Tag Representation

4 Corners: An interview with Emory Douglas

As a black teenager growing up in East Sheen, I was inspired by the historical contribution of the Black Power and Civil Rights Movement in the US, and influenced by leading black political figures and community activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown; Huey Newton and Bobby Seale – and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in particular. The Black Panthers’ base in Oakland, California was a universe away from the genteel, suburban niceties of south west London, but as an aspiring artist and designer I could not help but be captivated by the powerful and evocative imagery they projected and the striking graphic designs they created. Both the medium and the message had a profound influence on my development as a creative professional and certainly instilled a desire to use design as a tool to promote and tackle social issues and human rights issues that continues to this day. The Black Panthers’ pioneering political visual communications were the handiwork of a truly gifted and visionary man, who served the party as Minister for Culture from 1967 to 1980. A man who in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that I would one day have the honour of interviewing and the pleasure of introducing you to today. Brothers and Sisters please pump your black, gloved fists up for Mr Emory Douglas.

Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist, Designer and Minister of Culture of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1967-80).

What’s your background?

My art background is basically as a self-taught artist with a minimum of professional training. I attended City College in San Francisco off and on from around 1964 to 1966 and majored in Commercial Art.
That educational practice introduced me to the basic graphic designing elements such as figure drawing, sketching, illustration drawing, lettering, layout and design, pre-press production, the offset printing process, the basic animation process and how to critique and evaluate one’s work. This was my only academic graphic design training prior to my actual on-the-job training.Free+All+Political+PrisonersSource: Emory Douglas

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As a youth I was in and out of detention centers, I will say for illegal activity not sanctioned by the state. While there I would do mostly landscape art – nothing with any social meaning. A year or so after I got out I decided to attend City College of San Francisco. The councillor at the detention center heard of my decision to attend college and suggested I take up art. When I went to enroll I mentioned to the college councillor
I would like to major in Art and he suggested I major in the Commercial Arts, which I did. Thereafter the whole idea of my going to school was to try and break into commercial art by becoming a designer, art director or illustrator. I heard of people who were making good money in those fields so I wanted to join them. However,  after a while I began to see and realise that there was really only an elite few that made it and became successful and they were mostly the white students, particularly the ones who had relatives or close family friends with ties to the commercial art field. While at college I developed my graphic art skills to a professional level, where they would send me out on job assignments. I worked at a silk-screen factory where I learned the silk-screen printing process. I also worked at a downtown store in San Francisco where they sold fine wine goblets and silverware doing layout, cutting and pasting of advertisements and preparing display signs for their store window displays. Also there were paying jobs that came in from various departments at the College for graphic design work such as sign lettering and technical illustrations where I along with other art students who had developed our skills to a basic professional level were offered these jobs.Malcolm+X+SpearsSource: Emory Douglas

What challenges did you face in achieving your ambitions to break into the industry?

Certainly there were challenges, because this was at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Firms weren’t hiring blacks, so it was particularly difficult for African- Americans and there were many racial biases and obstacles to overcome. But at the same time that’s how I got involved in political artwork. For example, the whole time I attended City College there was only me and sometimes one other black person who were enrolled in the Commercial Art classes of about 20 students per class. Also there were graphic styles that I created which one of the instructors expressed to me wasn’t commercial enough, so for a while I had to go along with that whole framework of how they programme you to produce artwork for your portfolio with a certain commercial style that was considered acceptable when it came time to looking for a job or going for job interviews. The graphic styles I personally used I had to just put that to the side until later on. I remember one time as a class assignment to create a magazine layout I created one similar to EBONY magazine (the most prominent African-American magazine of the time) and the teacher pulled me aside and said how much he appreciated what I had done. But he added that to be honest with me, it would be another 10 years or so before ideas like mine would be accepted. Eventually it was the Civil Rights, and human rights pressures and campaigning against discrimination that began the process for black people getting into the commercial arts industry during that period.Paper+BoySource: Emory Douglas

Who and what are your greatest inspirations?

As a youngster growing up it was my mother – she was legally blind and worked hard as a single parent.
 There was an artist I knew named Charles Bible, he lived downstairs from where I lived and he would mass-produce multiple paintings of the same image of Malcolm X every year for the anniversary celebrations of Malcolm’s life. I would talk to him about his assembly-line production process and his painting technique and he would explain both of them to me. The information he shared became very helpful when I began doing some portrait paintings over the years. There was also the Black Arts Movement (BAM), which I made artistic contributions to during and prior to my joining The Black Panther Party in late January 1967. Then there was this calendar I would see as a child at my aunt’s house. Every year it featured artwork by a black artist named Charles White, which had a real impact on me. Politically, I was inspired by the politics and artwork that was being created at the time – particularly the work of the Cuban poster artists of OSPAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America), and from China, Vietnam, the Anti-War movement and Palestine. The Cuban artists used to remix some of my artwork they saw in the Black Panther Newspaper and created some amazing solidarity posters that they would share around the world – that was very exciting and inspiring.End+to+RobberySource: Emory Douglas

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would say the best piece of work would have to be a volume of work that maybe tells a story – and therefore it would be my body of work for The Black Panther Party. But there are also volumes of work that I’m doing today that I feel strongly about and that I am pleased and satisfied to be able to make a statement on current issues and in a more contemporary way than what I did back then.Free+LandSource: Emory Douglas

What would be your dream project?

If I were younger, my dream job would probably as the head of a company, art department or organisation dealing with basic human rights and enlightening and educating people and using art as a language to communicate with people.Black+PantherSource: Emory Douglas

Who in your field do you believe deserve credit or recognition?

There are many, therefore I prefer not to drop names because I’m sure to remember later that I forgot to mention many others I should have, who are also amazing artists and great communicators through their art.ObamaSource: Emory Douglas

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Whatever you do stay focused and practise your craft. And if you’re doing political artwork or social commentary art make sure you know the basic politics of whatever social issues that may concern you. Have fun! Don’t do it because it’s a fad, do it because you believe in it and understand that the creative process will be an ongoing life long journey.Endangered+SpeciesSource: Emory Douglas

What’s next for you?

To continue doing what I’m doing, creating artwork that deals with quality of life issues, basic human rights violations and concern for the struggles and challenges of oppressed peoples in this world.

For more information visit www.emorydouglasart.com.

Big thanks to Maurice Cherry of Revision Path for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network:

EUROPE:

‘RETURN OF THE RUDEBOY’ is an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott, which showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces. Runs until 25 August 2014 at Somerset House, Terrace Rooms, Strand London WC2R 1LA. Admission FREE. For more information visit www.somersethouse.org.uk.

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: PAINTING AND OTHER STUFF is an exhibition of the work of the American artist across venues in Madrid and Barcelona. The exhibition is divided between two venues. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid there is a focus on historical works and paintings, while the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona includes more recent works, not only in painting but also in other media such as drawing, photography, video and installation. Exhbitions run until 26 October 2014. For more information visit www.fundaciotapies.org.

