Your Space Or Mine

Yinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreaming

  • 12 February 2021
  • Words by Marianne Eloise
Yinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreaming

The last time we worked with multidisciplinary talent Yinka Ilori, who recently received an MBE for his work in design, was last year. Towards the start of the first lockdown, Yinka designed a billboard project that aimed to uplift the public and remind them that “better days are coming”. For another instalment of our Your Space Or Mine project, we’re proud to be working with Yinka again on a much bigger collaboration across the nation.

Yinka’s large scale pieces work with pops of colour to transform public spaces like Thassaly Road Bridge and Dulwich Pavilion into eye-catching, inspiring works of art. Much of his work spreads words of positivity, like a recent commission by Harrow Council, for which Yinka took over an entire wall with a show-stopping rainbow mural reading “LOVE ALWAYS WINS”. His new billboards, which will be live for the month of February, are characteristically bright. Utilising his signature colours and unmistakable eye for design, Yinka chose the words “IF YOU CAN DREAM THEN ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”. With pink, bold outlined type against a playful background of green, yellows, pinks, and blues, it’s an eye-catching reminder that we are always allowed to dream.

Yinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreamingYinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreamingYinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreaming

We caught up with Yinka to talk a little bit about his work and this meaningful project:

How did you come to do the work you do now?

My background is in furniture and product design, but I’m an artist and designer. Over the years my work has become an amalgamation of interiors, furniture, graphic design, fine art. It’s mixed medium. The graphic design projects came in the last three or four years.

Congratulations on recently receiving your MBE – how did that feel?

When you’ve been doing something for so long, over ten years, you just keep going. It’s nice to feel acknowledged and appreciated for what you do for your country.

Tell us about your latest collaboration with BUILDHOLLYWOOD?

When I did the first one for BUILDHOLLYWOOD last year, lockdown was very raw and it caused confusion, stress and anxiety. We all felt that. There was no light at the end of the tunnel and the only thing I could do at the time was share the words that helped me. For this one I was trying to be a bit more hopeful, like, we’re still in control. We as humans are extremely powerful people. We can all dream, and the most important thing is that nobody can take that away from us. We’re at home 24/7, we can’t do stuff, but when lockdown is over and we can live, we can still achieve our dreams.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to see this messaging right now?

When you grow up everyone has a dream, and the beauty of life is that you can be a young kid in the poorest country in the world but you can still dream. When you dream, you’re able to take your mind and head to another space and create your dreams the way you want to create and shape your life. That’s the themes and ideas I’m trying to express and convey within that text and within the graphic work.

What do you like about working with public spaces?

One of the things I love about public spaces is that it gives everyone the access to experience my work. You haven’t got to go to the V&A or the Tate Britain. You haven’t got to go a gallery space. You can walk past by accident. I love going to galleries, but you have to plan going in, go there, it costs money. When it’s public spaces, I’ve had emails from people saying, I just saw your work because I saw it in Battersea or on an underpass. There’s no ticket or hierarchy. It’s for everyone and anyone.

How does your background influence your work and designs?

Two years ago I did a public piece for Dulwich Picture Gallery that was inspired by my visits to Lagos, Nigeria. Particularly going to a fabric market. I think I was really inspired during my last visit there with my mum and my dad three years ago. I try to capture moments within my head and remember moments by using colour and pattern and scents and smells to try and relive them, whether it’s in an installation or graphic design.

I come from a large community in North London that consisted of people who came from different parts of the world, whether it’s Uganda or Somalia or Poland. What was nice about those people was that we all had a common understanding. We shared this yearn for home but also the experience of being a British-Nigerian in London. One of the things for me that I’ve loved about that is that you’re exposed to so much culture and so many influences. I think you are able to expose yourself to so many new memories and ideas and ways of thinking because it’s on your doorstep. I felt like I had an encyclopaedia in my hand because every culture was in that estate.

What are you dreaming about?

I’m dreaming about traveling. Being somewhere hot with blue seas. I’m thinking of going to Greece, because I go to Greece twice a year and I think they’ve got lovely seas. I just want to get out of London! I get most of my experiences and ideas and thoughts from traveling, so now that’s been stopped, it’s really hard to get your creative flow going. You push yourself and think of new ideas and concepts when you’re traveling.

Yinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreamingYinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreamingYinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreamingYinka Ilori’s colourful quest to help you keep dreaming