I Matter Online Exhibition
In September 2020, Babylon Young Curator Olu Taiwo proposed the idea of offering artists, who have felt excluded in any way, a platform to share their art works and stories as part of an exhibition at Babylon Gallery in Ely.
Following a far-reaching open-call in January with over 100 artists getting in touch, Olu chose fifteen artists to feature in his exhibition, I Matter. Due to the large number of submissions, Olu decided to host an online exhibition of a wider selection of work by the artists who applied.
Formed of new and existing works created by artists from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and communities, the online exhibition responds to the powerful declaration, ‘I Matter’ and its recent complex iterations. The online exhibition will remain live until Tuesday 31st August.
"I specialise in painting, drawing, screen printing, collaging, batik, and textiles. My artwork focuses on shapes and patterns. I get inspiration from old photographs, fabrics that I find in my house, and different exhibitions.These painting are of my distant family members I have never met before. I hope for the audience to connect with the idea of knowing about distant family but never meeting them in real life, through these painting, and placing their own family in the faceless portraits."
Work 1: Distant Family (Celebration), 2020
Screen print, oil paint and fabrics on canvas.
This painting was inspired by a Birthday party of children in West-Africa. They are family members I do not know, and the picture was taken in the early nineties. I was particularly drawn to this scene because of the gathering of people celebrating. The children were wearing Nigerian clothing and in a typical African village. I wanted to bring the audience into this environment, so that they feel as though they are part of the celebration.
Work 2: Distant Family (Deep In Thought), 2018
Papers, acrylic paint, colouring pencils and graphite stick on canvas.
This piece is a painting of a family friend. I have not painted the details of her face to represent that I do not know her personally. Much of my family lives far away from me in Africa. A lot of minority ethnic groups in the UK have family located in other countries, and they do not get to meet them in real life. I hope for people to connect to my paintings by placing their distant family members in the faceless portraits.
Work 3: Distant Family (Everyday Patterns), 2018
Oil pastels, fabrics, and screen print on canvas.
This piece was inspired by an old photograph of a family friend. The picture was taken in the nineties by my uncle. I did not add facial features because I wanted to bring attention to the African patterns on her clothes. Therefore, I used stereotypical Dutch Wax textiles to exaggerate this. I want the viewer to pay attention to the everyday patterns that we may overlook in our lives and to think about the history of fabric trade between Britain and West-Africa.
Chisara Vidale is an emerging artist, who is based in London. Working primarily with watercolours, she couples intricacy with a powerful use of colour, to create dynamic and vibrant paintings. Her work is a celebration of the dynamism and vivacity of life on Earth. As a person of mixed heritage, she connects with many cultures and faiths, drawing on our shared experience of reality to create work.
Watercolour painting on paper.
This piece is part of a body of work that explores mythology, faith and storytelling, it was made in response to the creation myths from varying cultures and climates, I was fascinated by the overwhelming complexity of the concepts within these tales, as well as the the recurring themes and symbols across the continents.
My feelings, my dreams, vision, values matter.
Even when the world sees my Black melanin skin a problem, I will always matter.
I am somebody’s daughter
I matter to someone.
My name is written on the stars that sit on the pavement of Hollywood boulevard.
I make this declaration that if I don’t matter to the world, I matter to myself.
I will put myself first and not allow anyone to dim my light, my goals, accomplishments, mental health, well-being. My position in this world matters.
Even if I don’t matter to the world. I matter to myself.
Listen to the audio spoken word piece here.
Download the transcript here.
I Matter (my declaration), 2021
Audio spoken word piece.
In this piece I decide that even though I may matter to my family members, I have to matter to myself. That self assurance is best. Before I can matter and be accepted into the world I have to matter to myself. It then becomes a form of declaration that I give to myself.
An Artist and Illustrator, based in the UK, inspired by traditional Indian culture, fashion and film. Daya takes a contemporary visual approach to convey portraits, animations and fashion illustrations representing themes of identity. Her work also explores the relationship between fashion and illustration.
