Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Black Splatter Movement

I came across I book about the month ago and haven’t wanted to take it back to the library. Information is Beautiful by David McCandless, its filled with data from the internet, crunched and formulated into highly aesthetic diagrams. Some of these diagrams and charts utilise figuration, some are abstract – but the the book is also about bringing together seemingly profound and trivial information on the same plane. Now he also wrote an essay on Postmodernism, which is processed web information like the rest of the book. I found it short and succinct and very optimistic (unlike other texts I've tried to read) but not completely na├»ve – if we embrace complexity, diversity and ambiguity there is a danger at arriving at no meaning – he calls it a grey goo.

While participating in the march last week, I was thinking about the temporary nature of collective political identity – I wasn’t going to see those people again but we banded together, under one cause for a moment and then dispersed… I’m jumping now, but I had also attended a talk the week before at INIVA. At some point in questions, the inadequacy of the term ‘Black’; used as broad brush to politically encompass very different ethnic communities was discussed. In a sense that inadequacy is what brought the International Institute of Visual Arts into being.

Anyway they found a way around that one – but in the end my little niece still has to workout whether she is black or brown – that’s a big distinction for a 6 year-old to make. To be honest I've always struggled with never being ‘Black’ enough. I'm working in 'watery' ambiguity but going back to McCandless it might more resemble his meaninglessness goo.


Photo by Oneterry

These days I’m writing really long entries – I lost the courage to post for a while and now I feel like I’m catching up. This is just how it is for now – you’ll just have to bear with me…lol

Now going back a year or so, just before I started this blog, I wrote some epic emails to people I respected, I dunno, I was looking for answers to questions I was afraid to ask in public. At that time Afro Modern had opened at Tate Liverpool, some how I was really frustrated. Obviously this show was related to Liverpool’s part in the black Atlantic story. But I was disappointed in another show talking about the black subject within the context of the Colonial/Postcolonial.

I asked a friend (an academic) could the black subject be discussed in any other terms? Modernism happened in one hemisphere, colonialism happened in another - and that logic simply extended to the ‘Post’ versions of them. Nicolas Bourriaud (I’m told) was attempting to tackle this with his global idea ‘Altermodernism’. But it was met with much scepticism; understandable really, it was at Tate the and exhibition was largely engaged with established representatives from the industry, begging the question – what kind of globalism did the show actually represent?

So anyway the end of my story… my friend encouraged me to speak up. So I am now standing on my virtual soapbox, asking my questions - but I've just realised it’s taken me a whole year to ask the first one.

Friday, 2 December 2011


I was invited to a talk by the Precarious Workers Brigade (PWB), the subject of the talk - service as a vocation, as mission, as a tool. Although I do struggle from time to time with professionalism, I have done a lot of ‘work’ unpaid and on a temporary paid basis – I dunno it intrigued me. Some members of this group existed within the art sector. This Brigade resembled a ‘union’, created in response to the many contradictions and inconsistencies that arise within the sector.

The audience was largely made up of art students, internships was mainly the subject of discussion when put to them. Rich for me to say, but I wasn’t very sympathetic, probably because of that expectation; education = Jobs, because we now have a thriving art sector. PWB is a performative artwork, which has some plastic outcomes (like flyers and leaflets) - but having an effect as a movement? They found difficulty in answering that…

They eloquently put it in a nutshell - it’s a ‘double bind’, those lack of rights and stability are the consequences of the creative freedom we desire.

‘Service’ in relation to the stuff I make, has always been a difficult concept. I make something very specific, it comes from my own head – it’s not particularly an objective process but I dedicate a shitload of time to it. Sometimes there’s overlap - the work touches someone else – maybe they like it, maybe they respond to it, they might even buy it. So in not always being a service or commodity explicitly, what are you left with? How does one continue to enquire and create as an individual committed to (an idea/ideal of) ‘art’? How does one’s activities evolve in relation to circumstances?