THE CARIBBEAN:

40 VOICES is an exhibition encompassing film, photography and an art installation in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Culturama event in Nevis Culturama (Nevis ). Through open, emotive and unguarded interviews of forty Nevis residents, 40 Voices aims to create an empowering film that will capture a snapshot of the feelings, opinions and attitudes of Culturama into one seamless loop. The exhibition runs from Sunday 27 July – Sunday 10 August 2014. For more information visit www.culturamanevis.com or chantimedia.com.

THE US:

DESIGN FOR SOCIAL IMPACT, an exhibition offering a look at how designers, engineers, students, professors, architects and social entrepreneurs use design to solve the problems of the 21st century. The exhibition features projects that address a variety of challenges in the areas of Shelter, Community, Education, Healthcare, Energy and Food & Water. Each category highlights solutions taking place locally, as well as ways in which these challenges are being addressed around the world. The exhibition is on view at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) through to 3 August 2014. For more information visit www.museumofdesign.org. 

AFRICA:

21 ICONS: PORTRAIT OF A NATION, a poignant and inspiring multi-media exhibition by 21 Icons and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, opened on Youth Day, 16 June 2014 at the Museum of African Design in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. In celebration of 20 Years of democracy, the two-month long exhibition features portraits and short films of 21 of South Africa’s greatest social masters including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Sophia Williams De Bruyn, Ahmed Kathrada, Nadine Gordimer and George Bizos. 21 Icons: Portrait of a Nation: Presented by Mercedes-Benz South Africa will be on exhibition at MOAD for the first time, through to 17 August 2014. For more information, please visit www.moadjhb.com/21icons.

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Malene B

This month we take a slight departure into a different field of design. Carpet design to be exact. Dynamic, bold, colourful and contemporary textile creations inspired by the designer’s travels, far and wide, they have made their mark on the floors of a host of prestigious residential and commercial environments around the globe. Born in The Bronx, New York, of West Indian parentage, our profiled award-winning designer now runs her business from Brooklyn and is a regular guest speaker at design and interiors events on the global cultural calendar. So without further ado, over to you Malene B. The floor is yours.

Malene B

Malene: carpet designer/president and design director of Malene B Carpets.

What’s your background?

My heritage is Caribbean-American; my mother is from the island of St. Vincent and my father is Jamaican. I’ve always had an interest in colour, painting and design since childhood. Eventually, my interest turned into passion and I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with a BFA in Textile Surface Design and an Associate Degree in Fashion Illustration.

Malene B

How did you get started?

After college, I worked for a textile importer and then a carpet manufacturer.  From the carpet company, I learned all aspects of their business and decided to create a custom carpet company to showcase my specific design aesthetic.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was starting a business during a recession. We overcame this by staying focused, keeping a positive attitude and relying on my aggressive networking skills. Our company’s motto: Since we’re starting at the bottom, there is only one direction to go…UP!!!

Malene B

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I am most inspired by the people and places encountered during my many travels. Those experiences are the essence of my brand and because of them, I am able to share a part of their life story through my designs.

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

My collection titled Signature. It was the first carpet group in the Malene B brand.  It debuted five years ago and it still continues to ‘wow’ people.

Malene B

What would be your dream project?

My dream is to design a collection for industry giants like Anthropologie and Crate and Barrel, and to work with David Adjaye on residential and commercial projects…His work is beautiful and visionary.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

All the owners and designers in the rug business. They continue to be a wonderful source of support. To name a few; Tania Johnson, Inigo Elizalde, Jan Kath, Judy Ross and Warp & Weft.

Malene B

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be a follower…create your own path!

What’s next for you?

Its time to expand into other product categories. I’m working on a crowd-fundraising campaign, which will help finance the development of new products. The campaign will allow customers to pre-order specific limited-edition items and the collection will consist of beautiful theme driven pillows, throws, carpets, tile and more.

Malene B

For more information visit www.maleneb.com.

Network

EUROPE:

‘BRITISH’ is a photography exhibition that explores the multi-cultural nature of British identity by Zadoc Nava. Taking his own iconic ‘British’ T-shirt, a celebration of multicultural ‘Britishness’, as his starting point the fashion designer Wale  Adeyemi commissioned photographer Zadoc Nava to document the changing face of Britain. Using the street as his studio, Nava has produced a series of compelling portraits that reflect the diverse nature of contemporary British society. Runs until 29 June 2014 at The Print Room, 34 Hereford Road, London, W2 5AJ. Admission FREE. For more information visit www.the-print-room.org.

THE CARIBBEAN:

REGGAE SUMFEST 2014 will be the 22nd annual staging of the festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Staged annually during the third week of July, the festival is now an established staple on the Jamaican entertainment calendar, attracting patrons from all across the globe, as far away as Australia, Europe, the USA and the African continent.  Festival runs from July 13-19, 2014.  More information at at www.reggaesumfest.com 

THE US:

A SUBTLETY OF THE MARVELOUS SUGAR BABY. Creative Time presents the first large-scale public project by Kara Walker. Sited in the sprawling industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory, Walker’s physically and conceptually expansive installation responds to the building and its history. The exhibition is open until 6 July, Fridays 4-8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays noon to 6 at Domino Sugar Factory, South 1st Street @ Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. For more info visitcreativetime.org/projects/karawalker/

AFRICA:
Zanzibar International Film Festival 2014. Recognised as the largest film and arts event in East Africa, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) offers a themed selection of African and international cinema. The festival also features a series of performances, discussion channels, workshops, exhibitions, live music concerts, cultural tours and workshops. This year’s theme is ‘A Common Destiny’, and the selection of films will be chosen depending on their power to ignite common experiences in their diverse audiences by reinforcing awareness of shared experiences, history and culture. Ngome Kongwe (Old Fort), Zanzibar City, Zanzibar. For more information, please visit www.ziff.or.tz

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Barrington Braithwaite

This month we head to a very unique part of the Caribbean, Guyana. It is unique in the fact that it is not an island, but a sovereign state situated on the northern coast of South America. Historically known as the ‘Land of Many Waters’, its heritage can be found flowing through the veins of many notable people, including Baroness Valerie Amos, Lord Herman Ouseley, the late Bernie Grant MP, David Lammy MP, Trevor Philips and pioneering US activist Shirley Chisholm. Many artists and entertainers have roots in Guyana, such as the distinguished playwright, poet and author John Agard; British-based actors Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder and Cy Grant; and musicians such as Phil Lynott,, global superstar Rihanna and Eddy Grant, the platinum-selling musician and entrepreneur. It was Eddy who first mentioned the name of this month’s profiled creative to me, speaking with pride and reverence about the work of his fellow countryman. And who similarly I am proud to bring to your attention now. Introducing the graphic artist and illustrator, Barrington Braithwaite.

What’s your background?