Acrylic Painted Paintbrush.
The painted paintbrush represents Indian cultural heritage and representation within the arts. The brush has a woman’s eye illustrating her vision for change and the future she’s wearing a traditional piece of Indian jewellery called a nath which is symbolic of the culture. The narrative of this piece somewhat reflects my story as an artist.
"My objective as a Black artist and political activist is to create work which is socially engaged, stimulates or provokes radical dialogue or disturbs the status quo. The focus of my practice is mainly portraiture where I use graphite pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolour, acrylic and oil paints on paper and canvas."
What do you see? 2021
Graphite and coloured pencil on paper.
My artwork is an interpretation of eye reflection art and the murder by an agent of the American state of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May 2020.
"My practice involves fictional narratives, a play on found visuals, language and text. This is done through manipulating images, experimental photography, installation and analogue film and writing. I am interested in correspondence, communication, connectivity and collaboration and this is extended through my international curatorial projects."
View Diana Ali's Global Side Streets here.
Global Side Streets
A short film (1:48 seconds)
This lifelong project at the moment contains 96 photos, from 84 places over 10 years. It will continue as I travel alone and come across dead ends during wandering and not following maps. We often follow the crowd but where are the 'real' places we dismiss as a foreigner and tourist? The work documents the hidden streets we often avoid.
A mental health artist reborn through art.
Read Dorota Chioma's three poems here.
Work 1: Rebirth
Paint on A4 paper.
Work 2: Resurrection
Paint on A4 paper.
Work 3: Wings
Paint on A4 paper.
These artworks accompanied by poems of the same titles are form of a manifesto. It has been written in the process of recovery after a huge mental breakdown. It underlines my rebirth through art and refusal to abandon it. My art matters. And I, as artist, matter.
Short film (9:13).
An actor from South America comes to London and very quickly realises he'll mostly be hired to play exotic characters, so he adapts. He learns to move, speak and write like a Latinx person should. And he starts getting hired. What lies behind the facade? What does his real accent sound like? Does he even know anymore? Merging spoken word poetry & real life audition stories, Guido will take us through the journey of constructing a wholly new identity whilst figuring out his place in the UK theatre scene.
Text by Guido Garcia Lueches Cast and Creatives Mariana Aristizábal Malena Arcucci Guido Garcia Lueches Sergio Maggiolo Charly Monreal Supported by Arts Council England.
Hermeet Gill is an Oxford-based photographer, artist and writer whose work is driven by a wideranging curiosity and characterised by a constant desire for experimentation and exploration.
this is me. (sometimes)
[This portrait is] entitled “this is me. (sometimes)”. It is intended as a celebration of this person, her strength, and all she gives to the world. It’s also interesting to reflect on what it shows of her and her life, and also what it doesn’t. In reflection of my own life experiences, I’m interested in how those living between different cultures resolve the complex contradictions that come from having to navigate between very different cultural norms and expectations. I’m also interested in how we then tell the story of ourselves when we live multiple lives in parallel, how we reconcile the parts, even to ourselves. And finally, that it can be hard for others to know who we are and understand our stories, the vacuum in danger of being filled with stereotypes and assumptions.
This is a portrait of my mum. Normally in a photograph, she would be on a family day out, holding a child, lined up in front of a landmark, dressed in colourful silk at a wedding. She is almost always smiling, always sparkling, always reveling in family life, making sure others are happy, have all they need, and are well fed. That is very much who she is. And this photograph is also who she is.
Digital illustration artist.
Work 1: DEAF HEARING 1
Work 2: DEAF HEARING 2
This artwork is very personal to me and I know many others who would relate to this piece and hope for change and acceptance every day. Old culture and upbringing are the foundations of my family’s beliefs and lifestyle, I believe it has reached a point where logic and care becomes diluted. The creation of this came from my experiences as a SouthAsian woman in a relationship with an Afro Caribbean.