What wasn’t spoken about was the idea of labour, since the focus was white-collar work. I’m still preoccupied with blue-collar work, not because it’s a reality right now – but because it’s a notion, which pervades my life; how I interact with people. I’m reading at the moment, but somehow still need the 'feel good factor’ from tangible outcomes.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ontologically Anxious Organism (Episode 1) from Let Me Feel Your Finger First on Vimeo.

by Let Me Feel Your Finger First


Abstract Expressionism historically has been posited as a heroic and pure ideal; certainly in relation to 50’s American manifestations – it’s almost like a bad rep that’s proved difficult to shirk. Apart from the political appropriation of the abstract, it’s always struggled with being esoteric, since many cannot recognise themselves or their values with in it. It gets me thinking again about consciously trying to make ‘universal’ artwork – I’ve heard this word a lot recently. I’m kinda sick of it, cus in reality we work in very small clusters of common interest. The very large ones cost a great deal to maintain – like our crumbling economic one.

Now I make black blobs on paper sometimes, I’m not sure how long I’m gonna make them. But I found myself at a symposium about abstract art a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued to see how artists positioned within this field approached the abstract conceptually and methodologically. As I suspected it wasn’t simple, the exhibition that accompanied the event was a vague commonality between the artists involved. Each had very different perspectives and all were very conscious of being branded in way that felt limited. Naming is tricky as it brings you to a historical context, requiring confrontation, complicity or avoidance – take your pick. And of course that confrontation varies in relation to who it is, and where they are. So as a student of art, a teacher of it, as well as being black, a woman (and any other bandings I could fit under) abstraction in relation to expressionism is a tad problematic. I put my drawings on bulky old technology, in a time when ‘identity’ seems to be a debate left in the 80’s and 90’s.

Monday, 7 November 2011

TTFN Studio

It may seem like a strange thing to do, giving up studio but ‘post studio practice’ is more a acceptable mode of operation nowadays - I’m told.

Well... there still needs to be site for production. I make self-contained stuff these days, so I need somewhere relatively private to make it, and I'm lucky enough to have options. The ‘studio’ as a professional resource can become an affectation. Right now it just feels like burden, extremely expensive to run in some way or another.

Knowing that I was going to give it up (for a spell-ish) gave open studios a bit more meaning. In some respects its allowed coming to terms with the black studio project. It’s been as a kind of analogy for being bounded by a convention of ‘art education’ or 'art practice'. I've had the same studio for looooong time. Its become an institution in itself. If context is half the work, then it makes sense to change it every once and a while. Lets see what happens…

Thursday, 3 November 2011


As a slightly younger person, I couldn’t do anything without music– I always considered my life as one big mix tape. Being a little older concentrating takes a bit more work, so less noise… But the studio always has some kinda noise; I’m not talking about power tools here (although I’m partial too them on occasion).

I recorded bout 6 or 7 hours of video while cutting the hairball, at times the process was meditative, other times frustrating and I will admit - even a little boring. Labouring seemed to be a big part of it, I dunno, maybe as a substitute for skill. I used to be really obsessed with skill, but that kind of preoccupation felt limited for me. I was really ambivalent about the ball, one day I would go in with the intention of making it ‘right’- another day I would go in to fuck it up. That’s a big milestone, as I’ve always been rather precious about the things I’ve made.

UTBA Sphere 2011 (still)
Big thanks to Paul Jones for technical assistance

So I made a trio of pieces, the remains of the ball, a speaker sculpture and a virtual animated projection of the elusive ideal. The sound piece and its delivery system had gone through some evolution. Lets say it was another good exercise in recycling and making do.

