Olu Ogunnaike


Credit: Diana Jarvis

Kent’s coasts play host to a plethora of migratory birds; taking these travelling birds as a starting reference, Olu Ogunnaike has made a sculptural bench from some of the same species of wood that these birds pass on their journeys across the globe. Whilst intertwining far reaching and exotic woods into its structure, the bench pulls together species of wood commonplace in Kent as the main materials for its construction. ‘Nesting’ is a functional sculpture that uses the opportunity to celebrate Kent’s various residents such as the chestnut and holm oak trees that grow so abundantly throughout the county; yet also nodding to the trees present in the different countries Kent’s resident birds deem their home throughout the changing seasons. Respectfully, the sculpture aims to highlight the multitude of plant and flower species that make up our ‘native’ landscape by layering divergent species of wood into one object; a bench that creates the possibility of multiple seating positions, with the adaptation to its local environment at the core of its design and by the same means echoing the interplay of the intercontinental plants and flowers present in the Sunken Garden.


Taking trees as repositories of memory within the places and communities in which they grow, Ogunnaike cites wood as a marker of possible encounters: between past and present; between people and the spaces they inhabit. He is interested in the parallels that can be drawn between humans and trees, tracing the moment a tree is uprooted from one geographical setting and placed in another, where it might be transformed. This story – of the composite and accumulative nature of our identities– is inextricably linked to community, labour and the transaction of exchange.


Bench production: Scott Stannard
Steel work: Fabweld Metalworks, Deal
Structural engineering: Bedir Bekar
Robert Smith and Chris Delia at Timberline, Tonbridge

The artist further thanks the friends and family he has spent time with on benches throughout his life.