The center of this piece is a woman/girl being controlled by her father, she is reaching out towards her partner for comfort and rescue. The family of ‘jurors’ are judging the partner with their reasonings written on their chalkboards. This therefore results in the daughter being ‘cut-off’ and disowned by her father. The daughter is wearing white to signify the innocence of love. The background creates a dystopian feel. It lacks structure like the thoughts of the daughter being disowned. Specifically, the father is named ‘Judgement’ instead of ‘Judge’ as it is literally a form of judgement. Having him titled as ‘Judge’ would insinuate proper justice and fairness which does not exist in this scenario. In South-Asian relationships, family are intrusive. The family agree with the stereotypes of a black man and assist in the abandonment of the daughter. The family member on the left has begun cutting off the puppet strings - a literal illustration for being ‘cut-off’ from family.
"But where are you from, from?"
Mixed Media on canvas (70x90cm)
This mixed media painting represents the amalgamation of my identities. Featuring two different textural surfaces: sari and primed canvas, I merge Indian landscapes and elements of my hometown into one space. Indian mythologies and miniature paintings have influenced elements of this piece. Gujarati skies and mountain ranges provide the backdrop to my predominately white upbringing, which represents the unconscious neglect of my Indian heritage. The foreground features nostalgic imagery of flats from my Hertfordshire town, portraying the way in which I chose to present myself.
White Passing, 2020
Oil & Gold pigment on Artboard.
The intention is to explore the history and current form of social representations in art. I hope to investigate how those ideas can be translated into a visual language and investigate the effect and meaning manifested throughout the process.
Work 1: It's not just hair
Work 2: Diptych 1
View Diptych 2 here.
Working in the mediums of film, sculptural installation, sound and watercolour, It's Not Just Hair examines my cultural identity through my hair. Through my works, I reflect on how my hair has changed over the years, from being relaxed (chemically straightened), to my natural hair, to my braids, and the influence that moving between Europe and Africa has had on my relationship with my hair.
Through my practice I also considered the shared experience I have with other black women through hair. By having portraits of the same people with different hairstyles, I showcase that there’s more to black women’s identity than natural hair. These portraits present an appreciation for the people in my life that create a community through communication and the shared experience in our black identity and relationship with hair. This piece, which began as a way to reflect on my own personal relationship with my hair, has become a celebration of the bond between black women through their shared experience.
Visual artist. "Within my brush marks my relatives faces, symbolic veils, masks and patterns are often highlighted, repeated and reworked. In pursuit of a fleeting moment, I recontextualise and reframe the presence and absence of family members and belongings, my hazy memories kept close and eternally captured on canvas."
Not a final destination (before the fire, Moria)
Oil bar and paint on unstretched canvas (210 h x 240 w cm)
In September 2020 there was a terrible fire on the Greek island of Lesbos. Moria refugee camp was totally destroyed, and this caused numerous men, women and children to sleep on pavements. Thousands still flee their homelands due to war and famine, and we need to talk about this.
Writer and poet.
I was born in bustling, high-rise Camden,
Apparently birth and health weren’t in tandem,
My mother insisted I have a Christian name,
My skin is like ten blackheads aflame.
My hair is silky but used to be afro,
My eyes are kind, and don’t give aggro,
My physical peculiarity is quite unforeseen,
The best thing about me is I’m ever keen.
The worst is I’m seen as the “alternative”.
I’d describe my fashion as casual; conservative.
My hobbies are many; tennis of course,
I love fresh pasta with rich, tomato sauce.
I couldn’t give a crap about gossip and fame,
The colour I like is light blue, I proclaim!
I don’t like arrogance or a potty mouth,
I laugh hard and my head droops south!
I see the world in yellow and green,
But I’d change my look back to being fourteen.
If there’s a confrontation, I shudder and hide,
The part of me I conceal is my damaging pride.
Download Mabel Osejindu's poem here.
This is Me
My poetry entry is about my quirks and personality traits, and is a reflection of a woman's inner voice. It is intended to represent a candid monologue by a black woman directed to someone she'd just met.
