Skelf is pleased to present a new work, Leaning Against or Holding, by the artist Holly Graham. This virtual project for Skelf runs concurrently with Sweet Swollen, an exhibition in the Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space, at Jerwood Space in London.
These works stem from research around a pair of 18th Century Meissen porcelain blackamoor sweetmeat bowls that are currently on display in a collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The artist uses these two objects and others like them, sourced from online image searches and auction house catalogues, to consider ideas of ownership and authoring of imagery and narratives; navigated via histories of colonial exploitation, the lasting legacies of sugar production, and our complex relationship with its remnants in the present day.
While an encounter with the bowls themselves may provoke an uncomfortable reflection on the history of the society that created them, the transformation of these images into animated gifs invites a new engagement on contemporary terms. Low-fi and transportable, the medium itself is designed for easy sharing and use in day-to-day conversation, shifting dialogues of power and value to the present tense. The imagery is interrupted with layered, scrolling and fading groupings of text, which include fragments from interviews conducted with V&A African Heritage Tour Guides earlier this year, and extracts from Amy McCauley's accompanying written response.
Click through to project here >>
Accompanying the exhibition is a text work by Amy McCauley, who has responded to the themes in Holly Graham’s work. Expanding on ideas of fetishized beauty and servitude, two quotations from William Morris are disrupted by texts from Claudia Rankine and James Baldwin and reconfigured to form new meanings. The constant fragmentation and reconfiguration of statements allows them to be both challenging and nonsensical, shifting the weight of interpretation to the reader/viewer.