I’m from roots that have produced folk in the arts and media. It’s kind of infra dig though, to talk about folks when the discourse is about self. I spent the formative years of my life with my godparents at Mahaica, rural Guyana, after my Adam and Eve went separate ways. There I was given the opportunity as an only child in their care to explore my imagination. My godparents encouraged my interests and only after their deaths did I realise that I had a privileged initiation to life – I actually have five sisters and four brothers. I was lucky that the Forbes Burnham post-independence Government of the 70s was developing youth-training organisations and bringing experts from overseas in different fields to train the youth of that period. I was interested in art or, I should say, I was compelled by this passion. However I became part of a young settlers co-op group after school in 1974 and there did courses in co-op management and field practices. The Cold War temperature was impacting on Guyana, I left the co-op and worked on the waterfront to survive, until I was encouraged in around 1981 by my friend ‘Fat Boy’ Herbert Archer, a poet, to take my portfolio – which wasn’t much – to Dr Denis Williams at the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology to negotiate a way out of the dog-eat-dog waterfront world. He engaged me and placed me through the training of a scientific illustrator, but I couldn’t help who I was and while on one particular archaeological site in the Northwest of Guyana’s Rain Forests, I wrote my first two stories to be illustrated. I was supposed to go to Scotland to complete my training but it was decided that if I went I wouldn’t return, so disgruntled I left the museum, and worked freelance as a commercial artist at the Guyana Chronicle. With the support of editors I developed and published several comic strips and serials. With a young family I started an advertising service to keep the pot boiling, and have maintained that while developing and self publishing my graphic magazines.

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As far back as I could remember I was enthralled by comic books and most of all telling stories using that medium. While in school I became the class artist. This fame extended even to higher forms, from helping with class art assignments to doing rip-offs of commando comic books in four-page exercise-book middle-page pull outs. These were sold for a penny. I had to wait until 1981, when I was employed by Denis Williams. I presented him with an illustrated story I had done named The Shrouded Legacy. He took me and my story down to the national newspapers who I think he bullied to accept it, and I was guided through my first contract and received my first cheque. When it hit the Sunday pages I received in the weeks that followed great harassment from friends who then pointed out my errors which were many. I had used the only drawing pen I had, didn’t understand the concept of lettering or word balloons and was not a good artist qualified for publishing by the standards of the day. Eerie, Creepy and the Warren Publishing line had enveloped our horizons. I prayed for my series to finish and the torment to stop. I did not fold up and it took years with my wife as the female model and some old muscle magazines for the males to develop my skill, this was a weird mix and with the critical help of my buddy Andy Anderson I emerged with the Elder comic strip, that through negotiations the newspapers carried. As I said before, the policy of the Government back then was to encourage the local arts, but there were standards to be met. I had decided by 1983 to develop a medium for the talents that were directing my thoughts. I had no idea at the time of the necessary independent support systems that were needed to make this happen, I concentrated on making my artwork meet the acceptable standards. In 1988 I published the trilogy of The Shadow of the Jaguar. In the ‘90s I wrote and illustrated The Legend of the Silk Cotton Tree – this went from graphic magazine to stage play in 2010. I work under the Company Name Spectrum Creative Productions and administrate a small advertising service, and have done work for UNICEF, the West Indian Cricket Board and other agencies. The goal of a pure graphic magazine publishing outfit continues to propel the production of several new projects that are yet to be published.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

There is no publishing industry in the CARICOM belt and the comic book industry is even further away from this reality. The most unexpected and vicious opposition to my work as a self-publisher did not come from competition, but from those who had appointed themselves the custodians of proper culture in Guyana. These were characters that were more British than the English who had ruled British Guiana. The idea of an Afro Guyanese hero was offensive I think to both the caricature class and the PPP government. The Shadow of the Jaguar strip in the National Chronicle Newspaper was dropped after the PPP Government was elected in 1992. I had long concluded that Guyana was not the world and since I had always trained my art along the guidelines of a holistic illustrator’s universe, I proceeded now as artist activist resident in my country. The challenges also lay in understanding the rules of protecting one’s work on the international market place, and having a working understanding of contract law. With the rise of new technologies to apply that to production, also charting a network for collaborations wherever the veins progressively lead. Venture capital has always been the unpredictable Cerberus, from a working-class hemisphere talent as me. Cultivating and honing one’s talents and creative skills were the first of the labours, next lay the support forces, space for work, raising a family and no external finances, rising above this is a task of pure will. Only the perseverance, the muse that from its inception was the driving force, delivers the irrational incentive to face these factors towards the realisation of the real fulfillment that is having the complete means present to publish as I see fit the full studio of works that encompasses the last 35 years.

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I was enthralled by the Sunday cartoons and comic books and I had inherited artistic and the scribe’s talent. Then my greatest influences came from the debates in my father’s workshop about local legends, aspects of Caribbean history, Biblical accuracy against movie stuff and other subjects that preoccupied my serious conversations into early manhood. Some of these subjects required research, like when I thought [at about ten years old] that the Ten Commandmentsmovie reflected things that had happened in Spain – it isn’t funny bro. Reading brought me new ideas and information and in discussion with my peers they rebuked me that I should do comic strips about our topics – a herculean task, but an inspiration. Realising that my talents can fill a vacuum with edutainment tales and characters was the greatest inspiration that propelled me into this career.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would like to think that I’m currently working on my most valued project. I first attempted the current project, which in its concept presents WWII and then links it to other historical epochs in a mystical way, because this project has some moons to go – I can’t get into the details. What I can say was that I started it around 1984 and I had shown Dr Williams the first concept issue. He proposed to purchase it for the Department of Culture’s Library, I was been trained as a scientific illustrator and was finding it difficult to survive on the Government’s stipend. He then asked me where I was taking the story, what were the elements I wanted to explore? I explained to him what I wanted to do, what had gripped my imagination. He shook his head and explained to me that I should give the ideas about 20 years to grow because I didn’t have the information at the time, he asked me some questions, to which I replied, he then answered them for me to illustrate his point then assured me not to bother with Hollywood and to cover both African and European history deciphering the in-between propaganda that is inserted in historical works, by cross reading. Reading that included the metaphors of the mystery systems, and Dr Williams concluded prophetically, that I’ll know when I’m qualified to address the topic. Yes I was pissed, but convinced by his questions and his counter-answers that I didn’t know as much as I thought, to do this work of fiction. I was mentally oriented that I must be conditioned to face the exploration, and exploitation of ideas with an understanding of the subject, whether it’s the geography, architecture or costumes. With the medium of graphics one has to come close to accurate. The origins of conflicts cannot be taking for granted either. For example – the current Ukrainian issue, where did it start, was it in the Middle ages, the Stalinist era, or with the Nazi era? A framework for a fictional work has to be grounded in a mythic or historic reference sphere , from there, the poetic license can be applied. So that attitude towards work compels research for development and if you’re operating outside of a major budget , then the work is on you and it will take time, lots of time. Dr Williams was right; I couldn’t do honest work on the subject matter of the graphic series now in progress without a wealth of historic time travels, and a working knowledge of religious beliefs across migrations into their modern innuendos. Because it’s not yet protected I can’t provide insights, except to say it’s my pet project. I’ve just finished a recent pet project that I’ve been working on for years, a graphic novel on the Haitian Revolution, a whopping 123 pages, hand coloured and compartmented into five sections. From the period of composing the first page, outside of the years of research, it took three years to complete and now it’s the stuff of nerves to work out the deal that will take it to pay-day. This can be considered my current showpiece, because it was never done before. But as time goes the showpiece changes with the season.

