Friday, 30 October 2015

Aubrey Williams and 'ACTS OF REBELLION'

Aubrey Williams, the Guyanese-born artist of the mid-twentieth century is enjoying a place of pride posthumously in London at the moment. His work is both featured in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 – 1990’  and the of Aubrey Williams: Realm of the Sun. Whilst his work pre-dated the majority of the activity undertaken by Eric and Jessica Huntley he also ties into their own narrative. Both Eric and Williams came from Georgetown, Guyana and came to settle in London – fighting for prominence and security both socially and artistically in the capital. Williams was also a active member of the Caribbean Artist Movement, a London-based creative grouping formed of writers, artists, filmmakers and musicians formed in 1966. The Huntley’s were too members of this society, who wished to establish their creative positions, amalgamating skill and creativity and promoting their work. Whilst all the artist, activists and key figures in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 – 1990’ were notable and brilliant in their own right, it was often this drawing together that allowed them to strengthen their messages, reach their goals and gain recognition.

‘Act of Rebellion’ explores this history of Black British communities, engaging acts of rebellion through creativity and community to coincide with Aubrey Williams: Realm of the Sun (find a full event description and link to tickets below). Beverley Mason, project manager for the No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action is chairing ‘Act 2’ of the programme, a conversation between Kimathi Donkor, painter curator and lecturer and Paterson Joseph, a writer and actor.  The day and seeks to explore art, music, creativity and politics and the change in artists way of approaching racial identity

Acts of Rebellion 

A day of events presented by October Gallery Education, to coincide with the exhibition, Aubrey Williams: Realm of the Sun. Join us to explore the history of black British communities engaged in acts of rebellion and innovation through creative platforms. We will reflect on black history and culture through pivotal movements within art, language and sound that challenged the status quo. Taking this history and placing it in today’s context, will parallels or ruptures with the past reveal possible futures?
Historically, creative movements that challenge the establishment have grown to inform popular culture, creating hybrid identities. But what counts as an act of rebellion? Is it defined by the agent or the context? Over the course of 3 ‘acts’ (sessions), we will examine black histories through the impact of ‘rule breaking’ within artistic communities. Focussing on visual arts, music and literature, we will unpick the connections between rebellion, identity and creative power. How have artistic innovations affected the political landscape of today? And to what extent are artistsdealing with racial identity differently?

The Power of Language, interactive workshop: Kayo Chingonyi, prize winning writer(Poetry review, Wasafiri, The Best British Poetry). 

Artists in conversation: Kimathi Donkor (Tate, Iniva, Peckham Platform), Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Babylon, Othello).

6.00pm- 9.00pm 
Film screenings and D.J event with Soft Wax (Deptford Dub Club, Deptford X, Dilston Grove Gallery).
£3.00 for DJ event only, entry from 7 pm

Caribbean café and refreshments available.

Acts 1 - 3 will take place on the 2nd floor of the gallery, accessible by stairs only. 
The evening DJ event will take place on the ground floor of the Gallery. 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bringing the Black Back!

Personal Insight: read a stirring exploration of the exhibitions themes, backgrounds and aims from Colin Prescod, a sociologist and Chair of the Institute of Race Relations. A trustee of FHALMA, he's been involved with the exhibition from its inception. 

With “No Colour Bar/Black British Art in Action, 1960 to 1990”, FHALMA is delivering what promises to be a historic art and archive exhibition. The exhibition, with its rich 6 month events and education programme, sets out to be deliberately provocative, in the very best sense – conceptually mixing art and archive; polemically proclaiming Black Britishness; aesthetically blending art and politics.

