This collection is an exploration of the contemporary black experience, encapsulating the varied themes that inform the modern black landscape. This body of work intends to extract familiar key aspects to take apart, understand and reassemble what belonging to this group is and what belonging means. Specifically, how we are represented in conversation with how we choose to represent ourselves.
Both on the continent and the diaspora this topic is complex in its contextual detail, historical reference and cultural diversity. It is lush with conflicting aspects that are continuously entwined with peoples’ reality and lives. Conversations and instances that reverberate through this identity, where systems dictate how they must navigate in order to survive however incoherent in nature or maddeningly destructive it may be. It is in the nuance of how these societal absurdities become normalized that my story begins.
In this body, the figures appear radically aware of themselves and their predisposition – even in their placement as something to be viewed. They stick out of their cages and scripted suppositions, exuding an alternative impression of humanity. They embody love, strength, dignity, perseverance and pride. Each depicted presence is a declaration of alive-ness, a determination of uplifted consciousness, and a reclaiming of dignity.
It is their re-appropriating/ repurposing of notions that simply prove inconsistent with the ever expanding black man or woman’s sense of self.
These are portrait paintings with attitude. Like the narrative of their subjects, they insist on the viewers’ attention. Combining the refined classic style of painting with abrupt cascades of floral motifs amplified by dark outlines, there is a playfulness between the real and unreal. This blend of styles is also symbolic of nature overcoming nurture.
I celebrate these people as I see their manifestation as subjects in the real world everyday. On the streets, on the news, in magazines, on television; it is in these moments that I find myself in awe. There is a spirit of overcoming which has taken over the past catalogue of horrors, horrors that a group people have endured purely by the colour of their skin. It is a spirit of righting wrongs and existing unapologetically. It is existing gloriously regardless. That is BLACK MAGIC.