Boundary I

February 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

There  are an only  a few  more  days to  the opening of the  exhibtion, One Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People,  at  Leeds  Art Gallery. I am  very excited  and privileged to be  exhibting Boundary I, alongside a range of fantastic artists!

Boundary I was created in 2000 and was included in the body of work that formed my solo exhibition ‘Private Face’. Then, as now, a distinct aspect of my practice as a painter focused and focuses on the African-Caribbean community in my home city of Birmingham.  I consider my work to be what I would describe as a form of ‘social documentary through painting’. My wish is to challenge the stereotyping and perhaps wilful misunderstanding of the African-Caribbean community that abounds, and to offer sophisticated and positive alternatives, by way of my art practice.

Boundary I takes its inspiration from, and centres on a barbershop, a familiar presence throughout the area of Handsworth, Birmingham, in which I grew up. Not surprisingly perhaps, the barbershop is very much a male dominated environment.  Yet in documenting a space such as this, I sought to dispel, or set to one side, the somewhat negative associations that dominate media images of black men. I wanted to present a sensitive, empathetic interpretation of one of the very few spaces in which black men can freely congregate and fraternise. The painting seeks to depict the social interactions that take place in environments such as this, where the rituals and ceremonies of everyday black life occur.

I am in many respects committed to Realism and see painters such as Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet, with their depictions of the labouring classes, as an inspiration for my work. I am very much interested in exploring the language of painting – what paint as a medium can do and what paintings can achieve. Working with a limited palette of muted colours, Boundary I shows two male figures – one the barber, the other the client. I have tried to capture a sense of the trust, mutual respect, shared experiences, and even, dare I say it, the affection that exists between the two gentlemen. As a woman seeking to document such a scene, I am in some respects an outsider. I have tried to use that outsider status to document rituals and spaces that might at first glance appear ordinary, but are, in actuality, of profound importance and great beauty

Boundary I (2000) Oil on canvas182 x 121 cm

Photo:  By Gary Kirkham ©


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