Black women’s rituals around hair, ‘Twist Out’ connects to Joy’s vibrant work ‘5 more minutes’ currently installed at Brixton station. As this map passes through the hands of millions of people in London, a small moment of domestic tenderness becomes a representation of the city itself. As it does so, it tells us that these stories matter.’

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