Figure 1: Yharnna Dior Joseph taken from Tetrahedron. Beauty, Identity and Conceal
The exhibition was to highlight the voices of black women and explore how this group is marginalised and stereotyped by mainstream society; all contributors are recent student and artists graduating from UAL.
I was interested in this particular exhibition for a number of reasons; as the work was created by recent graduates I wanted to use the experience to gain some sort of benchmark for my own artistic progression and journey ahead whilst exploring contemporary thinking around different artistic mediums.
Yharnna Dior Joseph in Tetrahedron, Beauty, Identity and Conceal explores how insecurities about colour and appearance amongst Black, Asian and women in general, come about by the need to conform to societal standards of feminine beauty. The artist’s photographic images were combined with text communicating real life narratives, often encountered by the artist whilst working on the cosmetics counter in a department store; the work was presented in the form of a large book mimicking the style of a fashion designer’s catalogue. Accompanying the book were two large unframed prints hung on small bulldog clips really bringing the presentation to life, in the way that a schoolgirl might pin a picture of her favourite model to her bedroom wall – Implying perhaps the very early stages that this cycle can develop and take control. The images and text were very poignant in how they reflected the very personal and human cost of this situation.
Figure 2: Molly Ofori-Mensah still image taken the film A Dancer’s Philosophy (2014)
Molly Ofori-Mensah has created a moving video film called A Dancer’s Philosophy (2014) a visual image of a young black woman rehearsing her dance routine in an empty studio backed by an increasingly intense hip-hop sound track. The visual imagery and relentless music creates a context for the narrative which comes in the form of voiceover which is a detailed and intimate commentary of what being a dancer is all about and what it means to the individual. The narrative is delivered in a measured and articulate manner and combines perfectly with the visual and musical components to bring the young dancer to life and we get a short period of time to receive an insight into a committed and talented young black woman whom you might never otherwise hear or see.
Figure 3: Silvia Rosi taken from Self Portrait as my Mother
Silvia Rosi uses her photography to explore themes of displacement and representation by staging self-portraits of herself posing as her mother in the style of the family’s early years living in Italy. Her mother and father had moved from Togo to Italy where they went onto make their lives and where Silvia was born and brought up. This project resulted from a personal visit to her mother’s homeland Togo where Silvia came across an old family album. Whilst I need to reflect more on such projects to get a sense of why I might or could attempt to follow this line of enquiry in my own work these black and white photographs were completely authentic and believable and on that level are really interesting in that they demonstrate perfectly photography’s relationship with the artist, viewer and reality.
Overall the work of the students was of a very high professional quality and was highly informed, direct, bold and brave but also very moving with real human nature radiating from all exhibits. I was very interested and engaged in the subject of the exhibition as it tackled how the conventions of society can effectively airbrush certain things, in this case black women, almost out of existence and allow entry only on the terms dictated by conventional thinking and opinion.
Born to a Chinese mother, English father within a white Lancashire working class environment later entering university and a corporate and business world characterised by the language of the English white middle classes, I am naturally interested in the position of the outsider in society and how this impacts on their thoughts, actions and experiences. It is certainly an area that I am interested in questioning more on a personal level as there are a number of ideas that have been brought about by this very thought provoking exhibition.
For more information on the artists and the Black Blossoms exhibition please visit:
https://blackblossoms.org/exhibitors-2016/ (accessed 26 September 2016)