10 – 13 October 2023
8 King St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6QT
1-54 Presents Transatlantic Connections: Caribbean Narratives in Contemporary Art, a group exhibition presented on the occasion of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair’s 11th London edition. On view at Christie’s, London from 10 – 13 October 2023, this exhibition brings together a curated selection of works by artists from the Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora to explore cultural similarities across generations and geographies. Transatlantic Connections is the second-ever show by 1-54 Presents, a new programme of pop-up exhibitions by 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, and will feature work by Juan Carlos Alom, Sonia Elizabeth Barrett, Sonia Boyce, Helen Cammock, Michael Forbes, Satch Hoyt, Nadia Huggins, Alain Joséphine, Anina Major, Marcia Michael, Johanna Mirabel, Lavar Munroe, Horace Ové, Zak Ové, Ada M. Patterson, Sheena Rose, Jamilah Sabur, Charmaine Watkiss, Alberta Whittle, Aubrey Williams.
Spanning works across painting, photography, installation, and sculpture, this presentation is rooted in twentieth century Martinican thinkers Aimé Césaire’s concept of Négritude – the notion that black peoples share a collective identity, consciousness and culture – and Édouard Glissant’s theory of The Rhizome. As such, whilst aesthetically varied, the exhibition looks at the rich tapestry of creative practices, experiences, and narratives shared across the Caribbean and its diaspora, despite the archipelago’s sociological and historical diversity.
The assertive abstractions of Aubrey Williams, rendered expressively in oil, sharply contrast Charmaine Watkiss’s delicate figurative illustrations, which contrast still the digital photographic work of Michael Forbes. Yet the links that run throughout Transatlantic Connections are numerous. A recurrent theme in the exhibition is that of heritage, migration, and the intersections of various cultures. From Alberta Whittle’s work Today, I have left my armour at home to Anina Major’s ceramic Ruby’s Easter Hat, many of the featured artists acknowledge the logistic concerns inherent in presenting art from a region as diverse as the Caribbean, where numerous factors such as geographic barriers, cultural diversity, and historical colonial legacies intersect to shape the artistic narrative within Caribbean diasporic communities across the archipelago, and beyond.
Another prevalent thread throughout the show is that of diasporic identity. Described by Jamaican – British cultural theorist Stuart Hall as ‘constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions’, diasporic identity is inherently multifaceted, or fragmented, and ever evolving. This fragmentation plays out visually in the all-over compositions of Sonia Boyce, Alain Joséphine and Satch Hoyt, whilst it manifests conceptually in the work of Jamilah Sabur and Johanna Mirabel – whose intimate scenes of domesticity visualise the push-pull dynamics of living between two cultures.
Traversing individual experiences and collective identities, Transatlantic Connections: Caribbean Narratives in Contemporary Art brings together a range of works from some of the most exciting modern and contemporary Caribbean artists of the last 50 years. Additionally, falling within the 75th anniversary year of the MV Empire Windrush’s arrival in the UK, Transatlantic Connections hopes to spotlight and celebrate the significant contributions of Afro-Caribbean artists to the cultural fabric of their adopted homelands, and the wider world.
Juan Carlos Alom
Juan Carlos Alom, born in Cuba, is a filmmaker and photographer who has exhibited throughout Cuba, the Americas, Europe, and South Africa. Starting his career as a photojournalist in 1990s Cuba, Alom developed an artistic vision that was informed by the need for spontaneity demanded by that period of crisis. In 2000, Alom was selected by Time Magazine as one of the photographers of the millennium in Latin America.
Sonia Elizabeth Barrett
Sonia Elizabeth Barrett performs composites of plants, animals, elements and people to create interventions that present their objectification and commodification, she also thinks about how to change perceptions of phenomena in “nature” that are a given. The work seeks to create new questions where there is a kind of certainty that has to do with the hegemony of normative European values.
Born in the UK of Jamaican and German parentage Sonia E Barrett grew up in Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Cyprus and the UK. She studied literature at the University of St Andrews Scotland and her MFA at Transart Institute Berlin/New York.
Her work unpacks the boundaries between the determined and the determining with a focus on race and gender, she makes sculptural works so she can run her hands along the fissures and manifest strategies for multiple compatible existences and mourn. Her sculptural practice includes placemaking with a view to assembling communities under the threat of climate to (Re) claim space as well as instituting permanently.
