Reflection.

The recent events of the past 3-4 months have affected me in ways that have are so bigger than words can explain. An emotive response is the best way I can describe the complex feelings that I have had. The events in the USA as result of the killing of George Lloyd triggered my own long buried expererinces of racism; but it also shined a light on the cold reality of how live racism is. It is not that I have been blind to it, I think that with age and experience you become beaten down by the rubbish.

Covid 19 forced me to be locked in the house, for the 1st four weeks I was without TV, and until then I had no idea that the TV and Internet were all entwined. As there had been a ‘surge’ in the area, my internet was down and I was unable to use the internet. Adapting was not the issue it was the fact that the internet had become my ‘got to’ and my reliance on it was more than I had imagined. Also, by the internet being down this affected the TV as the TV was a SMART television. I was able to adapt and do some reading, but use my time drawing and laying down ideas, something that I always have done. However during lockdown I became intensely obsessive and was mark making daily. The anxiety of catching Covid 19 forced me into a depth of thinking that became scary. Living on your own can be a solitude existence at the best of times; added to the mix of a pandemic you are transported into depths of consciousness that are as deep as the Loch Ness.

As an artist I am constantly navigating an arena where I expect the liberal people I encounter to be culturally savvy and accepting. In fact this is far from that. I am continually thrown off my pearch to the level of ignorance and bias I face. To be perceptive is a skill that is learnt and to master it, can take a lifetime. As an artist you atune and are sensitive to what you see, you are receptive. This is the foundation to what makes you a creative individual. The quote from James Baldwin sums up what I mean perfectly ” The paradox of education is precisely this- that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated‘. The society to which I am being constantly educated is the art world in which I am trying to make my way in.

The underlying racism and innate snobbery I experience as a blackman in a world where privilege and class  out weighs talent saddens me. I had this nieave view early on in my career that as an artist I would meet likeminded, chilled, supportive people who shared a common goal – to make art. In fact what I have found is a system that has many levels of hierarchy that excludes those who do not speak the code or have not attended the institution that is synonymous with artistic excellence. You become tuned into the looks, the rolling of the eyes and the behaviours that you have seen from a child and that are so prevalent you wish you didn’t see what you do.

An Outsider Folk artist I met many years ago, became a recluse after having achieved a level of artistic success in his career; yet he become so disillusioned with the fluffy nonsense he would call it he turned his back on the whole scene. I never understood at the time but experience has taught me the reality and what he actually meant. (he was white by the way)

The recent events of #blacklivesmatter has allowed for personal reflection and clarity. There are times when I have brushed things off as I haven’t wanted to be perceived as the ‘angry blackman’ or I just simply could not be bothered to ‘go there’. But No! that is precisely the issue. I do need to ‘go there‘. By going there is calling it out. Not in anger but by simply ‘calling it out’. I have had to many  experiences albeit ‘subtle’ that I have let go where if it was the reverse I would be bought to task. How many times have I been asked ‘where are you from’? I reply London, then I am asked asked again. No. where are you actually from? Why does someone need to ask that question when in a conversation? By doing so they are immediatley profiling me based on there own conscious bias and unless this is challenged when it happens, this only solidifies who certain groups perceive people they perceive to be less than them. This is not acceptable.This part of the issue where as black people we can sometimes not challenge something that we know to be wrong through fear or not having the appropriate tools to do so. This is where the power of language is key and having the skills to articulate so and simply looking after self and not accepting crap. What is alarming is the degree to which the subtle nuances that happen in conversations where you feel you being talked ‘at’ as opposed ‘to’. Or the underlying code that excludes you based on the innate unconscious bias to which  how you are being communicated with. I heard a phrase during lockdown that resonated with me, it simply said ‘I am tired’. The liberal outpouring of support for #blacklivesmatter made me feel uncomfortable. Overnight it seemed that organisations were supporting Black Art and being champions for the unheard. My immediate thought was ‘ it has taken an incident that happens daily in the USA, for you to be all of a sudden conscious? Seeing this only reinforced how ignorant establishments have been to inclusion and through simple guilt, there has been am awakening. Yes, I understand that this is a good thing, but it is hard not to see it as an underlying token gesture. The fact the conversation is being had is and has become transparent, but in order for that conversation to resonate let’s not forget the impact of what has gone before. What it takes the blackman who goes to a Private View that is majority white and to be leered out, ostracised or looked down upon. Remember, communication is 70% non verbal and the power of non verbal communication is strong. Exclusion can happen before a word has actually been spoken. Any minority whether that is someone who is black, female, disabled etc has had an experience where they have been excluded and judged non verbally, you build an immunity to it however you learn that this is normal. It hurts.

The 1st step towards change is personal reflection into ones own inherent bias. I question to what degree people will be prepared to have the talk with themselves with what they do, and why? These uncomfortable conversations are the pre-cursor to change and until these happen, a harsh reality is that discrimination will always be apparent.

Covid 19 and subsequent worldwide events has taken me on a journey that is both enlighting and in part spiritual. In many ways it has brought a change in me and a clarity to so many things. I have no wish to be part of a system that is rooted in elitism. I have always operated on the fringes and I always felt I am on the outside looking in. My work in education and interest in group dynamics, psychology and behaviour have enabled to make partial sense of my experiences. It has also given me an insight into a reality. I learn best through observing as I am visual learner. How I interoperate is based on my own lived experiences and there are times I have read things wrong. However, the reality of projection and transference I cannot deny. The term white privilege has become prevalent in recent months and within the world I co exist in I encounter many people who are blessed with such privilege. The artworld is a world underpinned by class, and entitlement, this stems from the top and filters down to the people you encounter daily. I speak to many artists who have been subconsciulsy affected by there tutoring and the essence of them being an artist has become lost. I have seen how discrimination is so prevalent  and endemic within the psyche of many it is overwhelming to try and challenge it constantly. Added to that or in the mix also is the snobbery that comes with it, a snobbery that is steeped in a middle class believe system that exudes ‘I am better than you’. I make art as form of personal expression and need. The art I art I make is a direct response to what I see and absorb. This is primarily why I do it. My love of cave paintings and drawings is because of there beauty, self expression and what they communicate. This work resonates my soul. I am sure the people who crated this work did not over intellectualise what they was doing. The art was crated as a response to to what they saw around them, as well as possibly what they thought. This primal instinct is  at the core of what art should be about. As for racism, in the UK the racism is covert which in many ways is more corrosive; having traveled to the USA for years, the racism there is rooted in a history of oppression yet it is overt. You know it is there. I believe there is always a positive to come out of a negative and the positives for me from the experiences of the last 15 weeks are many. The light has been shined very bright and given me more clarity. Learning is good. I am not talking in anger, I am talking with a clear reality. My experiences are real to me and I live them daily. I do not want to be denied this. I will end with a Tao quote:

If you unite sound with vision, then you will create light.
That light is the concentrated force of the mind.
It is by that brightness that truth is revealed.
Deng Ming-Dao