Burke Residency 15: Tomisin Oluwole•
Posted on November 09 2021
EMMA: Hi Tomisin, I’m happy to have the opportunity to connect another Long Beach local and to learn more about you and your art.
TOMISIN: Thanks for having me!
E: Jumping in, I know that you work in several mediums—are a painter and a poet—and I’m wondering if, by way of introduction, you could paint a picture of your art for us with words and if you could articulate what you explore and express through your paintings.
T: Art for me is an extension of self, a fluid expression of my many selves, which includes parts of myself that I am also just beginning to explore. That’s essentially what I try to capture and articulate through my art. I am constantly drawn to colors which I suppose is where the fashion influence comes into play, and that is where the bulk of my intention lies in terms of my paintings. I am more conscious of the colors I decide on for a painting than I am of the form my painting takes, that aspect is usually more intuitive. I just let my imagination take me wherever it pleases, which often gravitates towards the abstract, particularly faces. I hope to elicit curiosity as well as a warm sense of familiarity through my paintings.
E: Now that you’ve introduced your art to us, could you tell us a little more about yourself—elaborate the picture to include the artist behind the work?
T: Of course! My name is Tomisin Oluwole (Tomiluw), and I am a multi-faceted artist currently living in Long Beach. I was born and raised in Nigeria, which is where my immediate family is still based, and I came to Long Beach about 6 years ago to study Fashion Merchandising at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). Presently, I am pursuing my Masters in Linguistics, which is certainly different but just as exciting to me. I published my first poetry book titled, Half Past in the A.M.: a conversation amongst selves, last year, and I continue to create when I am not studying haha.
E: On your website, you identify as a poet, painter, fashion stylist, and photographer. Could you talk a bit about how you engage these different artistic modes? Do they feel like separate undertakings for you or do you see them as being interrelated?
T: I view each of my artistic modes as branches from the same tree, they feed off and into each other. So, they feel quite interrelated to me. For instance, I might paint something or take a photo that inspires me to write a poem about it. And as for my fashion, every time I dress myself, I am honoring that artistic mode. I think the distinction or separation for me is in what aspect of myself they invoke or allow me to engage with. I’ve always had a broad and diverse range of interests whether it pertains to music or film or whatever. I don’t try to limit myself or my fascinations. For me, my artistic mediums inform who I am as a whole and are quite cohesive because at the end of the day, they’re all art.
E: Your book of poetry, Half Past in the A.M.: a conversation amongst selves, explores the self in different facets—the multiple selves and voices that we each have inside of us. I’d love to hear you talk more about this and to hear how this connects to your approach to your painting, poetry, photography, and fashion work. For you, are these each different means of self-exploration?
T: Yes, that is exactly what they are to me! Different means of self-expression. I keep coming back to this theme of many selves because I think society has reinforced this idea of identity or the self, as being this fixed construct when that is not the case at all. We are all multifaceted in some way, we are not just one kind of person or one thing, and that’s what I strive to articulate with and through my different artistic mediums. Publishing my poetry book made me reaffirm who I am as an artist because of the many voices I tend to convey in my poetry. So, putting it out there was sort of a nod to myself that it’s okay to be all these things, it’s okay to share these gifts too. Actually, it’s great! And that was what prompted me to start painting and to start sharing my paintings as well as more of my other mediums.
E: Your paintings are abstract and vibrant in color while a lot of your photography work that I encountered on your website has a dreamy, yet crisply curated feel to it and I’m struck by the range of voice and style that you express between these two medium. I’d be interested to hear if (and how) your approach to image-making differs between taking a photograph and making a painting.
T: I think there’s sort of an urgency to my paintings compared to my photography. For my paintings, the excitement is more palpable, especially because of the vibrant colors I use. It’s almost childlike in the sense that once I start painting, I feel like I have to finish it quickly because I am eager to see the final result. For my photography on the other hand, I usually let it sit for a while before I engage with it. The process seems calmer and slightly more methodical because I often have a particular intent for the photo I am taking, something I would like to use it for whether that is now or sometime in the future. I would compare my painting to a feeling, and my photography to a thought.
E: You hold a degree in Fashion Merchandising and are now doing graduate work in Linguistics. Do your studies in these areas inform your understanding of what it is for you to be an artist or how you practice art making in all the forms that you engage?
T: They definitely do. Fashion informs my paintings and poetry, while Linguistics informs my language about art, which also plays into my understanding of art in general. My studies make me see art in almost everything, not to be cheesy, but there’s certainly poetry in everyday living. What I mean by that is I can see things for what they are; how they are presented realistically, and for what they could be which I guess would be romanticizing or idealizing life. I suppose I am a realistic romantic, which explains why I am both in academia and the arts.
E: To end, I’d be curious to know if community and sense of place are things that you consider in your artistic approach and how they may or may not relate to the abundance of your sense of self (or selves.)
T: I think community and/or family is very vital in understanding myself. It feels good to belong somewhere, more so to feel like you have a sense of belonging and a support system which I am fortunate to have. I think a huge part of being an artist is learning to overcome imposter syndrome and knowing that your art has value and is a worthwhile endeavor, and that is not something that always comes from inside me at least. Not to mention feeling lost and alone in a foreign country. It can all be very daunting, so I’m super appreciative to have a sense of place here, and another home away from home. I can’t stress how much family and community continues to motivate my art as well as validate my abundance of selves.
E: Thank you so much, Tomisin, for answering all my questions and engaging all these ideas with me! I look forward to seeing your work at Burke!
T: My absolute pleasure! This was fun :)