Black British Art

By Rianna Wilson

Can you name any Black artists? For an extra challenge, can you name any Black British artists? If not, don’t fret. We are here to help you out!

So first we should define what it means to be ‘Black British’. 

The Black British population is made up predominantly of descendants of immigrants from the West Indies and Africa who migrated to the UK from the 1950s onwards.

 https://minorityrights.org/minorities/afro-caribbeans/

According to the art historian Eddie Chambers, the purpose of Black British art ‘was to confront the white establishment for its racism, as much as to address the Black community in its struggle for human equality’. It allows Black people in Britain to share their feelings and views in a society that often tries to silence them. 

The BLK Art Group

In 1979, a group of British West Indians founded the BLK Art Group in Wolverhampton. The aim of the group was to showcase Black talent and explore what it meant to identify as ‘Black British’. The group was formed after being inspired by The American Black Arts Movement, which was part of the Black Power Movement. The BLK art group wanted to empower and encourage young Black voices as well as educate their white peers on the issues Black people faced in Britain. 

One of the group’s most notable achievements was the First National Black Art Convention.

The conference was held on 28th October 1982 at what was then Wolverhampton Polytechnic with the aim of raising the profile of Black artists and the Afro-Caribbean community through a series of sculptures, paintings and exhibitions. The convention featured seminars and talks, and helped to showcase work by Black artists. It highlighted the importance of originality and the avoidance of mimicking European culture.

Although the collective itself only operated for five years, the individual members, such as the previously mentioned Eddie Chambers, are still very active in the art scene today. The impact the BLK Art Group has had is still felt, they helped to give Black British art a voice.

So of course we must look at some Black British artists from throughout time right? 

Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce was born in Islington, North London in 1962 to West Indian immigrant parents. 

She had a heavy association with the Black Arts Movement in the 1980s, with her art focusing heavily on issues surrounding race, gender and equality. A lot of Sonia’s early works were portraits with bright backgrounds.

She Ain’t Holding Them Up, She’s Holding On (Some English Rose), 1986

BLAM’s Favourite

This is one of Sonia’s most famous drawings. In it, she portrays herself as a strong woman supporting and upholding her family. The portrait portrays the concept of the ‘strong Black woman’ which many can relate to. The black roses on her dress are also symbolic of her British identity and being a Black ‘English Rose’.

Sonia is an incredibly talented artist who still produces art today as well as being a Professor of Black Art and Design at University of the Arts London.

Neequaye ‘Dreph’ Dsane

Dreph is a British-Ghanaian street artist originally from Nottingham. He started painting in 1985 after being inspired by graffiti artists in New York City. He started out with street art but eventually moved on to oil painting and portraits. In more recent years, he started to combine the two

BLAM’s Favourite

Upon his return to London, Dreph created the You Are Enough project. The project featured various beautiful Black British women, women who are doing amazing things for their communities. 

For example, this painting is Mimi, from Islington, who works as a holistic health consultant and is studying to become a counsellor.

It is not very often we see Black women being portrayed in street art, nor do we often hear of Black street artists which is why we thought it was important to highlight Dreph and his amazing work.

Phillipp Raheem

Phillipp is a London based photographer of Nigerian descent. His journey was quite typical of many children of immigrants. Phillipp studied biomedical science at university but pivoted into the world of photography after igniting a passion for the art-form after a trip to Nigeria. After going to New York fashion week and receiving impromptu bookings, he decided to turn photography into a full time career. Now, he is most known for his work in music and fashion photography.

BLAM’s Favourite

In 2020, Phillipp worked with the talented Wizkid on his Made in Lagos project. We love this photo because of its beautiful simplicity. It perfectly encapsulates the essence of Wizkid’s album.


Black Art Exhibitions and Galleries you should visit!

TAFETA 

A gallery specialising in 20th century and Contemporary African Art

91 Great Russell Street

London WC1B 3PS                                                                                              

Signature African Art

An international art gallery located in Mayfair

20 Davies Street

Mayfair, London

W1K 3DT

Chilli Art Projects

A platform to discover the hottest talent in the Contemporary Art Market.

46 Great Titchfield St, 

Fitzrovia, London, 

W1W 7QA 

198 Contemporary Arts and Learning

A centre for visual arts, education and creative enterprise.

198 Railton Road, 

London

SE24 0JT

Flat70

A collective dedicated to artist development, artist care, cultural celebration and cultural exchange. They also put on monthly tours of Black art exhibitions

Elephant Makes, 

Sayer St, London 

SE17 1FY

Tiwani Contemporary

Exhibits and represents international contemporary artists

9 Cork St

London

W1S 3LL

As always, if you visit any of these exhibitions be sure to tell us how you found them!
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