I am an artist working primarily in painting and video. Through undertaking a series of community projects, my practice has led to increased social engagement. I have developed a collaborative approach by devising and researching new projects and finding a suitable language through which to explore common interests and shared ideas.
In 2011 I completed a yearlong residency with Whitechapel Gallery and a group of young people based in Bow, London. ‘The Bow boys archive’ placed the boys at the centre of an exploration encompassing individual oral histories with notions of collective memory and place. The boy’s own family stories of migration to east London were set against a longer history of migration from the Commonwealth. As the residency developed, the visual narrative was increasingly dominated by images of protest and the fight for civil rights. The boys defined their identities within the physical confines of inner city London, forged through the struggles of their parents. Photographs from local and national archives of protest marches from 1960 were brought together with portraits of the boys and their families into a series of paintings. The paintings were set into found objects and furniture from the local area. The final installation saw this placed against a wider selection of archive protest videos from 1930 in order to place their histories into a greater context.
My works explore the tensions and dialogue that arise through processing the emotive icons of disappearing and fracturing cultural and religious identities through the language and gestures of abstraction. Tracing these narratives I find a personal resonance within the dynamism of groups created through divergent shared affinities. These explorations have taken me to Xinjiang in northwest China where, with the help of the UK Uyghur community, I translated a politicised folk poem into English. This process became a video work ‘Dihan’ relating to the indigenous Uyghur population.
In the Montage series I created photographic collages from archives, images of my own family, and developed through participatory groups, providing ambiguous clues to the nature and place of these abstract spaces and memories. Images are broken down, re-explored and re-situated. These compositions are subtle and removed from their literal contexts, lending themselves to an idea of universal experience.
In 2009 I was invited by INIVA to create a participatory project in response to N. S. Harsha’s ‘Nations’. ‘Workforce’ recreated the collectivising demand of industry as governments call their workforce to mobilise and unite under a common cause, that of nation building. Recreating the Banner studios of Shoreditch, the public and groups connected to the textiles industry were invited to form a workforce in Rivington Place. The gallery became a temporary factory over five weeks creating an environment of new friendships and shared experience. Based on theories around new democracies and their flags and older designs from Empire, I brought the workforce together in the creation of a flag that filled the expanse of the gallery. This was installed alongside audio recordings of interviews and conversations between the workers over the five weeks.
In 2007 I undertook two research projects in Iran and China. I planned and initiated these projects myself as part of a necessary development in my practice. In China I travelled to Xinjiang in the northwest, exploring the impact of Chinese development on the agricultural life style of the indigenous Uyghur population. The Uyghurs are tribal Turks whose cultural roots extend westward to the Middle East. In Iran I visited much of the country exploring the differences between rural practices of Islam and the central government. Both of these projects marked a major turning point in the focus of my practice and in the five years since have had a fundamental influence on how I have developed and produced works.
The video piece ‘Dihan’ marked a change in the nature in which I worked and researched with communities and groups. I have spent the last five years developing a discourse that combines research with communities and archives; culminating in a multi disciplinary practice of video, painting and installation. The overall themes of my work have stemmed from notions of fracturing identity and the various socio-political and economic forces that shape individual and collective experience. Drawing upon this discourse through projects such as ‘Workforce’ I am interested in notions of nationhood and the preservation of identity and histories through archives and centres. As with the ‘BB-Archive’ I am concerned with how the perception of events and histories in the wider public is influenced or differs from the dynamics of this language.