Sonia is a MacDowell fellow and has been recognised by the Premio Ora prize, NY Art-Slant showcase for sculpture and the Neo Art Prize.
Sonia Boyce OBE RA was born in London, UK in 1962, where she continues to live and work. In 2022, Boyce represents the UK at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia with FEELING HER WAY, a major new commission for the British Pavilion, for which she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. In 2019, the artist received an OBE for services to art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art. In 2016, Boyce was elected a Royal Academician, and received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. Between 2012 – 2017, Boyce was Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University and since 2014, she has been Professor at the University of the Arts London. As the inaugural Chair of Black Art & Design she led on a 3-year research project into Black Artists & Modernism, which led to a BBC documentary Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History (2018).
Helen Cammock was born in 1970 in Staffordshire and lives and works in Wales and London. Film, photography, print, text, song and performance examine mainstream historical and contemporary narratives about Blackness, womanhood, oppression and resistance, wealth and power, poverty and vulnerability, throughout her practice. Her works often cut across time and geography, layering multiple voices as she investigates the cyclical nature of histories in her visual and aural assemblages.
In 2017, Cammock won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and in 2019 was the joint recipient of The Turner Prize.
Michael Forbes has exhibited nationally and internationally with exhibitions including; Want the World to Know at Saatchi Gallery 2023, Blk this & Blk that… a state of urgency Djanogly Gallery, Reformation at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects, the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and CPT: Time, History and Memory, Gallatin Galleries, New York. Forbes is also a Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Associate Artist (2020 – 2023).
Alongside his artistic practice, Forbes has curated many exhibitions and supports artists’ professional development. He played a leading role in developing the New Art Exchange, Nottingham, and its early programme and is a co-founder of Primary, an artist studio complex in Nottingham, where he holds a studio and is now Chair of the Board of Trustees. Forbes has a BA (Hons) in photography from Nottingham Trent University and an MA in sculpture from the Royal College of Art 2020.
Satch Hoyt is a spiritualist, a believer in ritual and retention. A visual artist and a musician, his diverse and multifaceted body of work – whether sculpture, sound installation, painting, musical performance, or musical recording – is united in its investigation of the “Eternal Afro-Sonic Signifier” and its movement across and amid the cultures, peoples, places, and times of the African Diaspora.
Those four evocative words (a term coined by Hoyt) refer to the “mnemonic network of sound” that was enslaved Africans’ “sole companion during the forced migration of the Middle Passage.” lt was, and is, a hard-won somatic tool kit for remembering where you come from and who you are – and maybe, where you’re going – against all the many odds. Of Jamaican-British descent, Hoyt was born in London and currently lives in Berlin. Having also spent time in New York, Paris, Mombasa, and Australia’s Northern Territory – all points on the many-sided and ever-expanding star that is the African Diaspora – he is an intimate observer of the sites of convergence where the Diaspora comes together to sing, shout, and be, reflecting itself to itself. Employing the shared tool kit to connect, express, and commiserate across centuries and oceans, Hoyt taps into aural and oral echoes as well as into those retained in the historical and material record.
Nadia Huggins was born in Trinidad and Tobago and grew up in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A self-taught artist, she has used photography to build up a body of images that are characterised by her observation of an interest in the everyday. Her work merges documentary and conceptual practices, which explore belonging, identity, and memory through a contemporary approach focused on re-presenting Caribbean landscapes and the sea.
In the work presented at 1-54 Presents, the artist believes there exists a connection between an under-explored aspect of Caribbean adolescent masculinity and the freedom of bodies in the ocean. The artist embarked on a journey to document boys’ interactions with the sea. These photographs, created since 2014, capture manhood, glimpses of vulnerability, and moments of abstraction that often elude casual observation. The ocean itself assumes a persona akin to an embracing mother, offering a sanctuary for self-expression – a sentiment both archetypal and profoundly moving. As the boys ascend a formidable rock, they test their manhood through endurance, fearlessly leaping into the water, and momentarily losing themselves in innocent abandon. Their emergence signifies a symbolic self-validation. This artistic exploration also delves into the dynamic between the boys and the artist. While the boys remain aware of the artist’s presence as they pose, their self-awareness dissipates when they become immersed in the water.