What would be your dream project?

The greatest achievement as a job for me is to be able to work on set designs and costumes for one of my graphic works turn into a movie, then with enough money I’ll finance research into a lens that can peer into the stuff dogs howl at.

Who in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition?

That list would begin with my parents, whose genetics gave me a certain persuasion, then my muse, who’s out there and whispers and guides in some uncanny, save the moment coincidences, I’m still searching the science magazines on the data of the human brain to see if they’re any clarifications that suit my muse experiences – none so far. Mr Hunter, the head master of the school I attended on the rural east coast of Demerara in my formative years, was a tremendous influence. My godparents Abel Burke and Elizabeth Cumberbatch, who raised me in my formative years until their demise when I was about 14 years old, had indulged my curiosities for toy soldiers, comic books and had engaged me in conversations about the travels of Odysseus and Aesop’s tales, they can be credited with shaping the foundations of my later creative career development. My buddy Andy Anderson, who was my personal critic on the evolution of my art, the long after-school debates on technique in the Art room of Queens College. My Mother Grace lived outside of Guyana, my father was the resident parent, and Hubert Braithwaite never stood in the way of my boyhood interests, though he guided me towards the illustrated Classics and coerced me to read my first novel which was the Louis L’amour book ‘To Tame a Land ‘, my dad read lots of western novels,. he did subtly guide me towards Architecture and furniture design, he built houses and had a furniture making operation, which I found exciting but was mundane in respect to the creative stuff that was compelling me. My wife Donna and children Michelle, Taharka and Makeda who were all seconded for model services over the years, and as the photographer when I had to be the model for immediate anatomy fixes. They endured my on-the-job hastily applied lessons on the model or photography specifics, they snarled and scratched and I growled, until we got it done. When I started in the media, at the Chronicle there were people there who were interested in the unveiling of local graphic storylines, and there are names I must include: Claudette Earle the Sunday editor, Godfrey Wray another editor, Adam Harris, Frank Pilgrim and Ulric Captain, all managers at Chronicle, the latter who I was working with to expand to the Caribbean to have a general pull out graphic publication When the Government changed. My pal Poloma, now Professor Poloma Mohammed, a playwright and writer herself who was always there, and David Granger [Brig. Rtr] whose publications on local history gave me the opportunity to interpret much of our local history in graphics. These are the pivotal persons who have come to thought in related fields. And finally the late Poet ‘Fat Archer’, and the small businesses with an interest in the arts who always supported my graphic projects.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I would hope that certain systems are in place with the activism of myself and others to make the acceptance of the local graphic storyteller friendlier and with a greater respect for the value of the work produced. The road of the illustrator, painter, poet and writer is not an easy one, the more talented the artist is, will mean the more challenges, and with originality must come the strength to defend the new explored territory. Young aspirants to the graphic arts must understand that they’re embarking into a serious field, especially if they are going to write their own creative or documentary projects. They must, apart from honing their talents, mastering the areas of anatomy, materials and technique, have a historic understanding of the evolution of the field, from the caves to the current top guns, whose work continue to inspire and move us onto our own. For me it was the unknown artists who did the Commando comics, then on the local Guyana scene it was Rudy Seymour who did the first local comics I knew. I later engaged the work of Tom Feelings. Frank Frazzeta , Bernie Wrightson, Will Eisner all came after I had the gift of Treasure Island illustrated by Newell Wyeth. Old magazines led me to the French and Europe, Eugene Delacroix, Dore’ and the guy who in my view jump-started the modern fantasy art trend: William Blake. But this reservoir of knowhows about the field wouldn’t be enough. The practicing artist has to understand the legal world of copyright, to protect from being sued for violating the commanding piece of art or photography you adopted verbatim into your stuff, or if the situation is vice versa, then copyright becomes your best friend. This wouldn’t be complete without a working understanding of contract law. Contract law is a significant crossroad process that will build or break you – from experience I can tell you this. Your talents can work for you or for some other wiseguy, based on what you know when you leave the environs of your muse and enter the entangling vines of the rainforests out there.

What’s next for you?

The next limb on the tree of life I’m reaching for is for the fruit that enables me to launch internationally the pivotal four graphic series I want to place on the market, this would entail the cash-flow to recruit back-up talents and publish the first two unhindered, then the other two series mentioned. This would open the door to introduce, based on the response of license relationships solicited or attracted explorations into comparative mediums, that would allow realising the exploration of other latent ideas for different audiences. Without further whimsical elaborations, the above capture what lies ahead.

A very special thanks to Patrice Hinds for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network

THE U.S:

Serigrafía surveys the powerful tradition of information design in California’s Latino culture, featuring thirty influential silkscreens from the 1970s to the present. Beginning in the late 1960s, graphic art created at and distributed by artist-led collectives, or centros, contributed significantly to the public discourse. Emerging in concert with the civil rights movement and demanding political and social justice for marginalized groups, these prints confront political, economic, social, and cultural issues on both a personal and a global level. Runs until April 20, 2014 at Pasadena Museum of California Art. For more information visit http://www.pmcaonline.org/

THE CARIBBEAN:

Rincón International Film Festival. On a mission to support and promote culture and the arts in Puerto Rico through the medium of film, the festival seeks to inspire student, future and current filmmakers in the art of filmmaking.From7-13 April 2014. For more information visit http://www.rinconfilm.com

EUROPE:

Japanese Poster Art : Cherry Blossom & Asceticism. Intended as a cultural contribution to the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Switzerland, the exhibition presents the history of the poster in Japan, where this medium is primarily known as an artistic statement and image advertising. Works by three old masters, Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka – from a generous donation to the museum – are to be seen alongside posters from 1950 to the present day. Here the special aesthetic of Japanese graphic designs reflects the dialogue between Eastern and Western visual culture. Runs until 25 May 2014 at Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

3rd Curacao International Film Festival 2014. 2 – 6 April 2014 at The Cinemas Curaçao‎
1 Baden Powellweg
 Willemstad, Rotterdam. For more information visit thecinemascuracao.com

AFRICA:

Fashioning Africa is set to bring some of the continent’s most exciting contemporary designers to Johannesburg. The multidisciplinary exhibition explores the history of African fashion and surveys the current landscape of fashion in Africa. The exhibition runs until 27 April at the Museum of African Design. Admission: R 30
 Museum opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00am – 5.00pm. For more info visit http://www.moadjhb.com

A Super Hero Identity Crisis

poster-supermanreveal

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about ‘superheroism’. Partly, because of my Afro Supa Hero exhibition currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood, that is centered around my personal collection of African diaspora pop cultural action figures and comics; but also because I see it as a theme that is gradually becoming more visible in society. A trend, I believe is primarily due to the phenomenal rise of gaming across all different platforms and devices. Virtual worlds offering momentary escapes from our real lives through new identities, avatars and alter egos. Sophisticated pursuits that are no longer purely the preserve of children, but also taken through to adulthood.

Although, I am not a big ‘gamer’ myself, I find this whole subject fascinating, especially when I relate it to the African-Caribbean experience in the UK and how many people of my generation; the 1960s first generation Britons, born of Caribbean parents; spent years searching for their own identity.

