Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory 

Where: Barbican (The Curve Gallery), London

Pictures Allowed: Yes

Kid Friendly: Yes

Open: Mon-Fri 12.00 – 19.00, Sat & Sun 11.00 – 19.00

Price: Free Admission

A Countervailing Theory is a new series of large-scale drawings at The Barbican Gallery, The Curve and the first-ever UK commission by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola.

An epic sequence of 40 new works unfurl across the 90-metre long curved gallery, exploring an imagined ancient myth, all in tones of black, white and grey, each suggesting part of a story, as well as unapologetically asking questions of the viewer.

Through the use of pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and charcoal Odutola tells the story of a fictional pre-historic civilisation dominated by female rulers and served by male labourers, set in a surreal landscape inspired by the ancient rock formations of the Jos Plateau in Nigeria.


Each life-sized portrait is delicate and intricate, as it is beautiful. The works provide a stunning representation of a detailed and alternative perspective of figurative and landscape drawings, all the while challenging normative views of power dynamics, gender roles and sexuality. The series is reminiscent of a graphic novel each piece acting as an individual episode within an overarching narrative.


A Countervailing Theory presents a formidable sensorial marriage between image and sound. As viewers journey through the exhibition native instruments, electronics and natural elements created by Ghanaian-British conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye accompany the artwork, triggering your imagination and allowing you to assume your own narrative.

Words: Maggie Ibiam



Toyin Ojih Odutola, 'The Ruling Class (Eshu), from A Countervailing Theory, 2019.