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Untangling The Perils That Tangle Us

Eddie Saint-Jean, Arts & Culture

This group exhibition at the Koppel Hive Project, Holborn Viaduct, is presented by Kanbi Projects, an art advisory and curatorial organisation with a focus on artists from Africa and the diaspora.

The exhibition’s title comes from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book ‘Between the World and Me’ where he writes: “I recall that even then I had not yet begun to imagine the perils that tangle us.” He speaks about the subjugation of the black body.

The 12 artists, working in painting, photography, video and sculpture, use diverse visual language to express themes around race and the complexities of blackness.

The artists: Julius Agbaje, Adesina Adegboyega, Odinakachi Okoroafor, Anne Adams, Chiderah Bosah, Austin Uzor, Chukwudubem Ukaigwe, Iyunade Judah, Hannah Uzor, Tobi Alexandra Falade, Paul Majek, Kehinde Awofeso

Curator Jumoke Sanwo, founder of the Revolving Art Incubator

The exhibition opened with an art panel – UNTANGLING BLACKNESS – which discussed the themes and issues highlighted in the work.
REVIEWER’S VIEW:

From the subtext of the floating, dance-like gestures in Chukwudubem Ukaigwe’s IGBA video projection to the religious iconography of Julius Agbaje’s stained glass inspired Familiar Crossroads, there’s a distinct and layered voice in every piece yet a thematic chorus beyond the disparate forms.

The ‘untangling’ speaks of understanding race through visual dialogue. The burst of colour in the upper gallery is a subterfuge to draw you into this discussion. But on closer inspection, the thematically layered tones and applications represent much more than the decorative or visually pleasing. And the Koppel Project Hive is the ideal space. One feels the hallowed white wall experience associated with contemporary galleries, less stuffy in this two-floor gallery on Holborn Viaduct.

REVIEWER’S PICK:

Julius Agbaje’s powerful Familiar Crossroads (2021) acrylic on canvas shows two headless figures in a finger touching pose that brings to mind Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. One carries a cross, the other an axe. His other work outside of this exhibition also repeats this headless feature. The stained glass inspiration is another running theme in his work.

WHATUntangling The Perils That Tangle Us (group exhibition)

WHEREKoppel Project Hive, 26-30 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2AT (Nearest Tube: Chancery Lane)

WHEN – 15th November – 17th December 2021, Mon to Fri 10am – 6pm

WHY – Discover rising African art stars like Julius Agbaje, Adegboyega Adesina, and Odinakachi Kingsley Okoroafor

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Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other

Arts and culture writer Eddie Saint-Jean (above) arrives for the opening of the Care, Contagion, Community, Self & Other exhibition at Autograph ABP, Shoreditch to find the very first work he sees mirrors the everyday reality of Covid Britain – but on closer examination, it’s a more personal discourse on life during the pandemic.

10 artists were commissioned for this pandemic-themed exhibition and Dexter McLean’s series of photographic portraits of those who contributed in some way to his care during the pandemic were selected to lead visitors into the front gallery. There’s a telling ‘familiar’ in their stark power and those masked features leaving just the eyes as windows to the soul speak to us in a way that is immediately felt but less easily read.

Dexter McLeanKamahl 2020. From the Commission Untitled

Responding to the themes of community and care within the context of the pandemic, the artists worked with the curators for a year to produce paintings, mixed media work, photography and video which expressed their reflections and experiences using diverse and sometimes contrasting visual language. The focus here was how the pandemic has impacted the sense of self and connection to others so opened up a discussion on isolation, touch, transmission, interdependency and social contact.

From Silvia Rosi’s restless and ironically playful black and white video and photography in Neither Could Exist Alone to Pouloumi Desai’s mixed-media petri dish-themed imagery in Our Cultures Are The Portals, we find ourselves navigating the past year and a half through their eyes and asking in a shared voice: “what happened, what was 2020 all about?” and “where are we now?’ Three simple questions. The artists aren’t there to provide answers but to be part of that debate and open the discussion.

