Your Space Or Mine
The Molasses Gallery
The BUILDHOLLYWOOD family have collaborated with The Molasses Gallery as part of their Your Space Or Mine series. The recently launched open-air project calls itself “an intangible open-air gallery promoting Black solidarity and unity” and showcases 12 works of art by 12 Black artists on poster sites across London, in locations like Tower Hamlets, Shepherd’s Bush and Camden. As the pandemic has closed many art galleries, the Molasses Gallery aims to bring this art to the public. Curator Tanaka Saburi says: “we believe we can spur philanthropy whilst educating the public with knowledge of often pigeonholed artists within our own city of London”. The inspiring project features works by emerging and established interdisciplinary artists of African and Caribbean heritage to coincide with renewed discussion around the role and recognition of Black artists in the creative industries.
Design-led by Nina Kunzendorf, the exhibition was inspired by a poem by New York artist Gordon Parks. Written in 1975, “To a Black Artist” remains ever-relevant today, and its influence is felt throughout the vibrant work that as Saburi says, features artists “with a multitude of different narratives that share one commonality,” conveying their own unique experiences through art.
The work spans styles and mediums broadly: interdisciplinary artist Hamed Maiye painted a striking, almost photorealistic portrait in black and white oil bar, oil and pastel on black cotton canvas. Another, by TJ Agbo, utilises their trademark abstract style, bringing together shapes, colours and black and white to create an effective and stunning portrait. Sharmaarke Ali Adan, known for their soft, empathetic portraits, contributed a rich and colourful photograph of a friend wearing a beret.
Faces and figures feature throughout the exhibition. In a piece by Joy Yamusangie, a mannequin-esque figure formed of circles hovers eerily, set against a blue background. One by 21-year-old queer artist Ashton Attzs states its message clearly: in their trademark, bright, abstract colours and shapes, a person holds up a weight that reads “Black Power”. With its bright shades of orange, green and pink complementing the figure’s black skin, it’s a powerful and vibrant piece with an important message.
Olivia Twist centres people in her work too, with a more subtle depiction of two figures drawn from the side, in black against a blue background. Ronan McKenzie, a photographer who specialises in bold photos of the black human form, contributed a beautiful photograph of two women wearing white holding one another. With a painting of a nude black woman wearing pink heels sitting in an orange room, talented painter Chinaza Agbor offered an eye-catching piece that needs to be seen in large to be truly appreciated. Finally, King Owusu, who often works with markers, delivered a work that combines nature, colour and humanity.
While people or abstractions of people feature in many of these works, some artists chose instead to centre words or colour. Hilda Kortei, an artist who often uses collage in her pieces, contributed a colourful, abstract piece of art that features fun, even childish patches of colour and shapes. Alfie Kungu, known for his colourful paintings of legs, delivered a bold, busy canvas that centres pinks and purples amongst blue and yellow, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer. Less up for interpretation is Leah Abraham’s contribution, a pink piece of graphic design that promotes tenderness: “soft black womxnhood is resistance,” it reads. “I needed a visual intention which speaks of our natures, our existence, our survivals during this time where there is so much complexity, so many layers and an astounding breadth of trajectory to wade through,” said the artist in an Instagram post.
Not only does the project respond to the renewed discussion around Black artists in the creative world but it promotes Black solidarity and unity to ensure that Black artists are seen at such a pivotal time.