Yinka Ilori tells the story of his Soho Farmhouse sculpture

Yinka Ilori tells the story of his Soho Farmhouse sculpture | Soho House

As part of the Soho Visionaries series, powered by Porsche, ‘Beacon of Dreams’ invites viewers to embrace nature, contemplation and the many meanings of joy

Friday 11 August 2023   By Soho House

Soho House and Porsche have joined forces to support and celebrate tomorrow’s creative changemakers with three exclusive commissions. One of the widely celebrated Soho Visionaries creatives was Yinka Ilori, the London-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer commanding form and colour with extraordinary force. Ilori often draws on his British-Nigerian heritage and firm belief that art and design should be accessible to all. 

Commissioned by Kate Bryan, Soho House’s Global Director of Art, the immersive sculpture is an invitation to pause and reflect. The monolithic shell-like structure is split down the middle, inviting visitors to enter and experience kaleidoscopic colours within. A bespoke soundscape, titled ‘N’be Sib La’ or ‘I am dreaming’ in the Mandinka language of Senegal and Gambia, was also specially created by Balimaya Project, Yahael Camara Onono and Jali Bakary Konteh. 

‘Beacon of Dreams’ marks Ilori’s first foray into working with sound, and he admits that the commission manifested a new direction for his practice. Below, he shares insights into his process to create the sculpture. 

Working with nature 
‘“Beacon of Dreams’ is a space where people can come together to reflect, meditate and process their thoughts and ideas. It’s very intimate, sits six people and is accompanied by a soundscape, which was curated, engineered and designed by Balimaya Project. The soundscape is essentially an addition to this experience of being able to pause for a few minutes in and around nature.

‘It’s a new kind of work for me. I’ve always done creative work in public spaces, but not in the countryside. It was such a powerful experience, because when you’re around nature, you’re forced to listen and really engage with birds, water and trees. You have to listen to what’s happening around you, as nature has its own life and breathes its own air.

‘I had to work with nature to create something fitting for this type of environment. The work I create is very much all about joy and colour, externally and within the space. But I was also looking to create something poetic and soft. And when you go inside, that’s where you experience the internal joy, this is where the magic happens.’

The power of public artworks
‘When creating works for public spaces, it’s all about the audience and their experiences, and connecting to people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. Art created for interiors can sometimes feel a bit exclusive, not for everyone. When you create work that’s free for everyone to enjoy, people get to experience it and create their own interpretation. They leave their imprint in what they take away, or add, or share with others.’

Delving deep into personal histories 
‘One of the inspirations behind this project is my childhood memories of going to Margate with my family. My parents are Christians and we went to a Pentecostal church, and every other month we’d go to Margate. After driving down in a coach from London with around 30 people, we’d spend a whole day praying by the beach. Memories of this spiritual performance have found their way into this work.’

The many meanings of joy 
‘The themes I am most interested in exploring through my work are mindfulness, spirituality and joy. I think the biggest thing for me is about trying to express internal joy, trying to exercise this idea that it doesn’t have to be loud. It doesn’t have to be arrogant or harmful. Joy can be internal, and it can be found in a wide variety of things that are different for different people.’ 

Watch Yinka Ilori talk about the inspiration behind his work in this Soho Visionaries short film.