Silvia Rosi, – Neither Could Exist Alone, 2020
Poulomi DesaiOur cultures are the portals – the gateways between one world and the next, 2020

Also you might be interested to know the gallery was designed by Ghanian-British architect Sir David Frank Adjaye OBE RA. While visiting the exhibition you may want to check out the cool checkerboard-style exterior.

Below, the full list of commissioned artists.

Free Exhibition
Curated by Renée Mussai, Mark Sealy and Bindi Vora

23 Sep 2021 – 12 Feb 2022

Autograph
Rivington Place
London EC2A 3BA

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Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is a familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.

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3 Indian Artists To Watch Out For In The Post-Pandemic Resurgence of the Art Sector

Eddie Saint-Jean, arts and culture

The pandemic sent shockwaves throughout the art world, disrupting market behaviour and shaking up the creative routines of both established names and new talent. Although innovative digital offerings such as NFTs increased in popularity and value, the wider cultural and creative landscape dipped significantly and research shows the sector will be the last to recover. Regardless, three emerging artists look set to ride the waves of market volatility and make their mark in the ever-fluctuating world of international art.

The first of these, printmaker Suman Gujral is an abstract artist whose focus is the 1947 Partition of India. For her MA in Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire she conducted research into the history of printmaking in India and learned more about the Partition. She describes print as the medium of protest. Her etchings and monoprints are utilised to create spectral maps which show the fractural markings of the displaced and lines of divisions. She works on zinc etching plates and sometimes exhibits the plates themselves.

Light and dark are recurrent themes in her work. She tries to show that events of the past cast shadows that affect us today – and light does the same thing. Despite the intricate detail, fluid geometric language and circular themes, she approaches her work without a strict plan – certainly in her triptych Tears/Tiers created on khadi, a hand-woven natural fibre cloth. She says ‘I let the material guide me’. The work speaks of coping with lockdown and the sadness of social separation.

Her work varies in size from the large scale to the handkerchief-sized All My Sorrows, which is a monotype created on her father’s handkerchief and shares his Partition experiences. She uses barbed wire to show the borders drawn up by the colonial powers which caused division and displacement. The choice of palette is meaningful in historical and geopolitical ways – the blue black ink is the colour of the shadow cast by the Partition and the dark, late hours used as cover by the displaced as they fled. Her work on the Partition led to her current work examining the Migrant Crisis which has similar themes around displacement.

Anirban Mitra’s brightly coloured work is in stark contrast to Suman Gujral’s more introspective monochrome prints. This Kolkata-based painter’s unique visual language presents characters from popular culture crammed together on canvas but claiming their own sacred spaces sometimes within halo-like compartments. Everything from cartoons to religious imagery is used in this way.

His palette has a luminous, neon-like quality which adds to the hallowed effect of the narrative. This is evident in works such as Exhibition of Kalighat painting in Victoria Memorial Hall (2013) Acrylic on Canvas. Calcutta was a main geopolitical centre during the colonial period and there are many references to colonial dignitaries and their statues. The bright colours inject the piece with irony and parody.

India (2009)

Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India is amongst the figures depicted in this way, and you can see how the cartoon-like caricature deliberately inverts his grandeur and authority. Themes around British colonialism are quite common in his work and the gains of modernisation during the period are weighed against the ills of colonisation.

To define his work within current art brackets would be difficult; however, some works such as India (2009) and The Act of Redrawing Mr. Muscle are dotted with pop art references. Popular culture is ubiquitously underscored – you’ll find comic book style imagery and Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse in Grow More Food, 2010 planted in disparate corners to emphasise the playfulness and irreverence.

Born in Narag, India, Parag Sonarghare’s paintings are sometimes almost indistinguishable from photographs because of the detail. He developed his precocious talent during his school days when he tried to copy the works of the Great Masters using a pencil. By the time he moved to Baroda, his style incorporated both popular culture and traditional figures. In this new environment he soaked up this exciting and challenging new aesthetic and the wider range of cultural and popular influences. Painting and Performance Art became his preferred medium but the work he does today is a form of Hyperrealism often featuring male nudes – and he models himself.