The polemical provocation is a debating hot potato - bringing the Black back, and at the some time, bringing the Black forward! This particular Black being invoked here existed briefly but powerfully from the 1950s to the 1980s – and only in Britain. This is a Black that side-stepped the White invented ‘race’ notion, and which threatened to mash-up the divisive racial paradigm pressed on us all as part and parcel of a colonial-imperialist plan. This Black was a political colour – not some tricksy, coded, put-down skin colour. This Black was a militant, assertive, passionate colour of resistance – resistance to racism, to unfair discrimination, to denial of citizens’ rights, to systematic injustice and to political exclusion. This Black could and did include Africans, Indians, Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Latin Americans, and even Irish people. It generated a community of Blackness specific to Britain. This was a Black that unified and defined the spirit of a Black community that raged against crude everyday racisms – eventually fueling the urban rebellions of the 1970s and 1980s, which embarrassed and shamed the establishment.

Back in the day, somewhere in the 1960s – on the other side of what has been newly dubbed the Black Atlantic, the militantly inventive `Haitian/African- American piano jazz musician, Andrew Hill, sagely ventured “You can best extend a heritage by understanding its past thoroughly”. The “No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 to 1990”is doing its bit!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Artistic Insight: Sonia Boyce's 'She ain't holding them up, She's holding on (Some English Rose)'

Artistic Insight: One of our volunteers takes a closer look at  Sonia Boyce's work, interpreting its themes and significance. Sonia Boyce is one of the keynote speakers at the 10th Annual Huntley Conference happening on the 10/10/2015. Buy your tickets and find out more here. 

Sonia Boyce’s work is featured in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 – 1990. An English painter and multi-media artist, Boyce’s work explores themes of religion, politics and sexuality. She also explores her Caribbean and British identity, notable for bringing the experience of a black woman to the forefront of British art from the 1980's onwards. 

Sonia Boyce
She ain’t holding them up, She’s holding on (Some English Rose), 1986
Pastel and Gouache on Paper, Middleborough Institute of Modern Art (currently at No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 – 1990, Guildhall Art Gallery)

Boyce’s pastel self-portrait She ain’t holding them up, She’s holding on (Some English Rose) explores her existence within her family structure and her identity as both Black and British and how this manifests within her domestic life. 

Sonia Boyce’s pastel drawing depicts a young girl holding up her family with strong musculature arms, abstracted on a brown tiled background. A glimpse of a tropical landscape can be seen in the left top-hand corner, the deep blue sky contrasting with the earthy tones of the rest of the painting. Boyce’s depiction of her family is comprised of a mother and father, with two young girls perched upon his lap – the four of them dressed in smart clothing, as if ready to leave for church or posing for a family photo.  The young girl wears a deep red dress, patterned with thick black roses – alluding to the title and the English expression of ‘An English Rose’, a term for a classical and anglicised beauty.

Boyce’s pose almost mimics the classical pose of Atlas holding up the globe from Greek mythology, suggesting the emotional weight of the young girls support of her family. It conjures up Boyce’s own perception of her responsibility to them as the oldest daughter, whilst at odds with her youthful independence She is simultaneously connected to them, through the placement of her hands and distanced through perspective. Her frontal enlarged position places her at the centre of her family, but her connection to England, eluded to by the roses on her dress, suggest the different cultural identities at play within the family unit. The young girl is the link to the English world, presumably having grown up her as the child of migrants, whose experience of her families’ homeland is received only through her parents experience and mythic story telling. They recede into the picture frame, placed further back and closer to the tropical landscape that is almost out of sight.

The uncertain perspective, which appears to recede whilst remaining flat, is complicated by the view through this window. Through this, the works unstable perspective explores a confusion of identity and cultural displacement. It also demonstrates a surrealist influence, notably that of Rene Magritte who explored the ambivalence of appearance and reality in works such as This is Not A Pipe (1928 – 9). However, the girls assured stance, unfaltering gaze and strength demonstrates how her identity as a Black Englishwoman allows her to identify with both the African diaspora and the country she was born in. Boyce is not one or the other, nor is she limited by the mono-national conceptions of identity and Boyce goes even further to reframe the definition of an ‘English Rose’, emphasising that it is not beauty and strength mutually exclusive to a pale completion.

Sonia Boyce is one of the keynote speakers at the 10th Annual Huntley Conference happening on the 10/10/2015. Buy your ticket and find out more here.