Revisiting the work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting || OPENING EVENT

The Gallery of Modern Art warmly invites you to the opening of

Revisiting the Work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting
Saturday 12 March
2 – 4 pm

Barby Asante, Tam Joseph, Donald Locke, Maud Sulter, Lisandro Suriel, Alberta Whittle, Aubrey Williams, Matthew Arthur Williams, Ajamu X

The exhibition is a new show in the opulent Gallery 1 at GoMA that revisits the work of Black artists in Scotland through recent collecting. In collaboration with Mother Tongue – an independent curating duo – the exhibition focuses on showing older works from Glasgow Museums’ collection as well as new acquisitions through the New Collecting Award from Art Fund. Informed by Mother Tongue’s research, the exhibition will reflect on the current and historic presence of Black artists living, working, exhibiting and studying in Scotland.

As an art-historical project, Revisiting the Work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting attempts to create a new narrative within Scottish art, one that is more cognisant of issues surrounding race and visibility. There has been a significant lack of local recognition for many of the artists within this exhibition, and equally, their time spent in Scotland has often been omitted from broader Black-British art histories. The New Collecting Award aims to address the absence of Black artists within Glasgow Museums own collection; confronting issues of representation, decolonialisation and urges a rethinking of traditional Scottish art narratives.

Timespan (1987), Tam Joseph. Courtesy & © the artist.

Timespan by Tam Joseph (b.1947), is a key piece in this exhibition. Different in style to Joseph’s other work, Timespan is an interesting painting that reveals personal aspects to a seemingly abstract work with a leaping cat. The string holding the three photographs, one of an Egyptian pharaoh, one of Malcolm X, and one of Joseph’s daughter is the same length as the height of the artist. Joseph often resists the idea that his work is inherently political, and his art does not always fit neatly into the narrative of Black British artists in the 1980’s; however with the inclusion of Malcolm X and the personal dimensions of this work, Timespan can offer up such readings.

This painting will be shown alongside recent acquisitions of work through the New Collecting Award by post-WWII Caribbean/Guyanese artists Donald Locke (1930 – 2010) and Aubrey Williams (1926 – 1990). Both artists were in the generation before Joseph but share his interest in paint, surface and material, as well as personal histories of being black Diaspora artists from the Caribbean. This interest is also relevant to the work of St Martin Artist, Lisandro Suriel, who recently gifted 3 photographs to the collection. Other acquisitions through the New Collecting Award include works by Maud Sulter (1960 -2008) and Alberta Whittle (b. 1980). All of these artists are working with ideas concerning race, history and lived experience in Scotland.

In more recent work the artists understand the importance of feminist and queer approaches to their practice. Particularly in the work of Ajamu, Lisandro Suriel and Matthew Arthur Williams. They explore personal themes of care, love and sexuality that resonate with wider art practice concerns around the Black body in photography and the intimacy involved in the process. In particular, Williams has discussed his thinking and approach to the portrait of Ajamu on the Isle of Eigg; the aesthetics of black and brown bodies within a pastoral setting are important to explore. Black bodies have often been portrayed in agricultural fields under duress; Ajamu’s joy is a direct contradiction to an expected manner of representation.

The Queen and the Black-Eyed Squint: The Dream (2021) Barby Asante. Courtesy the artist. Photo Tiu Makkonen

The exhibition is at the core of an intersectional dialogue around historic places, archives and collections. With this in mind, Revisiting the Work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting will also premiere a new commission from the London based artist Barby Asante. The Queen and the Black- Eyed Squint: Glasgow brings to life two moments in the lives of two real, and one fictional, Ghanaian women at different moments in time. On 4th March 1957 Monica Amekoafia was crowned the first Miss Ghana; her prize was a visit to London. In 1977 Ama Ata Aidoo’s debut novel Our Sister Killjoy was published. Also known as Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint, Aidoo’s novel follows the story of Sissie, a young educated Ghanaian woman, who goes to Europe to ‘better’ herself and describes what she sees. Asante’s re-imagining of these instances brings them into the present and explores ideas of belonging and cultural memory and amnesia. These historical references are related to the contemporary discourse on Empire, race and colonialism within Revisiting the Work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting

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