He is at pains to point out he is not out to merely make realistic copies of the physical form and his art often contains expressionist statements that belie the accusations that his work is indistinguishable from that of a photographer. Since his first sale at the Jahangir Art Gallery in 2008, his focus has been the evolution of this visual language. He has examined issues such as identity and again reimagined context and time wherever it is layered thematically. There’s a post-modern twist in works such as 5 For Substitute, (acrylic on canvas) where he takes mythological themes and reworks them with a contemporary tilt.

This playfulness never undermines his intricate craft. It’s the focus of a draughtsman but the excoriation processes of an artist. Notably, he produced a large-scale painting of hands and his mind-bogglingly accurate brushwork maps every fingerprint with a level of detail that makes it easy to understand why it took half a year to complete. The 6ft tall work shows the signs of manual labour in the torn and calloused skin. Indeed, you can read the life struggles of the subject in the open-handed gesture in a few glances. Usually, artists use their subjects’ eyes to convey tropes of emotion and character but Sonnarghare has redirected our focus.

Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.

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Jennifer Akinsuyi – From Gallerist To Visual Artist

British-Nigerian gallerist Jennifer Akinsuyi ran her JonaQuestArts Gallery from a much sought after location in Greenwich, London in the heart of its tourist centre, with eager footfall only a maritime museum away. However, she decided to close operations a few months before Covid hit these shores and the pandemic accelerated her move from gallerist to visual artist in her own right.

Jennifer’s art being admired at the Battersea Affordable Art Fair 2021

She says she committed to painting in 2018 after dabbling for a few years. She was not a trained artist but decided to try out her talents by exhibiting her work in a gallery without letting people know her background and to her surprise her work started selling quickly.

She specialises in abstract art with an African element. One piece in her Rise series is notable for its reflective and philosophical blue palette and comments on the trials and tribulations in a life’s journey and how we must learn to take the rough with the smooth.

Also, her mixed media abstract work speaks of Nigerian culture and the lace fabric worn at parties. These pieces from her Owambe series are decorated with diamond dust and swarovski crystals.

‘Owambe’ – J Suyi studio
Jennifer’s abstract art alongside the work of the artists she promotes and represents

She still promotes other artists and the Jona Quest Arts brand lives on through pop ups and art events. Her gallery championed and empowered female artists and those from minority groups and she is still passionately committed to this. A selection of her artists’ work was on show at her stand at the Battersea Affordable Arts Fair, July 2021 alongside her own paintings and sculptures.

Amongst the artists she was showcasing – Ronald and Euwitt Nyanhongo from a multigenerational family of Zimbabwean sculptors who specialise in Shona sculpture. Birmingham, UK-based Ronald uses opal, springtone and green nyanga serpentine for his creations while Euwitt works in opal, sprintone Nyanga serpentine, leopard rock and lapidolite to depict the natural world and the spirits and mythological beliefs of Zimbabwe’s Shona tribe. Both artists have made a name in their own right but come from a renowned family of Shona sculptors .

Jennifer regards her own work as an expression of her dual British and Nigerian heritage. Much of her creation is found in an examination of existence, humanity and society and coloured by travels to and interaction with her African heritage, combined with the cultural stories of her London base.

Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.

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West End Gallerist Tony Cole

Tony Cole left a secure, well paid job in public sector management to switch to his first love art and take his first steps into business. Coles Art Gallery is in an ideal location between Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road stations, with a constant flow of customers drawn to West End visitor attractions. We ask him about his journey into the world of art and his West End celebrity clientele.

What inspired you take the leap of faith and open Cole’s Art Gallery?

