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Meet Gallery OCA Founder, Sherece Rainford promoting, and showcasing work of artists of Caribbean heritage

Meet Gallery OCA Founder, Sherece Rainford promoting, and showcasing work of artists of Caribbean heritage

Gallery OCA launched this December, established by Sherece Rainford to support, promote, and showcase the work of artists of Caribbean heritage.

The emerging new gallery began its year of programming this December at Cromwell Place in the heart of London in South Kensington with an exhibition of recent paintings by critically acclaimed British-Caribbean artist, Anthony Daley. “The Caribbean is being recognised as a site of shared histories and a space that has contributed vastly to the cultures of the world. The fact that The Tate has a dedicated exhibition celebrating Caribbean art is reflective of a new acknowledgement by the art world of these great artists.” Gallery OCA founder and gallerist Sherece Rainford said.​

“While the UK continues to develop initiatives to present its complex relationship with the Caribbean, there has yet to be an initiative that seeks to financially support individuals of Caribbean descent working within the cultural sector. Gallery OCA will provide a centre for transnational art sales within this area. It is vital that a stable base and network is developed to promote and support these artists who are currently unrepresented.” Gallery OCA will contribute to rectifying injustices for Black artists that exist within the cultural sector, focusing on those of Caribbean descent. These issues relate not only to visibility within exhibition spaces, but also within the art market, where Caribbean artists are not receiving adequate support or representation.

Artist Daley is a graduate of Chelsea School of Art

ALT:

So firstly, Sherece, thank you so much for talking to ALT A REVIEW. I just have to say congratulations for opening the gallery, especially a gallery for Caribbean people of the diaspora. Can you tell us a little bit about how that started? What is the journey that lead to this space?

Sherece:

Well I’m really from a corporate business background, not a creative arts background and as a Caribbean person, I was looking for art from my home – not because I regularly buy art from my home, I would normally just buy whatever was required, whatever I saw that I liked that went with my home decor, but I wanted to find a piece of art created by an artist from the Caribbean, because I wanted to have a piece of home here in my home, in the UK. In starting the journey wanting to buy a piece of art, the various things that I encountered led me to the journey where I was saying ‘I’m going to open up a gallery’. The journey that got from wanting to buy art to open in the gallery came because firstly, I found it difficult to find the art and wanted to make it more accessible, and not as difficult as it was for me. There is good Caribbean art out there and I wanted to ensure that if somebody else was on a journey, like I was, they’d be able to find a selection of pieces with ease and accessibility.

ALT:

Thank you. When you say it’s difficult to find Caribbean art, are you saying that specifically within the UK? Do you think that over the last couple of years, the BLM movement, there has been a lot of changes in the art industries? You’ve got the massive exhibition at the Tate now, are you saying that the motivation was solely in terms of the accessibility to Caribbean art? Or was it more to showcase the gallery’s work, the works of those artists?

Sherece:

I think it’s both, um, I did this because I was looking for Caribbean art, because I wanted a piece of that in my home. The reason I wanted a piece of that in my home is because I am so passionate about the Caribbean, I visit there often. Now when you as an individual start finding works and information and stories about your history that is so worthwhile and knowledgeable, and not everybody gets access to it, you start to question why. So, for me, I suppose, yes culture in the cultural sector here in the UK, it’s still very much a polarized sector and an elitist space. There’s a lot of change that’s going on. And with that change, it means that there are more black artists, female artists, artists of all types of cultural backgrounds. With that it’s meant that more doors are being opened, most definitely. I wanted to ensure that Caribbean art had its rightful place in the art space, and that Caribbean art would now be recognized, represented, and valued, because in my eyes it was underrepresented and undervalued.

ALT:

A bit of a business question, in terms of having a gallery space in London, how easy was that journey and what were some of the challenges?