For open studio I wanted to pay homage to the space, I planned to take break from it. Actually I’d become too attached to it, its been like a home. There were some really beautiful (some might call) corny moments like listening to Jimmy Scott during a thunderstorm or a drum lesson ricocheting down the adjacent corridor. It got me thinking whether the speaker piece could operate somewhere else (like the bags I made so many years ago) - or whether site specificity would prohibit its existence or relevance in another space and time…

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Open Studios 30 Sept - 2 Oct

Next opportunity to see my work, and my studio in a clean state will be during open studios 30 September - 2 October 12 -6pm. I'm using this opportunity to sketch out a couple of new ideas, I've been working with Paul Jones on a new piece. Other Arthouse artists will be showing their work throughout the building and we also have a great show in the gallery. This coincides with Deptford X Arts festival which launches next week, should be a great weekend.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Attempts to Get Inside the World

I have a little object (or should I say remains of an object) in this exhibition/conference - 'Attempts to Get Inside the World' explores the experimental, the sketch, process... Two weeks of talks, screenings and performances and more check out link for details...

Thursday, 7 July 2011


I remember always wanting to grow up quickly as a child. Watching my uncle do his hair before partying is one of those vivid memories of envying adulthood. It was a very drawn out and methodical process – my Uncle’s hair; patting and trimming stray hairs, covering the hair before easing his chosen garment on. After many years of looking at photos from the 70’s, I always believed he had the perfect Afro, the perfect circle and what a technical feat that was. I used to watch him on the stairs at my grandmas every Saturday, wishing I could go out too.

Making ‘Maurice’ earlier this year was also very drawn out. A geometric ideal took over, making the process really compulsive. Every time I returned to the studio, I had to do more – it wasn’t right – it needed correction.

So I’ve continued cutting and combing, I’ve been filming it for weeks now, I’m not sure what form its going to take, but I’ve also been thinking about the noise in the studio to.

I’m not very good with silence…

Monday, 13 June 2011


Talking to a friend about the ‘state of things’ usually takes us to talking about the art world – then grumbling about it too. Usually I say something, he always tells me I can’t say.

Watch me a reductionist at work lol…

Tracy Emin @ Hayward June 2011

I meet two kinds of artist – the ones that ‘have something to say’ and the ones that ‘don’t have anything to say’. Generally I believe this is more to do with what is deemed ‘appropriate’.

I went along to the Tracy Emin show last week, hadn’t really looked at her work extensively. She was one of the characters in the art world that seemed both revered and despised in equal measure. She always seemed to say the most inappropriate things, but had the confidence to do so. Yes the work is self involved, and I wonder whether she clung on to her misery in order to make it. Poor Tracy - she might have been happier after all if she had that baby – who knows. Surprisingly I did enjoy it on the whole, especially the blanket pieces, which hint at the ambitions she might have had when she tried to be a ‘painter’. Educated arts professionals are encouraged to produce many layers and levels of meaning through their work. Emin represents an extreme, which might appear trite but exists never the less. And her experience is something that many people are intrigued by or relate too jugging by the amount of visitors in the Hayward.

As an artist working for some years with sensitivity to the site, functioning within the conventions of the white cube is an extreme. Black on white or black in white, is the only way I can articulate this right now. But within a world, which is rapidly growing smaller by the day. ‘Black’ as a cultural construct is loosing its coherency, accuracy and meaning - the thing is becoming nebulous. I’m thinking about this in the terms of sociological and anthropological theory, which accompanied the studies of many black artists. If you’ve spent a lifetime analyzing who says when its time to stop? I was asked the other day if I was becoming too ‘clinical’? When I first tried to inhabit the gallery I tried to transform it to get rid of the bleach. Then having some time away from it brought the realization that my product could not stand up to the ravages of the ‘weather’. So I’m looking at it like this, I’m breeding my own ‘culture’ and it needs particular conditions to survive and hopefully thrive…

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bent Tent Peg…

Untitled Black (Flutter) sketch

I’ve identified characteristics in a lot of other peoples work in recent entries. It’s been an attempt to work out how to talk about the things I’m seeking, but (as changeable as England’s bloody weather) this fluctuates by the day. This is one of the reasons why I opt for black; it brings a consistency, which is important – to me. Black kinda functions like a brand – but unlike branding I feel there’s room for fluidity and change.