Even though a sense of displacement was something we shared with our ‘brothers and sisters’ in the Caribbean and the US, I believe our experience in Britain was quite unique. The patriotism, they showed for their respective countries, was a feeling that was often completely alien to me and many of my peers.

Here, we were a group of citizens who felt no more at home in the country of our birth, than we did in the homeland of our parents. In Barbados I was called a ‘Little Englander’ yet in Britain I was seen as a ‘bloody foreigner’. It was an identity crisis that took me years to come to terms with, and even to this day, I still tend to identify more with being a Londoner first and foremost, than being British.

It is experiences like these that have pushed me throughout the course of my life, starting in my early teens, to explore and embrace African Diaspora history and its legions of super heroes and heroines. It fuels my belief that uncovering the truth in ‘History’ is the great equalizer that can help address many of the negative perceptions that surround race, religion, sexuality and gender.

It also informed the approach that I took in creating my Afro Supa Star Twins™ that adorn my exhibition branding and merchandise.  From the outset, I wanted my characters to be accessible to everyone. I was deliberate in making them twins, one male and one female because of my belief in harmony and the equality of the sexes.

In terms of the Afro style, on one hand, and purely for selfish reasons, it embraces the main phase of my childhood; but on the other it was also a dynamic time of ‘Black self-pride’ and ‘Afro-consciousness’ as the formality of the 1960s civil rights and counter-culture movements, paved the way for the free form funkiness of the 1970s.

Although certain strides have been made in the depiction of black cultural heroes and heroines, one issue that still continues to linger is the assumption that a white super hero is for everyone, yet a black super hero is only for black people.  Actually, the ultimate global super hero right now should be from the Han Chinese community, if we are to take our cue from the latest global population statistics.

If we are to go by history, and embrace the scientific facts that suggest all life on the planet came out of Africa, then a super hero of African origin is an entirely fitting concept to be embraced by all.

I have no doubt, the continued portrayal of the white super hero savior of humanity is down to the historical legacy of racism and the continued white male dominated power structure within the worlds of media, television and film. Maybe once they are finally able to accept the ancient African roots of their identity, the world will be a better place for us all.

SUPERMANDELA. Let the spirit live on!

Although I never had the privilege of meeting ‘Madiba’, I was fortunate to be in South Africa in 1994, just a month before South Africa’s first ever multi-racial elections since the Apartheid regime had finally been dismantled. At the time I was working professionally as an Art Director for a mainstream London advertising agency, Still Price Lintas; and embarking on my first foreign shoot to make a series of TV commercials in Cape Town. Tensions were running high from all sectors of the society, as no one knew what actions might emerge as a result of this new democracy. But on 10 May 1994 in Pretoria, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first Black President. It was also around this time that I started building my collection of African diaspora action figures and comics. A collection, that I have been able to realise as an exhibition called ‘Afro Supa Hero’ and which is currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London until 9 February 2014.
'SuperMandela' © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.‘SuperMandela’ © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.
I actually came up with the idea for this image, ‘SuperMandela’ several years ago, but had never got around to putting it down until now. I believe much of the ethos of my ‘Afro Supa Hero’ concept is perfectly embodied in the spirit of Mandela. A man of such inner strength, wisdom, vision, courage, and conviction, he brought a divided nation together and commanded the world’s attention and respect. That’s power! Or in the words of the man himself, Amandla!

4 Corners: An interview with Bryan Bullen and Trevor Bullen

This month we head to the ‘island of spice’, Grenada. A beautiful, tropical idyll I am proud to claim as my maternal ancestral home. I visited Grenada three times during my childhood; the last time being in 1983, when I was 16, just after the US and allied Forces invasion (or intervention depending on your political point of view). Having weathered years of upheaval, either due to the internal forces of politics or the devastating external forces of Hurricane Ivan, I am genuinely excited at seeing this small and lush realm of the Commonwealth starting to blossom in many areas. From the heroic Victoria Cross-winning exploits of Sergeant Johnson Beharry on the battlefield, to the world-class performances of Kirani James on the sports field. Another field of expertise that may not be so readily associated with Grenada is architecture. And it is this discipline to which we turn our attention to now, and in particular a partnership that is at the forefront of Caribbean architecture and garnering a reputation for progressive work and design excellence. Introducing the award-winning talents of Bryan Bullen and his business partner and cousin, Trevor Bullen.Bryan and Trevor Bullen

Bryan Bullen & Trevor Bullen Founders, CoCoA (Caribbean Office of Co-operative Architecture)

What’s your background?

We are Grenadian, first cousins and have spent part of our formative years in the Caribbean, choosing to repatriate after a number of years living outside of the region. We were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to train at renowned architectural schools in the United States (Bryan studied architecture at The Southern California Institute of Architecture and Trevor at Harvard). Additionally, we honed our skills through work experience in North America and Europe. Our decision to return to the Caribbean to practice has been shaped by our love for the islands, Caribbean people, and the quality of life which it offers. Our practice, which spans over a decade, has been an enjoyable but challenging journey. With our work, we are constantly testing, probing and exploring the many simple and complex issues involved in the making of architecture for the specific context where we live. In the early years of our practice we completed many residential, and commercial projects, however, our practice has grown to include the design of institutional and civic buildings, in addition to masterplans for larger projects. Our office has been fortunate enough to win architectural competitions over the last few years of which we are currently designing the new Grenada House of Parliament.Grenada House of Parliament

Grenada House of Parliament

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

If we are to dig deep into our backgrounds perhaps having both grown up in households with creative influences has been of primary importance. This has provided a very good platform for our development. Before studying architecture we have had prior experiences in the making of furniture, sculpture and objects which have taught us a lot about materials, building processes, and general methods of construction.  Our love for design and passion for creative work has fuelled our desire to engage in the practice of architecture where our creations can positively influence the lives of others, both at the micro scale of the individual and the macro scale of popular culture. We see this as both a privilege and a responsibility.

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

This is a complex question as there are many challenges which we have encountered in our practice. On the one hand, there are the technical and construction challenges of living in a small place where we must contend with low-technology and the additional effort required for quality control during the building process. We are challenged to design our buildings to be efficient in terms of cooling and energy consumption due to the high cost of electricity. Quite often materials are not readily available, so a greater degree of planning is required in the execution of projects. Additionally, as most building materials are imported they are generally costly, requiring us to use local materials to cut down on costs. We have embraced this in our work, and where possible integrate local materials such as timber and stone in the design of our buildings. With the great push today towards creating green buildings with a low carbon footprint, although we promote such principles, our decisions are made for practical reasons and our desire to make sensible choices. Also on the technical side, the harsh tropical marine environment presents a challenge where on top of designing to suit the requirements of hurricanes, and seismic activity, the sun, sea and salt air are primary factors to overcome. With the practice of architecture in the Caribbean today much of the discourse is centered on identity and what is deemed an ‘appropriate’ language for regional architecture. Many regional architects have chosen to adopt a post-colonial language, which we do not necessarily subscribe to. Our pursuit has more to do with engaging the tropical environment, solving issues of the site and programme, whereby, the outcome and issues of tectonics and overall language is developed out of research, and experimentation which allows our buildings to be naturally shaped through this process. Much of the historical references in our work would be spatial referencing, for example, the idea of open-plan living and outdoor spaces such as verandas, or the allowance of air flow through our buildings facilitated by louvers, and the placement of the spaces which permits our buildings to stay cool, or be protected from the driving rains. In this case, the initial challenge for us was acceptance of our contemporary sensibilities, which as I said previously is generally outside of the typical post-colonial agenda.Jadrosich Residence

