New exhibition explores the cultural influence of black artists at Glasgow’s GOMA
A new exhibition exploring the contribution of black artists to Scottish culture has opened in Glasgow.
AfroScots: Revisiting the Work of Black Artists in Scotland through New Collecting was created in response to the “whiteness” of existing Scottish art history narratives and is on display at the city’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).
It brings together post-1960s art that draws on conversations around race, empire, independence, and postcolonial legacies.
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The curators said that although many of the artists featured do not necessarily identify with “AfroScots”, people of African and black Caribbean descent in Scotland, the term was used as a loose title for the collection of works by exhibited.
The exhibition includes the work of Barbadian-Scottish filmmaker Alberta Whittle, who lives and works between Glasgow and Barbados; Maud Sulter (1960-2008), an award-winning artist and writer of Scottish and Ghanaian descent who lived and worked in the UK; and Glasgow-based artist and DJ Matthew Arthur Williams, who has self-published a number of artists’ books and whose work was exhibited at the Edinburgh Art Festival last year.
Also featured in the exhibition are: Donald Locke (1930-2010), a Guyanese-born artist and sculptor whose art is included in various collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Aubrey Williams, a Guyanese-born artist who traveled to Britain in 1952 to study painting and was also a founding member of the Caribbean Arts Movement in the 1960s; artist and researcher Lisandro Suriel, whose Ghost Island project explores the identity of the descendants of slaves who passed through the Middle Passage during the transatlantic slave trade; and Ajamu, whose work centers on his sexuality and explores the stories of members of the LGTBQ+ community, particularly black men.
Glasgow Life, which runs GoMA, has been working on the exhibition with a group of curators called Mother Tongue since 2018.
Mother Tongue founders Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden originally came up with the idea of compiling a timeline of Black Scottish artists from the 1860s who lived, studied, traveled and exhibited in this country.
The acquisitions, which span from 1963 to 2019, were supported by Art Fund, the national art fundraising charity, with Professor Lubaina Himid as a mentor.
They are on display alongside a new Art Fund-supported commission from Barby Asante, a London-based artist, curator and occasional DJ whose work draws on the histories and legacies of colonialism.
Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman said the fundraising group was “delighted” to support GoMA’s new acquisitions, adding: “This exhibition brings together a significant group of works by black Scottish artists working in 1960s to today, highlighting their significant contribution to the country’s cultural landscape.
Katie Bruce of GoMA said the works on display had “amplified the work” of black artists in the Glasgow Life Museums collection.
She added: “It’s also exciting that the commission with Barby Asante, which we’ve been trying to do since 2017, is premiering here as part of this exhibition alongside the work of his peers that I’ve had the pleasure of. to bring into the collection.
“I am also grateful to all the artists, artist estates, collaborators, colleagues, Art Fund and especially Mother Tongue who have made AfroScots possible, despite the pandemic.”
A spokesperson for Mother Tongue said: “The archival and collections research leading up to this project has largely led us to seek out material based, and even relocated, outside of Scotland.
“A large part of this project sought to bring together African-Scottish artists, their work and life stories, and provide them with a local and accessible home for future audiences, arts practitioners and scholars.”
The exhibition, which is now open to the public, is housed in GoMA’s Main Gallery.