Drawing inspiration from the longstanding traditions of mask-making and masquerade in the Caribbean and Nepal, Brixton-based artist Maya Gurung-Russell Campbell creates evocative landscapes that explore her dual heritage in a range of mediums. Incorporating sound, moving image, oral history, poetry and analogue photography.
View Maya Campbells' film Dancing with Otherness here.
Dancing with Otherness
The black female body is an archive of intergenerational pain, trauma and bondage – ‘Dancing with Otherness’ centres movement as liberation, movement as a mode of freedom, the body as both an archive and a space of transcendence beyond the confines of categorisation.
A visual artist based in Shanghai and MA.
Scan it, 2020
Whether I was aware of it or not, my ideals of race and identity were shaped by and linked through social media contents. In my ongoing photography project Scan It: Tale of Three Lands, I unravels my experience of being abused, marginalized, and dismantled on social media. These images were produced in September 2020 during the peak of coronavirus outbreak and united states’s political upheavel. I decided to cut and collage the original photographs with QR codes as a means to merge societal expectations with oneself. I investigate the ways our identities have been connected to societal expectations by combining self-portraiture within QR codes. From scanning, connecting, and alternatively isolating, I regard these QR codes as a representation of the unsearchable status that was not afforded equally to those I loved.
"I am British Indian Artist. In my work I explore culture and expression, and the boundaries of being a young mixed cultural Asian woman. I am fascinated by people developing and accepting every facet of themselves and their story, and I love to capture sensitivity, strength and vulnerability."
Women like me drown oceans
Digital Painting, Self Portrait.
"I celebrate myself, I paint and dance and sing myself... I am a song. I am a poem. I am the soil and a gem. I am a stargate and a voyage. I am the ocean and your soul.”
A senior lecturer, researcher and visual artist, working with found footage, black and white photography and mixed media.
Work 1: Loss of identity #1
Mixed Media - Found footage.
Work 2: Loss of identity #2
Mixed Media - Found footage.
Both works answer to the current situation, in which we are reduced to invisible or virtual identities.
Mixed-media on canvas.
This is the history that I didn’t fully grasped until I did this painting. The Mother England I was taught to see as a distant but benevolent parent when I lived in Trinidad unveiled herself when I began doing the research for this painting. What an eye-opener!
Pencil drawing with Bristol paper in A4 size.
The kimono has been a traditional costume in Japan since ancient times, but with the dominance of Western culture over the last 100 years it has disappeared from everyday life, remaining only as a formality. While each culture has developed its own version of costume, the world is now becoming more unified in terms of clothing design. I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I believe that a culture's unique costume will always have artistic value. Shouldn't we protect that beautiful value?
Torn Revenue is a Manchester based artist who creates colourful and sophisticated portraits using scraps from magazines to create portraits of celebrities.
Work 1: Biggie Smalls
Work 2: Stormzy
Work 3: Prince
The [Stormzy piece] has been made from when he headlined at Glastonbury which was a huge thing as he was one of the biggest UK black rappers to step on the stage and it was a proud moment for everyone and especially black people he marked history, he was also wearing the stab proof vest which banksy made for him which in its self was written down in history. [Prince and Biggie Smalls] are both such icons and are recognised by all generations around the world.
"[A] recycler, a sifter, a horder of things: images, objects, part objects, comtemporary popular culture, art histories and bits and pieces of Asian, African, Caribbean and European traditions. I'm a product of all thees things and I've had to piece myself together from a myriad of cultural and racial influences, and possibilities."
Work 1: Perspectives 2
Work 2: Perspectives 1
Work 3: Perspectives 3
‘Perspectives’, is a critical engagement with global issues, from the universality of historical displacements, to the current plethora of individual identity choices and experiences of identity fluidity.
Thank you to all the artists that submitted as part of the I Matter exhibition by Olu Taiwo.
See the I Matter exhibition at Babylon Gallery until Sunday 13 June. Babylon Gallery's opening times have been extended to Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm for the duration of the I Matter exhibition.
Funded and Supported by: