Saturday 22nd May 2021 to
Sunday 29th August 2021
Focal Point Gallery is delighted to present the first institutional exhibition of new work by Rosa-Johan Uddoh, an interdisciplinary artist working towards radical self-love, inspired by black feminist practice and writing.
Practice Makes Perfect explores the relationship of childhood education with popular ideas of the British nation, and how this forms British subjects. This develops Uddoh’s practice exploring the effects of ‘black British’ popular culture on self-formation. Responding to the current debates about black history within the National Curriculum and urban space, Uddoh has approached the creation of new work for this exhibition as therapeutic ‘wish fulfilment’ in a time of uncertainty in education and wider racial tension.
During Autumn 2020, Rosa-Johan Uddoh worked with Year 8 pupils at Chase Secondary School in Southend-on-Sea to create performance-to-camera videos, developed through a series of workshops that considered the content and format of Uddoh’s written work, WINDRUSH: A TONGUE TWISTER, as a means to express the wishes of the young participants around a diverse curriculum. Investigating the importance of the school experience and ‘rehearsing’ as 'becoming’ or gaining subjectivity, this exhibition shares a collaborative process of acting on the potential of a dream education, according to the possibilities of the school schedule and the public gallery setting.
Another major new work by Uddoh investigates the historical figure of Balthazar who was, according to tradition, one of the three biblical Magi and later Saint, who visited the infant Jesus after his birth to offer the gift of myrrh. Depicted since medieval times as a lone black figure in artistic imagery of the Nativity scene, this King is also one of the first performed encounters by school children with a black person of importance. Historically, Balthazar is also a figure through which white artists and their patrons first constructed ‘blackness’. Through her research, with the assistance of Nasra Abdullahi, Uddoh has found and catalogued around 150 historical ‘Balthazars’ previously tokenised in ‘Adoration’ paintings made throughout European history. Thinking about the real, black European sitters for these paintings, behind the Christian symbolism, Uddoh’s billboard-style collage brings these black kings together in friendship groups on a long march to irreversibly change the West.
Commissioned by Focal Point Gallery, Practice Makes Perfect is presented in partnership with Bluecoat, Liverpool where the exhibition will tour later in the year.
With thanks to support from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants.
About the organisation
Focal Point Gallery is a visual arts gallery that supports the production and presentation of new and recent contemporary art that challenges us to think and feel differently about locality, our sense of self and the importance of communities. Our wide-ranging and pioneering artistic programme is relevant to local and national audiences alike, through exploring current concerns that also resonate internationally. Based in Southend-on-Sea on the Thames Estuary, FPG’s activities take place in locations across the region with our reach extended by working collaboratively with like-minded partners.
Images: Rosa-Johan Uddoh