I began as an art collector. My best friend’s wife was Cuban and we went to her homeland several times on holiday and fell in love with the art there and that was where the art collection began. This inspired my passion for art on a larger scale and as time went on I began to think differently about art and its concepts. I considered having a gallery that was different from anywhere else, one where you could come in and find pieces that you could relate to culturally and connect with.

What was your profession before you were a gallerist?

I worked in offender management in policy and for the courts, but ultimately my love of art already had its lane that ran alongside my full time profession. Lots of people have that past-time they pursue alongside their 9-5. As the years go by, you don’t want to be laid to rest knowing you have never pursued passions or explored who you really are.

The funny thing about doing what you really love is you open up this new world within yourself that you wasn’t really aware of. You find out how resilient you are and how impassioned you can become. More importantly, you find out how to connect with people within this new world. The positive feedback I’ve had in a short space of time is more than in all my previous jobs put together. If I had known that beforehand I would have chosen this path earlier.

This is a pretty impressive and much sought after location. How long have you been based here?

Since December 2020, so about 7 months. During lockdown we had to close for certain periods so went through a series of reopenings like everyone else.

What’s the custom like at this spot?

It’s very interesting in this part of the West End. You get to meet all sorts of people – tourists, actors, theatre professionals, people out for a night out or on the way to a restaurant, even locals walking their dogs – so a good mix. Also aspiring artists pop in and chat to me about my background and journey and are inspired by it and in some cases I end up working with them and there are pieces in this gallery that have come from that.

Have you had any interesting or famous customers?

Actors, athletes, musicians and also other professionals who have made purchases because they discover work here they don’t find elsewhere. Out of respect for these customers I wouldn’t like to mention their names but I do appreciate their custom.

Where do you find your artists? Do you work with or represent a group of artists?

What I do with my gallery is similar to what Berry Gordy did with Motown. I have 4-5 artists I work closely with. In terms of concepts and art pieces, we always have that prior conversation about concept so it’s not a case of them handing in any piece of artwork and hoping it works. It has to fit the gallery.

We are diverse in that it doesn’t matter what the background of the individual is. As long as the person is talented and able to deliver on what this gallery requires, we are able to work with them. Ultimately, that level of professionalism, mutual respect, reliability and consistency is important. This is about art and nothing else, this isn’t a platform to make any other statement, it is strictly about creativity.

What are your future plans?

We aim to launch as many talented artists as we can. We want people to know us for our brand and be recognised as that gallery where you can get rare pieces for a reasonable price. People get put off buying original art because of how expensive it is but we can agree a reasonable price. We strive to make the impossible possible and deliver a quality service.

Tony Cole, Cole’s Art Gallery

Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.

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Fourth Plinth Shortlist

Arts and culture writer Eddie Saint-Jean visits the National Gallery to check out the current sculpture on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square and the work of the six shortlisted artists.

From afar, the current sculpture The End, by artist Heather Phillipson, looks like a giant ice cream cone but wander a little closer and you’ll see it’s quite obviously whipped cream with a fly, cherry and drone on top. Well, that clears that one up!

By July 2021, the vote will be over and this sculpture will be replaced by a new commission.

There are six shortlisted art works and two will be selected as the Fourth Plinth commissions for 2022 and 2024.

You’ll find the exhibition in the National Gallery’s Annenberg Court space on Level 0. Free admission

The six artists are from the UK, Ghana, Mexico, America and Germany –  Ibrahim Mahama, Paloma Varga Weisz, Samson Kambalu, Goshka Macuga, Nicole Eisenman, Teresa Margolles

On Hunger and Farming in the Skies of the Past 1957-1966 Ibrahim Mahama

A recreation of a half complete grain silo in Tamale, northern Ghana abandoned in the 1960s during construction and now overrun by nature. Ibrahim Mahama’s work is a continuation of his narratives around found objects and their historical and cultural context.

Bumpman for Trafalgar Square Paloma Varga Weisz

The German-born sculptor and draughtswoman draws inspiration from her country’s folklore and 16th-century pamphlet illustrations. The Bumpman is a quiet, humble figure whose body disfigurement draws attention to modern-day issues of body dysmorphia.