Jadrosich Residence

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

We are Modernist at heart and have certainly been schooled in this vein. That said, we do believe that our work should be grounded in its specific context. What interest us most are individuals whose work can provide solutions which express a pure thought and executed as such. Artist such as Robert Smithson, Richard Serra and James Turrel are inspirational. Many of the quintessential Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer, Richard Neutra, Louis Barragan have all provided positive directions in the development of contemporary architecture that we have a great appreciation for. Some of the recent practitioners such as Glen Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Aires Matheus also offer a lot in their practices. These architects are creating work which is deeply rooted their place, with a clear expression that transcends their localised conditions and speak to a wider global audience.Munding Residence

Munding Residence

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

To pin-point one specific project is difficult as there are always decisions made over the course of designing a building, which we think – what if we had chosen to execute in a different way. We frequently discuss the evolution of our buildings from the time of construction to when they are occupied over years, and the changes they undergo. They can take on a life of their own, sometimes in ways, which we may not have expected. For example, when we visit some of our previous projects and see how the landscaping and gardens can allow our buildings to sit comfortably in the landscape, they can have a very different presence than when construction has just completed. Perhaps it is more important to focus on are the specific ideas and the solutions to problems. What gives us the most pleasure is to know that we have made the right decisions given the specific programs. The Munding residence is a case in point. Our first design for the project appeared a good solution and the client was very happy with it.  After visiting the site on numerous occasions and experiencing the force of the wind we revised the design by changing the exposed veranda space and swapping it for a protected courtyard. Additionally, we devised a double skin of sliding glass doors and operable vertical timber louvers, which allowed us to control the wind without compromising the view of the site. At first our client did not understand this decision, but thankfully he went along with it, and we know today that he appreciates that this decision was made as it has facilitated a usable outdoor space that the original design did not. What is most interesting for us was our decision to provide that the doors of the courtyard were designed to slide completely open creating a fluid space with the main living area. This expresses a great deal about our spatial sensibilities and our pursuit of buildings with open-plan living that we hope can be one with the tropical environment.Munding Residence

Source: Brian Lewis

Munding Residence

What would be your dream job or project?

A dream job would be one which our work can have a significant and positive effect on the lives of people. The project does not necessarily have to be a large facility as our current Parliament project, but, could be a small building, which can resonate and speak volumes in terms of its social impact. Our design for a beach changing facility is one such project – tiny in scale, but, with a strong iconic stature that is imbrued with deep cultural references. What is also enjoyable is the process of collaborating with other architects and creative people. We believe that the production of good architecture requires a team and understanding between the architect, owner and those who are involved in the building process. We have in the past collaborated with other architects, designers and artists, whom we feel have brought further richness and freshness of ideas to our projects which we appreciate very much as it adds greater strength and credence to our work.GBT Changing Facilities

GBT Changing Facilities

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

The late regional architects, Roger Turton of Trinidad and Tobago, and Barrisford Wilcox who practiced in Grenada in the 1970s and ’80s. Both were extremely talented individuals with highly personalized styles. Their work exemplifies many aspects of open-plan living, good quality of indoor and outdoor spaces, and general compatibility of building with the natural environment. We very much appreciate their endeavor to create architecture that is suitable for its place, yet, not bounded by the restrictions of post-colonial rhetoric.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Practising architecture requires 100 per cent commitment and consistency of work on a daily basis. It is the everyday work, a step-by-step process that will be the most important over the long term of architectural practice. It requires patience, determination and self-belief. As difficult as this can be at times, it can also be rewarding to see your work come to fruition and have positive effects on the lives of people.Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

What’s next for you?

As with all practitioners at this time, we are seeking out the many possibilities for work, and are constantly looking at our business model to ensure that we stay busy. We are currently engaged in the design of a series of case study houses.  Our intention is to partner with others within the building industry, including land owners and financial institutions, in an effort to get projects built. We are inquiring regionally and beyond for perspective jobs, which we can tender on.

Network:

THE U.S:

The Shadows Took Shape is a dynamic interdisciplinary exhibition exploring contemporary art through the lens of Afrofuturist aesthetics. The 29 artists featured in The Shadows Took Shape work in a wide variety of media, including photography, video, painting, drawing, sculpture and multimedia installation. Participating artists include Derrick Adams, John Akomfrah, Laylah Ali, Edgar Arceneaux, Sanford Biggers, Edgar Cleijne + Ellen Gallagher. Opens Nov 14, 2013 – Mar 9, 2014 Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York (212) 864-4500 For more information visithttp://www.studiomuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

10th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) The Bahamas International Film Festival is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing the local Bahamian community and international visitors with a diverse presentation of films from around the world. In addition to offering films that might not otherwise be released theatrically in the Bahamas, BIFF will provide a unique cultural experience and set of educational programs and forums for exploring the past, present and future of cinema.  Runs from 5-13 December 2013. For more info visit http://bintlfilmfest.com

EUROPE:

Patrick Lichfield’s Caribbean This is the first exhibition of Lichfield’s Caribbean images, many unpublished, representing all genres of Lichfield’s photography. Ends 7 December 2013. The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ
For more info visithttp://www.thelittleblackgallery.com/shows/patrick-lichfields-caribbean

IN THE CITY  Graphic Design & Sound Art Exhibition P21 Gallery is excited to present In the City, an absorbing graphic design and sound art exhibition which provides a rare glimpse into four Arab cities. The exhibition will be a first of its kind in London to showcase a series of commissioned and pre-existing works from an eclectic line up of established and emerging Arab designers, illustrators, video, and sound artists. In the City transports the audience through four enigmatic, but overlooked Arab cities – Alexandria, Algiers, Baghdad and Nablus – by recapturing and reimagining elements of those cities. Runs til 15 December 2013
For more info visit http://www.p21.org.uk/inthecity.aspx  

AFRICA:

Native Nostalgia The Museum of African Design (MOAD) is excited to present its first full-length exhibition, running through 9 February. The group exhibition is an exploration of nostalgia in five African countries; Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Benin and South Africa. This exhibition tells the stories of bygone eras – positioning them firmly within present day narratives. Through architecture, construction, cartography, photography, communal archives, and historical reenactment, each artist and participant has a conversation with a past through which they did not live by juxtaposing design elements with those of today. Native Nostalgia explores both why young African artists are interrogating the continent’s difficult past, while also probing whether it is possible to be nostalgic for something one has not directly lived. For more info visit: http://www.moadjhb.com/visit/

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Everton Wright

In October, we in the UK celebrate Black History Month. The tradition started 26 years ago and provides a small, but well established window of opportunity to focus on the achievements of primarily African and African-Caribbean people in the UK. Befitting this historical date in the calendar, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who I feel has made a significant contribution to the art and design landscape.

