On a recent visit to Sheffield, I called into The Graves Gallery to find a fascinating exhibition up from the Blk Group, featuring the work of Donald Rodney, Keith Piper, Claudette Johnson and Marlene Smith.
This radical group of young black artists came together in the 1980s to make ‘defiant and thought-provoking’ work . Donald Rodney (1961-98) suffered from sickle cell anemia, and used x-rays to make up his images and examine the social/political ills of British society. Below is his image from The Britannia Hospital Series (1988). Keith Piper’s powerful Black Assassin Saints (1984) challenged Britain’s business links with South Africa at the time of apartheid. Claudette Johnson painted strong dignified women in images such as And I have My Own Business (1982).
The image that stays with me, though, is Do. Please. A Happy Ending 1987, by Marlene Smith. It is based on a family wedding photo and made up of papers, ink, gouache and pencil in black and white, where the women are especially highlighted with more white. It has a very fragile and yet fairytale quality to it that is very haunting.
Well worth a visit.