Antelope Samson Kambalu

Kambalu’s bronze sculpture celebrates two important figures in Pan-Africanism, Malawian Baptist preacher John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley. The distinctive hats reference Chilembwe’s refusal to obey a rule which forbade blacks from wearing hats in the presence of whites.

Go No Go Goshka Macuga

The rocket launch, in sculptural visual language, represents the take-off of a new post-Covid era. The juxtaposition of the start and end of a transformative period in history.

From the powerful cultural and historical references of Samson Kambula’s Antelope, to the rocket-charged visual language of Goshka Macuga’s GO NO GO.

The Jewellery Tree Nicole Eisenman

Size aside, this is no ordinary jewellery tree. The trinkets adorning its arms appear worthless, ephemeral and out of place but it’s up to the viewer to ponder the unseen value and hidden memories.

850 Improntas (850 Imprints) Teresa Margolles

The Mexican sculptor will create 850 face casts of members of the trans community. The total casts will be constructed to resemble a tzompantil skull rack from ancient meso-American civilisations used to display sacrifice victims or body parts from prisoners of war.

So who get’s your vote? Vote here.

Below are some of my previous National Gallery art reviews

Michelangelo and Sebastiano

Beyond Caravaggio

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Basquiat’s Versus Medici: The Black Renaissance

Eddie Saint-Jean, arts and culture

Why did Jean-Michel Basquiat give his painting that title Versus Medici and how is it connected to the current Black Renaissance? Well, here’s some background.

The Medici Family: A wealthy family of fifteenth-century Florentine merchants who were patrons of artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and powered the Italian Renaissance.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: A black American Post-Expressionist and graffiti artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent who was pals with Andy Warhol and Madonna and sold his first painting to Debbie Harry of rock band Blondie. His neo-expressive works created in the 1980s became much sought after art market treasures and his Versus Medici (1982) is expected to fetch $35 million -$50 million at auction in Sothebys, New York on May 12.

Jean-Michel Basquiat ‘Versus Medici’ (1982) SOTHEBY’S

In creating this work, Basquiat had no intention of emulating or depicting the Medici’s ascent from bankers to politicians, aristocrats and royals but in the early 1980s this Florentine family were clearly on his mind. During this period, he travelled to Italy for the first time seeking out patrons for his own work. His meeting with gallerist Emilio Mazzoli in 1981 led to his first ever solo exhibition at his Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Modena.

The show was named SAMO, which was his graffiti tag at the time. Interestingly, he later sought to distance himself from his graffiti roots once he made the transition from the streets to the studio, believing it devalued his cultural importance. His New York, New York, first displayed at the Modena exhibition would sell for $11m in a Sothebys sale in 2018.

Jean-Michel Basquiat ‘New York, New York’ (1982) SOTHEBY’S

The Brooklyn-born prodigy could read and write by the time he was four and spoke several languages fluently. In early adulthood, there was little sign of him curtailing this undoubted genius and by age 21 he was as sure of his place in art history as any of the Medici artists – even Michelangelo and Da Vinci. The Versus Medici work created at the time shows just that.

And is he crowning himself in that painting? Perhaps it marks the passing of the canon from the Florentines to the New Yorker. Or does it foresee Basquiat’s position at the head of the Black Renaissance in much the same way as Lorenzo and Cosimo de Medici held court in fifteenth-century Italy?

His use of triptych panelling in Versus Medici underscores the Renaissance influences in the work. When Basquiat was starting out as an artist and struggling to make ends meet he would paint on whatever was around including discarded pieces of wood, floorboards and household panelling. In Versus Medici he has used three panels joined together which have the workmanlike look of the type of makeshift canvas he would have used in his earlier years.

He was not so much mimicking the tripartite altarpieces of medieval Italy as shaking the foundations of their unchallenged religious, political and racial tropes. This is no Transfiguration, St Jerome, St Augustine triptych by Botticelli but Basquiat clearly sees himself within that hierarchy.

Basquiat’s career lasted only seven years – he overdosed on heroin aged 27 – but his ascent was meteoric and his output considerable, producing over 2,000 works. His ‘Untitled’ Skull, 1982 painting with its raw, visceral, street art-style gestures against art convention would become the world’s most expensive painting by an American at auction in 2017 selling for $110m. The hefty price tag showed that whether or not his usurping of the Medici lineage is to be taken seriously, his work could still attract modern-day super-rich Medicis at auction.

Jean-Michel Basquiat ‘Untitled’ (1982)

The current Black Renaissance seeks to raise awareness about the importance of the black cultural gaze and socio-political experience and comes after the BLM protests in 2020. Basquiat, the most successful black artist in history, often faced racism and was routinely hassled by security during international flights because he sat in first class with dreadlocks.

His work challenged the white eurocentric gaze and subverted Western visual language; notably in Versus Medici where he positions himself at the vanguard of an undisclosed new renaissance. For these reasons, his work resonates with the Black Renaissance movement, which is now reaching out beyond the USA.

Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1984. Photography by Richard Corman

Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is a familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.

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Denise Wyllie’s ‘Absolutely Cuthbert’ selected for RWA Annual Open

The Royal West of England Academy‘s Annual Open is in its 168th year but every year is a special celebration of undiscovered talent and established artists. Artist Denise Wyllies screen print Cuthbert is amongst the 600 selected works, which include photography, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, painting, installation and mixed media.

It’s been a memorable spring 2021 for the artist. She was recently selected as a member of The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, who exhibit at the Bankside Gallery.

Wyllie’s art practice is primarily painting and printmaking – her portrait work in this Cuthbert series involves both.

Absolutely Cuthbert is a mono-print screenprint of a young fashion designer from her creative circle.

The RWA 168 Annual Open Exhibition opened on 17 April. Denise Ballard Wyllie was amongst the attendees at the private view.

Let’s have a closer look at how she turned Cuthbert the fashion designer into ‘Absolutely Cuthbert’ the work of art.

Cuthbert and artist Denise Ballard Wyllie
The Cuthbert series – different screenprints of portrait
Expressive detail and colour changes in each portrait

Denise Ballard Wyllie: “I loved drawing and screenprinting this series of prints at London Print Studio. The process enabled me to realise such a variety of possibilities. There were 20 monotypes and editions”

Visit the RWA Annual Open to see the ‘Absolutely Cuthbert’ screenprint up close.

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Othello De Souza-Hartley: Cataloguing Emotions

Artist Othello De’ Souza-Hartley

This solo show by Othello De Souza-Hartley is notable amongst the Covid 19 era London exhibitions because of the body and architecture connection, poignant at a time when there is heightened focus on the relationship between the self and the confining surrounds of our homes. However, De Souza’s work utilises concepts he had developed well before the coronavirus pandemic.

He brings together the photography from his I Am and Masculinity series as well as the paintings from his Studies portfolio. He describes the exhibition as a discourse on the sexualisation of the male body and the architecture it resides in and that’s around it and also representations of female black beauty. There’s a candid excoriation of elements of memory in all the work.

Othello De’ Souza-Hartley (centre)

The naked black figures in the photographic work are occasionally foetal; lying on spotlit, cold, industrial or factory floors. They impart that focus on memory in a dyadic language; almost womblike yet at the same time isolated and detached, in a powerful examination of representations of the black body and beauty.

I AM (2017)

Othello said: ” My paintings are a visual diary of emotions while my photographic work is heavily inspired by architecture and interiors.”

Within that photography is some stark and powerful light play that brings to mind the baroque methodology of masters such as Carravagio.

This exhibition marks the first time all the work from his main creative practice have been brought together in one gallery space.

CATALOGUING EMOTIONS: An Exploration of Body, Architecture and Memory

Koppel Project Exchange, 193 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EU, UK.

9th – 20th October 2020

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