Sherece:

The space where we’re exhibiting now is Gallery OCA, and our current exhibition is called reality. The artist is Anthony Daley, who’s been showcased in Cromwell place. Now Cromwell place is an art space for their members to showcase art and have exhibitions, to hold meetings, to do private viewings. That suited how I needed an art space, because at this point in time, I didn’t need a fixed dwelling that was just for Gallery OCA in central London. With this, I’m able to have this prestigious premises in the same way that I would have it myself if it was our own individual gallery. But I do that under being a member of Cromwell place. How hard was it was your question, I looked out for this, which is what I wanted, and like every member you must apply, and I’ve been really pleased that the committee of Cromwell Place have been so supportive and happy to have Gallery OCA amongst their members. They have a very diverse mix of galleries in their space, all from around the world, a lot of international brands.

ALT:

Wonderful. You mentioned Anthony Daley, can you tell us a bit about Anthony’s work and the exhibition that opened last week?

Sherece:

It opened on Tuesday 7th December and ran until the 12th of December as an in-person exhibition. Now, the pieces are still available and able to be viewed, continuing as an online exhibition. This is our first inaugural exhibition. I feel very, very honoured to be showcasing Anthony’s works. He’s a great artist. He’s a renowned artist here in the UK, his art is very luminous and really draws you in. He was born in Jamaica and moved here when he was 11 or so I believe. Really, he’s lived and worked in the UK for all his life. As an artist, he has been awarded the Pollock-Krasner Painting Fellowship in 1984. He’s exhibited in over 25 solo exhibitions internationally, and his works are held in the Tate and in the National Portrait Gallery.

Currently his work is also included in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, 2021, which was coordinated by Yinka Shonibare. That goes to show you the caliber of his stature and his work, his work itself is just absolutely beautiful. It’s very dreamy too and draws a lot of emotive feeling when you view the pieces, it’s an amalgam of places and you get to see his journey of growing up, his future visions, his memories, through his lens, how he sees things. He doesn’t tend to see things in physical matter and material, he tends to look at things and see them in their truest essence, kind of a hyperreality of how you may perceive something but to really look and see something. When people see the work, they tend to be reminiscent of aquatic landscapes and beautiful skies and whatever their own meaning is and their fundamental essence. I know that Antony wants people to look at his paintings and to actually take a moment to see what that means and feels for them, not what they think he was trying to interpretate. What is it for you? It’s lovely. 

ALT:

Wonderful. After this exhibition, would you be taking up residency at Cromwell Place or would it be a case of moving to somewhere else with the gallery?

Sherece:

I’ve been a member of Cromwell Place from July. I get to choose to do exhibitions when I want to, so it is reliant on my schedule for 2022. During 2022 we have planned to deliver a series of exhibitions. The first exhibition that we’re going to be a part of will be a Caribbean focused exhibition. Through the year we’ll be doing things at Cromwell Place and other locations, but most likely to be more from Cromwell Place as that’s where I’m based.

ALT:

Amazing. You must be aware of the government’s latest measures, for people to be working from home. As a business and a place where you rely on physical visitors, what is your view on these new government measures?

Sherece:

The arts sector, like the hospitality sector and the beauty industry and a lot of businesses, are obviously impacted when we have measures like this put in place. Fundamentally they’re meant to safeguard us and ensure that we’re able to maintain good health during the COVID pandemic. I’m lucky because the gallery is predominantly online. I am an online gallery that periodically does in-person exhibitions. My in-person exhibition that’s on currently, ends on Sunday. The art industry has found that during the pandemic, collectors and viewers have now become accustomed to looking at online exhibitions, which are now the norm alongside in-person exhibitions. Nothing compares to looking at things in person, it just blows you away and is the best way to be able to art. Now that we have developed to see things online, that will be continued in the future. Predominantly, we are an online gallery.

ALT:

A question regarding business, you join a very small number of Black female gallery owners, and when it comes to financing, especially black female businesses, it’s lower success rate than 1%. What do you say to financiers who are afraid to finance black female businesses specifically?