My little example last entry, was an attempt to make something with what I had to hand… there was a time when I found this very difficult and always had some excuse to go and buy more materials. Of course this was all on the credit card, when each show felt closer to paying it off… how wrong I was lol! Anyways… I’ve been making these circles/spots for some time and they’re all the same. This is reminding me of the last cul-de-sac - the egalitarian ideal of the mass-produced. I was caught in a modernist trap – it was kind of embarrassing - for a bit - and then I remembered an old adage my Jamaican friends relished telling me from time to time… ‘If yu caant hear yu mus feel’

Blob 2004-6 At Space Station Sixty-Five

So looking at this idea of multiplicity I decided to vary each spot – additionally the rhizome idea, across the surface of the circle also seemed to make sense; each component was individual but similar and complete in itself. Now I’ve also been thinking about how I can formally speak of my ongoing relationship with the white cube - since that is the situation I am currently dealing with. Last week a friend asked me if I liked I it, I do (again its changeable) but I also recognise where the white cube falls short. But you can also try to work with what you’ve got. My analogy is trying to pitch a tent on very dry and solid ground. You loose many pegs in the process and you might never get a secure foothold, but you make do and improvise how you can…

Untitled Slade Degree Show 2001

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Things that happen again: for a here and a there 1988
Roni Horn

“Act of looking at an object any object, is transfigured by gender, race, social-economic class and sexual orientation’ Felix Gonzalez-Torres on Roni Horn’ The Gold Field’ 1990

I read an essay some time back by Dawoud Bey, focusing on black artists working abstractly. The essay went on to propose that many of these artists fell by the wayside due to a lack of political potency in the work. I don’t know really… but I don’t recall encountering many black abstract artist during my studies. There is particular trajectory for black and feminist art, which I accepted without question as my lineage and example. The politic and the theory competed with the art – perhaps in many cases preceded it. This made for extremely ‘grounded’ work; work that had a ‘rationale’ or an argument for being in this world. In some respects, this approach did little for my belief in the art object itself. I have more faith now, but I’ve always got to see some part of the world of relations around it.

This is why I keep mentioning influences… in the early days it was about identifying with the artists persona - now I try to find conditional parallels (if that make sense). For example one aspect of Roni Horn’s work is to do with her androgyny, the potential change in perception according to where, when and who encounters her. Her use of the double is an attempt at articulating this experience.

Initially the work appears incredibly formal, her sculptures continue the minimalist ideal, but she moves it on. In her glass works Horn takes Judd’s preoccupation with surface, but its not a fortress, she offers a solid, highly reflective but penetrable form. Her drawings totally blew me away when I saw them a couple of years ago, they begin as very simple lines, which she duplicates, on other pages tripled or quadrupled even. Then over time they are incorporated into one drawing, one multifaceted surface, lots of seams and joins – apparently she relates these to tectonics.

I am intrigued by Horn’s project, which (she admits) is heavily influenced by the time she spends in Iceland – where the Earths geothermic force is immanent. That experience has brought about a metaphor; the earth’s liquid core and living surface, with the mutable and sometimes volatile nature of subjectivity. I haven’t managed to walk around springs or up volcanoes, but I keep looking up at the wind through the trees...

Thursday, 12 May 2011

This Multiplicity business…

It’s been a while since I’ve logged in for various reasons – I also had some negative energy, which I wasn’t about to vent on’t internet. My tirades are more effective in person I don’t want people to be confused about my intent lol…

I made an attempt (half-hearted I admit) at reading ‘One Thousand Plateaus’, (which I recall as one of the trendy ones in the early naughties) trying to get a handle on Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome and multiplicity theories.

I’m intrigued by postmodern-texts, really - but find reading them frustrating, it’s a reminder - I'm not academic... What if I did understand it all anyway? Would I have any more freedom to make my own interpretation? The authority of the ‘author’ can be so compelling – and at times can stifle ones own gestures. I think I’m better off understanding patches, like Tom Philips ‘A Humument’ - I’ll just take snatches and make my own constellations.