Alain Joséphine, born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, in 1968, holds a National Superior Diploma in Plastic Expression, specialising in art, obtained at the School of Fine Arts and Decorative Arts of Bordeaux. He is also a member of CEREAP (the Centre for Study and Research in Aesthetics and Plastic Arts) under the direction of Dominique Berthet. In his paintings and drawings, he explores the spaces of his childhood, examining the various components that shaped them. Through his work, he establishes his own pictorial reality. Recent exhibitions have featured his art at the Foundation Clément François in Martinique, Cromwell Place in London, and the Galerie d’art contemporain du Conseil Général de la Guadeloupe.
Anina Major is a visual artist from the Bahamas. Her decision to establish a home contrary to the location in which she was born and raised motivates her to investigate the relationship between self and place as a site of negotiation. By utilising the vernacular of craft to reclaim experiences and relocate displaced objects, her practice exists at the intersection of nostalgia, and identity. Often taking form in a wide range of media, including installation, sculpture, time-based video, and performance, it references tropical ecologies as well as historical and contemporary ethnography. Her work unpacks the emotional complexities inherent to the transcultural dialogue that surfaces when mapping the migration of traditions versus foreign influences. Through her making, Major acts as a cultural strategist and works to inspire critical dialogue around developing cultural identities and building the appropriate platforms for this discourse.
Marcia Michael, a British multidisciplinary artist born in London, received her BA in Photography from Derby University. Michael gained her MA in Photography at UAL and this is where she is currently researching as a PhD candidate. Michael’s practice challenges the presence of the black subject within the auspices of the family album by constructing through a reclamation, a family archive. The Object of My Gaze exhibited at Tate, London (2021-2022), saw Michael extend her previous series The Study of Kin (2009) using photography as a mode of documentation and conversation to renew and re-create a trans-disciplinary tradition of storytelling and historical recovery. Utilising the act of collaboration with her Jamaican mother in a theoretical concept of Black matrilineage, Michael’s visual practice reconciles, black feminism, intergenerational visuality, African diasporic traditions and Caribbean memory. Michael’s photographic practice has extended to using clay, creative writing and drawings, as a way to reimagine and restructure history through these sites of an empowered, political and self-loving lineage of Black creativity.
Michael’s work is shown internationally. Michael has won awards for her photographic work and has received numerous global honourable mentions.
Johanna Mirabel is a Paris-based painter whose work explores the intimate connection between our inner thoughts and interior spaces. Her work draws from her French Guyanese and Martinique-Guadalupe heritage, sociological and philosophical writings, and western art historical references. In 2019, Mirabel graduated from the prestigious L’ École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Since then, Mirabel has exhibited throughout France and internationally through numerous group shows and art fairs including: Dallas Art Fair, in Dallas, TX and 1-54 Contemporary in London, UK and New York, NY with Luce Gallery, where her work was acquired for notable private collections. Earlier this year she was the recipient of the 2022 Ritzau Art Prize, and will begin a prestigious residency in October at The International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York City.
Lavar Munroe is a Bahamian interdisciplinary artist working primarily with mixed media painting, cardboard sculpture, and drawings. His work examines themes present in folklore, fables and historic films – drawing comparison between his upbringing in the Bahamas and travels to various countries in Africa. Addressing multiple narratives that span personal, historical and mythological references, Munroe’s work presents conflicts between a desire to escape and the longing for home, while challenging us to journey beyond the familiar. Described as a hybrid medium between painting and relief sculpture, Munroe’s work often incorporates sentimental objects collected and gifted from his family and objects found during his travels. His work focuses on themes such as journey, utopia, magic, love and the celebration of escape through fantastical and dreamlike imagery.
Zak Ové (b. 1966, London) is a British/Caribbean artist with a multi-disciplinary practice across sculpture, film and photography. His work is informed through the history and lore carried through the African diaspora to the Caribbean, Britain and beyond with particular focus on traditions of masking and masquerade as a tool of self emancipation. Ové’s artworks explore the interplay between old world mythology and ‘potential futures’, a space where he reinterprets present existence into the fantastical. His work is a celebration of the power of play and the spirit of imagination in the blurring of edges between reality and possibility. In this way, Ové seeks to re-write a history for the future through heralding the past in a new light. Ové’s work features in a number of museum and private collections. He curated the acclaimed exhibition, GET UP STAND UP NOW: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers, London, 2019.