Everton Wright is one of a handful of designers of African-Caribbean origin who has successfully run and sold his own mainstream London design consultancy. He created highly influential, impactful and celebrated work, particularly in the fields of music and popular culture, that remains relevant and respected to this day. Wright is a man, who, through his thirst for the new, continues to evolve his art, which defies age or categorisation.Everton Wright

Everton Wright: Creative entrepreneur and artist

What’s your background?

I am a British artist, with parentage from Jamaica. My works is a conscious ‘mash-up’ of drawing and sculpture, combined with digital film and live installations. The work explores the intricate connections between the body and our experience of the modern environment, and this is communicated through bold interactive art, also using urban and rural landscapes as my canvas. I studied graphic design at Middlesex University, received a first class degree, and continued on to train as an artist in mixed media painting at Central St Martin’s College of Art, where I did my foundation. I also trained in film and video production at Four Corners London. As an award-winning creative director, with a professional background in commercial graphic design, I founded consultancy Creative Hands, which was responsible for creating some of most iconic and memorable music brands and imagery of the late eighties. The company ran for 17 years and was sold in 2004. Over the last nine years, art has become my focus, with the creation of Evewright Studio. I have participated in several group and solo exhibitions with my Walking Drawings project. In 2012 one of my ‘Walking Drawings’ installation prints was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art.Jamiroquai illustration

Jamiroquai illustration

How did you get started?

I started as a junior designer at a company called Design Solutions based in Soho in 1988. The best thing I learnt there was how to be logical with my thought processes when solving design problems. I had creative energy in abundance back then and being in such an environment helped me focus and taught me a lot about the process of how design and creativity was bought and sold. The industry was still very young and graphic design was beginning to be taken seriously by all type of businesses. You could say there was the beginning of bit of a design boom.Work for Talawa Theatre Company

Work for Talawa Theatre Company

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry?

There were not many black designers, let alone companies owned by black designers, when I started out. The industry is still very light in that regard today. So when I set up Creative Hands, it was quite a challenge getting started and growing the company. Overcoming some clients’ perceptions was another barrier we had to deal with. When clients saw the quality of work we produced they would call us in but when I arrived in the offices we had to first overcome the negative stereotype as black men. On more than one occasion a receptionist would mistake me for the courier picking up and delivering a package. I always maintain a high creative output and would always go the extra mile for my clients. The saying that you are as good as your last job ran true for us. We were based in the now-famous Hoxton Square area, but when we were there, only designers like Malcolm Garrett or Neville Brody were our neighbours. Hoxton was a place where not many people wanted to be but it suited me because it had an edge, which is still there today. I believe the Hoxton Hotel is where one of our old offices used to be. The challenge was to develop an impressive and diverse client roster, from music and arts to corporate. I was happy to say that I was able achieve that and eventually sold the company, successfully exiting, which for any business, especially design, wasn’t an easy thing to achieve.Work by Everton Wright

Work by Everton Wright

Who are your greatest inspirations?

Not quite everything, but there’s a lot! Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’a ‘Rumble in the Jungle’Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Ofili’s ‘Dung paintings’,  Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation movies, the Lucian Freud painting of the Queen, Neville Brody’s ‘The Face’ magazine design, Bob Marley’s ‘No woman no cry’, Francis Bacon’s screaming paintings, Damian Hirst’s Shark in a Tank, British landscapes –  especially the Scottish Highlands, Studio One Reggae, Peter Saville’s New Order Record sleeves, Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec 100 metre world record, Steve McQueen’s film Hunger, Turner nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, invisible Black People, my son and granddaughter. My influences are wide ranging I could go on and on. Art, art history, photography, film, sculpture, performance, typography, paintings, all types of music and sound. Drawings have been the foundation my creative practice and I am rarely seen without a sketchbook. Having a good foundation at St Martin’s really helped formulate the way I look at the world. When I started my degree one of my tutors gave me a book on Milton Glaser.  I just loved the way he was able to work between art and graphics, which gave me a much-needed doorway into how I approached graphic design. When I started to work professionally I have always incorporated the same ideologies, which mean you use whatever appropriate medium to solve a client solution. So even now my art studio works on a wide range of projects. I incorporate everything from film with sculpture and digital installation using coding, to creating public interaction projects with drawing and performance, to traditional design and print. It’s just creative expression to me, the medium I use is irrelevant.Red green experiments

Red green experiments

What is the project you are most proud of?

I find my current Walking Drawing films and project very special. I never try to look back at my designs; however seeing the Jamiroquai campaigns I produced still gives me a buzz. We designed the band’s first two albums in the ’90s and the branding became quiet iconic, it got our name out there. I recently moved house and found all the original artworks produced by hand with the mark up instruction attached, complete with a series of huge flyposters. The ‘Spliff Man’ poster for ‘Space Cowboy’ is still my favourite, even though I don’t smoke. That whole project got us noticed. It is much harder now for young designers with the scaling down of the music industry and marketing budgets. There are fewer places out there where talented young creative can get their work seen.Campaign for Jamiroquai

Campaign for Jamiroquai

What would be your dream job?

I’m lucky. I’m currently doing my dream job playing with sand and film cameras. Making art is the most interesting and engaging thing for me at the moment. I have always been a person who has enjoy the exploration of ideas and with the merging together of media in all forms it’s the most exciting time to be a creative – and especially an artist. Clients are also more open minded as to new ways to reach audiences with the exponential growth of new media. With Evewright Studio I am building a dynamic art practice and I am now working on a new series of Walking Drawings from Africa across the diaspora. It’s a challenge but I suppose that’s my dream project at the moment and I always go for that dream.Walking Drawing

Walking Drawing

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Graphic designers: Henry Obasi At PPaint; best animator: Osbert Parker (Bafta-nominated several times); illustrator: Benjamin Wachenje; advertising: Tre­vor Robin­son OBE at Quiet Storm; photographer: Franklyn Rodgers. Don’t get me going on artists or you’ll run out of space!Work by Everton Wright

Work for Darker than Blue

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Go for anything with technology, especially mobile – ‘there’s gold in them there hills’. Do what you set out to do. Then go do something else. Keep moving and keep innovating and don’t be afraid to be being creative. Clients expect designers to be a little crazy, that’s what they pay you for.Jamiroquai icon

Jamiroquai icon

What’s next for you?

