Primavera, an Art Series

In this art series, Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp, finds herself inspired by European painters William Blake, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. These works aim to signify beauty and hope. In “Atlas Flower Barrel,” Atlas, who traditionally carries the world, is carrying an oil barrel stuffed and spilling with flowers. “Green Leaf Barrel” is fashioned on William Blake’s “Urizen,” measuring the contents of a life-sized oil barrel, which has bright green shoots coming from it. Plants are coming out of the oil barrels, changing the context of this utility. The sculptures “Blind Love and Grace” and “Primavera” illustrate Botticelli’s famous painting in three dimensions. Her version of Flora has a variety of toy cars among her flowers and she has brown skin. Grace giving benediction and her cherub are at the forefront of the forest, which is created by stacking oil barrels to create a screen. Camp’s concern is the cost of oil on indigenous people, but it is also about the strength of these people, the heroism of children in “God’s children,” and the beauty of the three graces depicted in “Europe supported by Africa and America.” These works are inspired by Michelangelo and William Blake respectively.

Primavera, 2015, Steel, Toy cars, 201cm x 72cm x 162cm


Botticelli painted “Primavera.” Most people recognize the word as something to do with spring, without knowing all of the facts. I have approached this work intuitively. The idea of spring, flowers, so bright and colorful that they look like sweets, mixed with new toy cars, that my niece’s children play with. Materialism and a clash of the past and the present. My sculpture carries flowers and toy cars that she seems to be collecting or giving away.

When I look at Botticelli’s painting, the beautiful people, their fine clothes, wealth and fantasy becomes so compelling. Primavera (the sculpture) is a visual image with a twist.


Blind Love and Grace, 2016, Steel, oil barrels, aluminium, gold, and copper leaf, acrylic paint, 278cm x 203cm x 135cm


The reinterpretation of a section of Botticelli’s painting. Created with oil barrels, cut in half then and opening up revealing Grace. A figure dressed in lace and a red shawl, looking like a West African lady but with the style of a renaissance figure.

The barrels are broken into branches that fan out to create an environment a  forest and light behind the figure of Grace. She holds up her hand as if blessing or giving benediction to the viewer. Banana trees balance the stage either side of her and a fat cherub pointing his arrow in readiness to pierce someone’s heart flies above. Everything is made of steel but they all seem light.


Green Leaf Barrel, 2014, Steel, Perspex, oil barrel, 190cm x 163cm x 143cm


William Blake has a drawing of a figure that looks as if it is creating the world; Urizen. Far from Blake, but not so far. My God is a woman. She is creating growth from a split oil barrel. Her lower half is covered by smurf pattern.


Europe Supported by Africa and America, 2015, Steel Abalone, Gold and Copper leaf and Petrol Nozzles, 200cm x 84cm x 97cm


This piece was inspired by a drawing by William Blake with the same title. I have Africanized the figures; dressing them in cloth that could come from different parts of the world; Asia a paisley motived fabric, then a Mondrian pattern that looks like sleek building blocks to represent Europe and a woven cloth with an Igbo pattern for Africa. The women have gele head ties (this fabric is produced in Switzerland). The three graces represent women in the world resting on their laurels as humankind is holding a wreath which ends with a petrol nozzles; their back drop is mountains and they stand gracefully on a cushion of lush grass and flowers.  I really enjoyed working with Blake’s sketch making sure the figures stood and touched as they do in his drawing. I think the work is international and conscious of our humanity and the coercion in working with each other and not caring for the environment.



Sokari Douglas Camp was born in Buguma, Rivers State, Nigeria. She studied fine arts at Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. Sokari has represented Britain and Nigeria in National exhibitions and has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide. In venues such as National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute 1988-89, the Museum of Mankind, London 1994/5. Her work is in permanent collections at The Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C., Setagaya Museum, Tokyo and the British Museum, London. In 2005 she was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art. In 2012 All the World is Now Richer, a memorial to commemorate the abolition of slavery was exhibited in The House of Commons. The sculpture was exhibited in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 2014.


Published on March 1, 2018.


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