I’ve always been interested in making pieces, which have several components, at one point it evolved into a critical mass of an identical object. Although I’m not interested in going down that mass-produced route again, I’m still interested in making many - but in variation. In my head multiplicity works on both macro and micro levels. I especially like to think about this in relation to the individual, the variety of things (often conflicting), which make people who they are. I suppose this is how I approach the idea making unique artworks again.

This variation has much to do with conditions, and so context has always been an aspect of the enquiry. Even though I seem to have settled into a more conventional studio/gallery practice, my relationship with these spaces is unsettled. I’m finally coming to terms with the antagonism that exists between the gallery infrastructure and I. It might always be there, but things have moved on - I’ve stopped moving around it...

Untitled glove 1999

‘An artwork is not a unified whole, but rather an open-ended site of contestation where various cultural practices from different classes and ethnic groups are temporarily combined…’

Discrepant Abstraction Kobena Mercer MIT press

Thursday, 28 April 2011

One and Many

My philosophy is take advantage when high pressure reaches the UK… I persuaded the other half to accompany me to Turner contemporary, Margate’s major public space which opened a couple of weeks ago. I reckon I saw the place at its best - in the sunshine. The show was kind spectacular big works, big spaces, lots of light – it’s just enough to digest on the beach afterwards with a drink.

Eruption 2005

I was most intrigued by the work of Teresita Fernandez. Fernandez interests lie in landscape and natural phenomena, a major component of Eruption were thousands of glass beads. It sucks you in – from afar the object appears as one mass - on an intimate level the various components reveal themselves. While I was standing there, the conservator popped along and refilled it – I was delighted by this little bit of information and regarded the piece on a different level. Yes, generally most objects are an assembly of parts but I loved the fluidity she created within a static object.

Sfumato 2009

The other piece Sfumato (made using lumps of graphite) resembled smoke, a loose form, both a drawing and a relief at the same time. Subject aside, looking through work there is a preoccupation with creating mutable phenomena such as water. These works resonated very much with the things I’ve been thinking about; states of matter (on an atomic level) but mainly (and this is the thing I’ve been trying get my head around) the notion of multiplicity.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The anxiety of Influences…

Martin Puryear at MOMA

The ideal of being excited everyday, by the prospect of facing your own thoughts and makings can be a difficult thing to live up to on a daily basis. I still think I’m trying to find a happy place with my work like most artists, perhaps the ‘ideal’ is the frustrating part of all this. I look outside (more than I ever used to) to inform the work, but I often feel distracted – sometimes I think that kind of emersion can be a good way for avoiding ones own creative issues… I’ve been reading a catalogue on Martin Puryear. One essay briefly touched on Harold Bloom’s ‘The anxiety of influence’, which speaks of a conflict between influence and originality. Although AOI refers to literature in particular, I think many artists will relate to being inspired (and using devices) by a particular influence. As well as the worry about being derivative; feeling trapped in mannerisms – and wanting to escape to one’s own special and unique territory. I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve gathered Bloom proposes acceptance of these influences and a kind of ‘misreading’ of them, an idiosyncratic interpretation, which allows new ideas to form.

I started looking a Puryear as one of the few examples of African Diaspora artists actually concerned with ‘sculpture’. The work is a conversation between that craftsmanship of necessity (associated with the functional everyday) and a Western European sculptural formalism. Throughout his oeuvre, Puryear’s conditions and predicament is betrayed in a lot of the work. I don’t mean this as negative - its very specific, the reasons we have for certain choices. Although my sphere of influence is broadening, I’m still looking for black artists interested in making ‘things’ (objects) as opposed to making things happen…

'Suspended' 2011 Mona Hatoum

I saw Mona Hatoum at White Cube last week, one of my very early influences. Hatoum’s work generally articulates themes of mobility, belonging and displacement, informed by a close connection to her mother country. It seemed like an eternity since I’d seen any of her work in the flesh. I’d stopped looking at her for some reason - probably because the work was always some form of lamentation. I could relate to the loss but not the sadness.