Sherece:

What would I say to them about encouraging them to invest? I used to lecture at University College London (UCL) and I spoke around entrepreneurship. I think that like any other female business founders, Black female founders are coming forward with great business initiatives, great business projects. I think it’s just really giving black females a legitimate chance. I mean this as I used to assess businesses.

I would encourage investors to invest in businesses that genuinely looked as though they had a future track record of being able to generate profit. That they had clear vision, they had clear direction, they were ambitious, they were passionate. They had the full mix. It didn’t matter whether they were black, white, female, male. For me, I think that sometimes the doors are closed without even giving us a chance. If our business plan or business objectives tick the boxes of what you are after, it doesn’t matter whether we’re a black female, does it. I think that’s mainly the barrier because if you are black and your business strategy isn’t sound, why should they invest in you? But, if it is sound, it should be no different to how they would invest in somebody else. Sadly, I think entrepreneurs who are females generally found it difficult, and then it gets even more narrowed down if you are black and female.

ALT: 

What has been one of the best things about this journey, getting to this point?

Sherece:

One of the best things is actually seeing the physical in-person exhibition materialise, because I’ve been on this journey for over two and a half years. To get to this point is really momentous for me, because people see this and I’m happy for everybody to be involved and to enjoy it. That is why I’ve done it, but it hasn’t, you know, been easy, it’s taken time.

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ALT:

Do you have any favourite artists?

Sherece:

I don’t have a favourite artist because I’m constantly exploring artists. For me, having not come from an art background, my approach to enjoying art always firstly comes from what touches me, what do I connect to? What’s the story behind it? It’s more of what do I see when I look at that, as opposed to, is that a painting that looks like a such and such painting or what have you. As this is still a new part of my journey, I’ve kind of moved away from what is it that I want on my wall, to what’s going on in the business? I’ve put so much on my wall now, now it’s gone beyond the one painting I was looking for. I don’t have a favorite. It’s exciting when I do meet with new artists, and I fall in love with their work.

ALT:

So maybe do you have like a piece of art that you’d like to own?

Sherece:

I recently acquired a piece by an artist, and that piece is something that I’ve fallen in love with. The piece is called Ancestors Do Dream. Right now, the reason why I’d connected with that piece was because when you see the painting and you look at it, it’s a picture of a woman. You can tell that the woman is, how can I explain? You can tell that she is from old historical times, it’s a multimedia painting and she’s sitting in the foreground, and you can tell she’s dreaming. Well, I feel like she’s dreaming, the artist who did this painting, her name is Michelle Lee Lambert. She’s a Jamaican artist. It’s somebody who we have pieces of their work on our site, work I’ve always connected to. I sit there and it makes me think about my dreams, the lady reminds me of my great-grandmother. If you think that all those times in the past, people have always been dreaming, and whatever her dreams were as my ancestor, has meant that my grandmother’s dreams have been fulfilled. My mother’s dreams have been fulfilled and my dreams are being fulfilled.

ALT:

Going forward, what is the most exciting prospect for you in 2022?

Sherece:

In terms of the gallery, the most exciting prospect, what I’d really like to do would be to continue doing what I’m doing, but also do some collaborative work with the national galleries. For me it really is about this being the norm and moving forward and continuing to do this and always having Caribbean artists, Black artists work within the fabric of the art world. The Life Between Islands exhibitions at The Tate right now is absolutely amazing, but it ends in April. What happens between May and December, what happens for 2023, 2024, 2025? I don’t want it to just be one Caribbean exhibition. It doesn’t even need to be more Caribbean exhibitions, it just needs to include Caribbean artists, Black artists within the exhibitions that we are doing. It should just be the norm. If there is anything that I can do for us to work together to do this, because it isn’t something I’m going to be able to achieve on my own, I’d love that for 2022.

ALT:

Is the gallery exclusively for Caribbean artists? Or is it Caribbean artists of the diaspora and Black artists?

Sherece:

It’s of artists who were either born or connected to the Caribbean. So exactly, the diaspora is included.

ALT:

Great. Thank you so much for talking to ALT, it was lovely to meet you.