Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery is pleased to present Saints and Saviours by Mary Evans, an incredible installation which has opened across the city to mark Black History Month and runs for a few more days
The series of site-specific artworks are presented across multiple locations, including John Hansard Gallery and Marland’s Shopping Centre, celebrating Southampton’s vibrant diasporic communities and history.
Concerning identity politics, belonging and separation, Evans’ practice celebrates and understands the social, cultural, and political dynamics of modern Britain, and in many respects the legacy of Britain’s imperial past, fascinated by the route via which people arrive and settle through emigration and Diaspora.
Evans’ imagery is based on signs, symbols and silhouettes taken from popular culture and transformed into ‘descriptive tools’, to harness the power that images contain. Often creating installations by making cut outs of pictorial images to create work based on a fragment of historical or social interest, her hands-on approach allows her to maintain the handcrafted and manually manipulated quality of the work that is in keeping with the simplicity of the imagery.
Southampton has a longstanding history of welcoming migrants, stemming from the Romans establishment of the port of Hamwic, which in turn established Southampton as a substantial Saxon town. In Mediaeval times, ships from all over the world brought in sailors and travellers of diverse cultures to trade extraordinary goods.
Today, Southampton has a vibrant diasporic community that includes people and families of those who have settled from the Caribbean, predominantly from the 1950’s and 60’s. Many people from the Caribbean, popularly known as the ‘Windrush Generation’, took up work in Southampton until they could afford property, and subsequently pay to bring over their families.
Alt spoke with Nadia Thondrayen, Exhibitions Curator, John Hansard Gallery
“Evans’ pictograms are iconic and recognisable to the black community. She wanted the body language and silhouettes to be immediately recognisable, to make these lovely vistas that are different each time she installs the work. The idea is that they are made from packing paper, symbolising transportation, the movement of black bodies and commerce, as well as paper’s fragility, all come into play within this one material, the many shades of brown packing paper, she plays with all of this in an interesting way.
As well as the silhouettes, there are small photographs of historical items belonging to Southampton, a ship, the gateway to the docks, and of course Tudor house, the oldest house in Southampton. These highlight Southampton’s past whilst contrasting with the stark life-size people that stand in front of them, you can see yourself in relation to it, toying with the idea of where to place yourself within this context, how visible you are and who holds the power to control this.”
For more information on Mary Evans’ work click here.
For more information on John Hansard Gallery click here.