Sometimes you come across things at the right time. ‘Suspended’ got me thinking about creating a current in the space, a breeze to animate some of my pieces. Hatoum’s swings were rocking back and forth without a motor in sight. I couldn’t help but pull the context of the ‘gallery’ into the piece, since the assistants were doing all the pushing...

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Black a colour or an ideal?

Untitled (I am invisible man) Glen Ligon 1992

People don’t often come to my studio, but I’ll grab the opportunity when these occasions arise. Last week I got talking to a studio neighbour about colour, she like myself has a limited palette, white, white and white again… Her choice was about the idea of non-colours, a ‘matter of factness’ attributed to the way we interact with black and white on a daily basis – generally text. I’ve been told many times that black isn't a colour, is there such a thing as a non-colour?

In an interview between artist Glen Ligon and Patricia Bickers, the artist describes black and white as a consequence of the text that he literally transcribes on his paintings. This lends itself to that ‘matter of factness’ I mentioned earlier. But the sheer quantity of copying, transforms the content into something unreadable/unseen – which he says is the main objective: drawing attention to the largely ignored writings of several black authors.

Historian Michel Pastoureau poses that black is indeed a colour, decentring the Newtonian scientific spectrum as one of many systems for classifying colours. From his perspective…

It is society that “makes” the colour, that gives it its definitions and meanings, that constructs its codes and values, that organises its customs and determines its stakes

I’m inclined to agree with this. Of course I go back to my trusty MIT readers (cus I love em). ‘Colour’ edited by David Batchelor includes an essay by Theodor Adorno. In 1970 he proposed that the colour of radical art was ‘black’, because it signalled an impoverishment, a stripping down of fripperies more relevant to the extreme darkness of ‘social reality’. As a way of combating the inequities of society, black was an ideal…

Never having been a colourist, I feel torn by these two propositions. There is nothing ‘non’ about black in my eyes but as an idea, as a socio political umbrella – makes me want to make a canopy…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Longest locks in the world

Oldies but goodies…

So it’s my turn to mind the store today, and I’m hoping that my piece may still look okay after 3 weeks of prodding. I’m still interested in ‘looks’, in making something beautiful. As an artist operating in these times, I’m not supposed to talk about beauty. Frankly I’m not immune, I aspire to many of those societal ideals, high production value being one of them. That said I do admire artists who don't prioritise looks, leaving the outcome as a consequence of an action or sequence of events. That kind of praxis is more cerebral, for me sensation is a big part of how I engage with things…

I’m kinda ole school… and some of those ole school encounters are still circling in my head. I’m often reacquainting myself with texts I vaguely remember, or didn’t understand in the first place – I must admit that some inspiration for the Dilston piece came from a very old essay (Hairstyle politics by kobena Mercer). The essay attempted to navigate through the socio-political debates surrounding hair, using (as one example) the rise and fall of the Afro as a symbol of pride to something silly and kitsch.

So I reckon I’m a little behind on current debates surrounding non-European art, but as things are becoming increasingly ‘international’ I find ‘Black Abstract’ still relevant, and although fluidity is still part of the exploration its not about water…

Friday, 11 March 2011

Life of the object

Concretum opening Dilston Grove

I’ve got better about showing work as I try to look at each opportunity as a test bed for ideas. Shows are deadlines, usually raising issues that need to be thought about. It’s important to see how other people engage with the work, even if it’s painful. ‘Maurice’ (the piece I made for show) kinda takes its inspiration from the Christian relic, because of its tactility people are inevitably drawn to touching it.

Maurice 2011

I feel torn… the spirit of the idea is coming through - people are responding to it (thats positive init?). At the same time, I feel as sense of panic about it literally disintegrating during the exhibition. It would entirely makes sense if the piece were to fall apart (I have been talking about mutable and unstable structures), this is one of those occasions when it feels like the work is dictating, leaving me no choice but to go along with it.