Sir Horace Ové, CBE, (1936 – 2023) was born in Belmont, Trinidad. The multicultural island provided an early base of inspiration and understanding for his later interests and career. He is internationally known as one of the leading black independent filmmakers to emerge in Britain since the post-war period. Alongside his film work, Horace’s early photographic work captured the Black Power movement and counterculture in London. Writers and thinkers arrived in the UK from around the world to discuss civil rights issues and form new movements. Horace was at many of the meetings and captured iconic images of the events as they unfolded, and leading figures of the time such as Michael X, Stokely Carmichael and Darcus Howe, as well as the likes of John Lennon an Yoko Ono. He continued to capture images, social, political figures and moments in history up until his death earlier this year.
Ada M. Patterson
Ada M. Patterson was born in 1994 in Bridgetown, Barbados and lives and works between Rotterdam, Barbados and London.
Through addressing the complex nature of bodies queered by crisis, bodies passed over as invisible and disposable, bodies confronted with the physical realities of a world not designed for their survival, Ada M. Patterson’s work attempts to find elegy for figures and moments already fading away.
Sheena Rose (b. 1985, Bridgetown, Barbados) is a visual artist who works in Bridgetown, Barbados. Her multi-disciplinary practice includes painting, drawing, performance, new media, public art, and mixed media. This latest body of work is an exploration of Black women in sports, revealing more than physical prowess, but exuberant expressions of belonging across athletic platforms and therefore social strata. Rose also explores accessibility of wealth and personal power, referencing symbols of affluence and place. Her painting style is characterised by flat coloring, bold patterns from the seventies and eighties, and vivid, comic-book-like palettes and vignettes. Her proud figures take up literal and figurative space, donning clothes, hair and confidence that commands attention. Situated in a myriad of contexts – the tropics, with horses, beautiful interiors, engaged in professional sports – they are symbolic celebrations of the artist’s imagination and self-actualization. Rose is curious about a generous world, where she can move freely and be present as her whole self in any space. Using only paints that are locally accessible to her in Barbados, she unlocks a certain freedom while querying real life strategies on how to get there.
Jamilah Sabur, born in St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica, lives and works in Brussels. Metaphysics, geology, and memory are recurrent themes in the work of Jamilah Sabur. In her practice, the artist employs a distinct poetics, reframing territory and nationality. She explores the temporary nature of existence and our fleeting presence in it, a thread that connects us all. A new planetary literacy emerges in her work, where alternate geographies become possible as submerged histories are revealed.
Sabur’s work has been shown at galleries and institutions such as Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. Sabur earned a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore (2009), and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego (2014). Her work is included in the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Bass Museum, Miami. Sabur was included in the US Triennial Prospect 5 New Orleans.
Charmaine Watkiss completed her MA in Drawing at Wimbledon College of Art, 2018. Her work is concerned with what she calls ‘memory stories’. She creates narratives primarily through research connected to the African Caribbean diaspora, which is then mapped onto female figures. She draws herself as a conduit to relay stories which speak about a collective experience; starting with an idea, then allowing intuition and a dialogue with the work to take over. Her practice addresses themes including, ritual, tradition, ancestry, mythology and cosmology. Since her first gallery solo show The Seed Keepers in 2021, Charmaine has been investigating the herbal healing traditions of Caribbean women; especially those of her mother’s generation, and connecting those traditions through colonisation back to their roots in Africa.
In 2022 she completed a 6-week residency in southwest France at Launchpad LAB; which enabled her to explore nature and ecology in a more focussed way, and to combine drawing with making sculptural forms. Upon her return, she was selected as a commissioned artist for the 12th edition of the Liverpool Biennial 2023. This allowed her to develop her practice further by creating an installation which consisted of life-sized drawings and sculpture. The works embodied a healing frequency in response to Liverpool’s troubled historical past.
Barbadian-Scottish artist Alberta Whittle’s multifaceted practice is preoccupied with developing a personal response to the legacies of the Atlantic slave trade, unpicking its connections to institutional racism, white supremacy and climate emergency in the present. Against an oppressive political background, Whittle aims to foreground hope and engage with different forms of resistance.