Art date with Frank and Desta 🎨

Frank Bowling the artist in his studio in South London via Jill Mead, the Guardian 👨🏾‍🎨

Frank Bowling the artist in his studio in South London via Jill Mead, the Guardian 👨🏾‍🎨

I’m looking for something that will jolt me and I can feel that rush – the nervous system being so excited it’s going to act. It’s what keeps me awake at night.
— Frank Bowling

So, last week i had life delivered to me via the inspirational Frank Bowling and his retrospective at the Tate . Scroll down for the gallery + the audio documentary or keep reading for a diary of FEELINGS!

Desta and i had a work + art date, starting off on the top floor of the Southbank Centre - a great place to work with a view overlooking the Thames and London skyline by the way, plus Queer Tango on the Thames was downstairs which was full of vibes and brilliance (if you haven’t already, do go someday, eh?)

After a refuel at Spiritland we ambled along the river to the gallery, to be met by an equally enthusiastic crowd of visitors and employees alike.

One security guard who helped us find our way on the way to find Frank, checked in with us as we were leaving. He asked if we enjoyed the exhibition, cue: gurgling sounds from me and passionate “YES! WE LOVED!” from both of us. I asked him what he thought about the show and without missing a beat he said, “l love it every day”.
I felt myself well up as the security guard said that with his whole chest, telling us he walks the space each day in awe and delight. In fact, i almost bawled. He was Black, as were a number of fellow visitors, and i felt a shared sense of this being a long time coming: Frank Bowling had struggled to be hosted in spaces (see documentation in my gallery below) and the props he so rightfully deserved.

In larger “mainstream” institutions (yep, western yogaland being one of them) i find the issue of access to true and meaningful representation common, and although this exhibition is a significant event, it’s not enough. So much work to do and it’s frustrating to say the least that we are still here, still here, in big ole 2019. Although i’m glad to see more Black artists building their own damn tables (always have been tbh), i’m also noticing the ripple effect of discomfort and tokenism, which, in many ways is symptom of removing the protective veil from some delicate eyes who have been lucky not to notice the injustices that affect the majority of the world’s population.

Frequently, white gallery spaces can be oppressive places, not only from the literal “random” searches/assumptions by staff you’re in the “wrong” space/ being followed and watched very carefully, etc. And it’s often the case institutions rarely show work from anything that deviates from mainly white men…. these are spaces i certainly don’t want to spend so much time in tbh.

Who’s allowed?

It’s hard not to feel thoroughly excluded and made to examine if you are “allowed” to be there. Hence why my labour of love project, Art + Yoga was born back in 2012 in Norway, and why i wrote about my feelings about the snooty culture scenes (including art, yoga + music) whilst living in Norway (and got into tremendous trouble for when press picked it up and classic irrational fragility ensued). I speak on things i feel, and refuse to “fit” to what’s asked of me (which is usually asks me to be more pallatable, mass marketable, and not speaking on things…) because i want to demolish these archaic and exclusive ideas about who gets to be in what room, reject the white gaze, the rules about how i should “behave” and encourage us all to remember who we are, and the freedom that we have…

Sidenote On: Freedom

…Which might lead me into another (yet another) sidenote here, cause it’s something i’ve been thinking about a lot…freedom, a big word in my own life and work, and a word that sometimes feels far away, especially in the times we are living in. Freedom is a word that has felt like something i have needed to fight for, since birth, and ancestors long before. However, freedom can already exist within us. Even and especially when we don’t feel so free. We get to tap into that inner freedom. A paradox yet…as are most things but….do you know what i mean?
More thoughts on this coming soon but obviously interested in yours.

It’s a sad fact that being able to go to a space like the Tate and see a Black artist’s work is a big deal. And this particular retrospective by Frank, now 85 years old (which isn’t old! and he’s still painting every day!) but this show, albeit wonderful to see, it’s also bitter-sweet, feeling many years late. For many reasons including, the lack of diversity in the rooms deciding who gets a platform to be “seen”, or rather is “allowed” to be in this gallery/industry. And the irony is not lost, the name inkeeping and rooted in British history (like most of the larger galleries, spaces, banks and buildings we walk past every day, funded by and connected to slavery) is yet another offputting strike.

So i’m interested in this conversation but also action, are you? Here are some questions i’m contemplating - feel free to apply them: How can i be more inclusive? What am i doing to offer more support to those of us on the fringes? By support, i mean more investment, more encouragement, more active engagement and promotion: buy their things, attend their events and hire services.
It’s something that’s never far from my mind but there is always space to do better.

Some of you might remember how gassed i’ve been in anticipation of this show and Frank didn’t disappoint. In fact, this exhibition inspired me so much i had to bring you with me, via my podcast I Feel For You - i know, i’m extra, but felt we could all use some nourishment!

So, here’s the episode featuring special guest, Desta!

Expect a dive into topics like particularly to do with working with limitations and age and colour and peaches and New York and Norway and The WORK and JOY and house prices and what the hell we are here to do in the world! 
Expect ambiance from Landan town! And some singing! Hope you dig! 

And here’s a selection of images i took from the retrospective.