I am a full-time visual artist working in a variety of media from sculpture to film and have been developing a series of installations call Walking Drawings, which I hope to exhibit next year. A Walking Drawing is a large-scale drawing undertaken by Evewright with a combination of freehand and mechanical tools on a vast landscape (canvas) of at least a quarter of a mile in the early hours of the morning. The drawing then becomes pathways and people of different ages, genders and cultures all dressed in black or colours are led on to it and invited to walk its lines in various formats and patterns. The public are invited to walk these lines to engage with, and experience a drawing in a new way to become participants in the creation of the artwork rather than an observer. This unique and evocative art installation consists of three films shot on Redcam, a series of 12 large scale prints and a floor installation sculpted with ten inch in height figures out of waste metal. For more information  and to see the film trailers go to: www.evewrightstudio.comand www.evewright.com And of course I’m designing all the print for the exhibition.Walking Drawing with horses

Walking Drawing with horses

Network:

THE U.S:

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 chronicles the vital legacy of the African American arts community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work and connections with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California. The exhibition presents approximately 140 works by 32 artists active during this historical period, exploring the rising strength of the black community in Los Angeles as well as the increasing political, social, and economic power of African Americans across the nation. Until 11 November at MoMA PS1. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY
Hours: Thurs–Mon, Noon–6:00 PM. For more information visit www.momaps1.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Stir It Up Film & Music Festival. A showcase of some of the best work coming from film and music industry professionals from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the festival offers performances, screenings and workshops. Additionally there are conferences on film and music, as well as other topics relating to Caribbean culture and world music. November 1, 2013 @ 8:00 am – November 30, 2013 Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

EUROPE:

Kehinde Wiley: ‘The World Stage’: Jamaica is the internationally recognised, African-American artist’s first ever solo exhibition. The exhibition features Jamaican men and women assuming poses taken from 17th and 18th Century British portraiture, the first one in the ‘World Stage’ series to feature portraits of women. The show runs until 16 November at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN. For more information visit http://www.stephenfriedman.com/exhibitions

AFRICA:

Afropolitain, a solo exhibition of images by Ananias Léki Dago presents works from three specific series that were developed over a six year period : Shebeen, Mabati and Bamako Crosses. While travel, or rather the discovery gained along the way, is essential to the work of Dago, Afropolitain is a visual notebook of encounters that have fed his numerous journeys. Documented in black and white, in these intimate experiences we see through the usage of acute details of the everyday, how Dago articulates his questions on the urban environment. Until Nov. 24  Fondation Charles Donwahi pour l’Art Contemporain  06 BP 228 Abidjan 06 Boulevard Latrille, face Eglise Saint Jacques Abidjan II Plateaux, Ivory Coast.  For more info visit http://fondationdonwahi.org/index.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

Race, Revenue and Representation

Creative Review | CRIT Article | October 2011

In contemporary art and design, context is everything. Where the medium and the moment come together forms a powerful and resonant statement.

So here we are – the context is 2011 where Obama, the most powerful man on Earth, is of African origin. Barriers are being broken down across all market sectors and territories. And there is a shift of economic power from the western world to the emerging markets of Asia, Latin-America and Africa, where over 100 domestic companies boast revenues greater than $1billion.

It’s all part of an African renaissance that has been taking place for several years. A renaissance that’s evident in the media, with the arrival of high quality publications like Arise magazine; online environments such as the African Digital Artists Network; and new African cinema as evidenced in Wanuri Kahui’s futuristic sci-fi movie, Pumzi. All are united by a desire to portray a dynamic, progressive image of The Motherland.

From a UK design perspective we have seen new initiatives arrive, primarily in the form of the African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora (AACDD). A three-year programme, initiated by the British European Design Group (BEDG), its aim is to promote the creative skills of ethnic minorities of African and African-Caribbean heritage.

It is in part a response to statistics which show that minority ethnic groups are significantly under-represented in the art and design scene in the UK. In fact, Design Council research in 2010 revealed that just 7% of designers are from a minority ethnic background.

So the staging of the Royal College of Art’s recent Black exhibition, a collaboration between the AACDD and the RCA which celebrated the art and design of the college’s African and African Caribbean alumni, could be seen as particularly timely.

It was an opportunity to acknowledge talented artists and designers that may be marginalised and bring them to public attention. But while I applaud the intention, after viewing the show my thoughts soon turned to the issue of ‘presentation’ rather than ‘under-representation’.

The work was eclectic and of a standard you would expect from the RCA, but many of its more renowned black alumni, such as Chris Ofili and David Adjaye, were missing. Their absence was felt.  But even if they were included, the way the exhibition was presented – it looked like it had been put together in a short space of time with limited resources, plus the fact it was only on for a week – left me feeling dismayed.

When asked in an interview with The Guardian as to what advice he has for aspiring black artists, Frank Bowling – now in his 70s and the first black artist to be elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2005, and whose work featured in the RCA show – says, “Go to the museums and make art that can measure up to the museums. Make art better than anything you’ve ever seen before.”

And while the statistics may suggest otherwise, my own personal experience is that the creative industry has always been a relatively level playing field – where ‘race’ is overtaken by ‘revenue’ every time. If you have the creative talent and commercially exploitable skills, then colour doesn’t come into it.

However, the problem is getting your foot in the door to showcase your skills in the first place. In a world where ‘who you know’ can make a world of difference, that’s not so easy if you don’t know anyone in the industry. And this is where the issue of ‘under-representation’ is a major problem.

For me, the acknowledgement of and addressing of history is also key. You only need one light to shine a path for others to follow.

And we, in the African and African-Caribbean community have to play our part; by understanding our own history and ensuring the stories are told. By holding open the door for others to come in and recognising those who have made in-roads in the industry, but have not had the acknowledgement they deserve.

Only recently did I discover the existence of two African American advertising pioneers: Georg Olden and Archie Boston. As a VP senior art director of McCann-Erickson in New York, Olden was one of the first African-American executives in a major advertising firm. One of the original ‘Mad Men’ he was a leading artist and graphic designer and won numerous major advertising awards and recognized by AIGA.

Although many have forgotten his name, he developed many of the graphical techniques that became standard in the TV and advertising industries. He not only won several Clio Awards, but also designed the actual Clio statuette and is cited as having been involved in the design of the the famous CBS logo.

Another design pioneer, Archie Boston, then emulated Olden’s success. A nationally recognised art director, designer, author and educator, who in 2007, was the first African American to receive the prestigious AIGA Fellows Award from AIGA Los Angeles.

Boston comes from a time often referred to as the Golden Age of advertising. In the sixties he rolled with many of the biggest players such as Saul Bass and Louis Danziger, both design legends who personally did much to champion the inclusion of African-American graphic designers in their practices.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Boston about the issues faced by his generation and what he felt were the issues facing black designers today. “The challenges were much greater for us then, than they are now,” he recalls. “There was a time when I worked for a whole year on a project and never saw the client because the firm were worried about them realising the work was being done by an African-American.”

But now, Boston suggests, “the biggest challenge is motivation, in spite of all the problems that exist in society, to be strongly motivated enough to say, ‘I know I can do it and I’m going to work very hard to do it’. There are so many distractions,” he continues. “And now with the challenges of unemployment – there just aren’t as many jobs as there used to be – the profession is changing and you have to be adaptable to change with it.”

Boston’s words resonate with me because I can see how easily lack of motivation, plus lack of opportunity, plus lack of connections can all add up to suggest why there is a lack of ethnic minorities in the industry.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to highlight the talents of a particular group or community: they would be included naturally as part of a global show of talent. But it is not an ideal world. Sure, we have role models. But they never seem to be held up quite high enough, or long enough, for all to see.

– Jon Daniel.