Sunday, September 03, 2017

Khadija Saye and 'The Venice Biennale: Britain's New Voices' on BBC2

Back in June, after the Grenfell Fire, I wrote Let's celebrate the work of Khadija Saye about a young artist/photographer who was one of the victims of the fire.

At the time, a BBC programme was due to air the following Saturday about the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. It was very naturally postponed.

Last night, The Venice Biennale: Britain's New Voices aired (with a new title) on BBC2 - and you can now watch it via BBC iPLayer.

The programme has been changed to lose its original title (Venice Biennale - Sink of Swim no longer seemed appropriate) and to include

  • a preamble about the fire (the film features Grenfell and her home before the fire) and 
  • a postscript to say what had happened since the Biennale. 
Naturally a lot of it features Khadija Saye and her work at the Biennale - Dwelling: in this space we breathe. More than two months after the fire it's still incredibly sad to have lost such a vital new talent.

The feature image for the programme - on the Grand Canal in Venice
on the way to the opening of the Disapora Pavilion 
(left) Brenda Emmaeus, presenter and (right) Khadijah Saye - artist 
In this film made before the Grenfell Tower tragedy, presenter Brenda Emmanus follows a group of emerging, diverse artists as they launch the first ever Diaspora Pavilion in a Venetian Palazzo during The Venice Biennale - the so called Olympics of modern art.
One of the artists we meet is 24 year-old photographer Khadija Saye, who died on 24 June 2017 in her home. We follow Khadija and the other emerging artists as they discover new art inspiration across the city, navigate networking at VIP launch parties, and most importantly find out what the critics and taste-makers verdict is on the exhibition's opening night.  
BBC Media Centre
(So sad that the BBC Media Centre can't get the date right - that's just plain disrespectful! Khadijah Saye died in the fire on 14th June. She wasn't formally identified until a later date.)

The intention of the exhibition was that it should feature nineteen artists whose practices variously connect to different diasporic experiences.

(For those struggling with the word diaspora - it is used here to reflect The dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland. Originally used to describe the experience of the Jewish people, it is now used for all diverse groups and ethnicities who move beyond the countries of their origin).
DIASPORA PAVILION brings together 19 artists whose wide-ranging practices variously expand, complicate and destabilise diaspora as an enduring critical concept. The project seeks to provoke discussions around sites of contact and the significance of movement beyond the national frame of contemporary art.
Curated by David A. Bailey & Jessica Taylor Download Diaspora Pavilion Exhibition Text here
Diaspora Pavilion is part of a two-year mentorship and professional development project for 12 emerging artists with 10 artist mentors, and runs parallel to a similar project, Beyond the Frame, designed for 10 emerging curators with 10 curator mentors. Both projects aim to challenge the under-representation of artists and curators from diverse backgrounds in the visual arts. Both the artists and curators will have the opportunity to take part in group forum, masterclasses and international site visits over 22 months. Venice Art factory
The programme features the work of the following participants in the Diaspora Pavilion - which included established artists such as Yinka Shonibare MBE RA and Isaac Julien as well as the new "Voices"
“Established practitioners can help emerging artists by giving advice and support at a critical stage in their careers. This important and exciting initiative breaks new ground and brings some of the best young artists to international attention in Venice.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chairman, Arts Council England
Other artists - both new and old - are:
“If you’re wondering what you can do at this time of social unease and growing prejudice in the world, supporting the Diaspora Pavilion is a direct way to affect long term change. Diaspora Pavilion directly tells a story, through the portal of the Venice Biennale 2017, about how we want Britain to be seen around the world.”
The Right Hon. David Lammy MP
Inevitably, the death of Khadijah Saye has somewhat overshadowed the work of other artists in terms of media coverage in the UK. I'd like to highlight one below whose work impressed me greatly.

Barbara Walker

I thought the Transcended drawings of the "I'm not an emerging artist" Barbara Walker featured in the programme are absolutely amazing. These are site-specific, large-scale ephemeral wall drawings - in charcoal - depicting male and female soldiers from the Commonwealth in World War I. To see the drawings check out these links...

I'm not in the least bit surprised to find out that since the opening of the Pavilion, she is now talking to a lot of people and getting commissions.  She is an extremely talented lady!

Barbara was awarded a 1st Class BA in Art and Design by the University of Central England, Birmingham, 1996. She has undertaken several residencies and has had a significant number of solo exhibitions of her drawings and paintings, in the UK.

However it now looks as if the 20+ year career of this artist is now taking off....
Barbara Walker is a British artist who lives and works in UK.Her paintings and drawings of the human figure open up a dialogue with viewers concerning the notions about race identity, belonging, class, power and the politics of how we look at others. Working in a range of media and formats, from works on paper and canvas to large-scale wall installations, Walker is particularly concerned with social and political issues with particular reference to history and cultural differences in contemporary life. Her work often looks at the world around her, particularly what she sees reflected in the communities in which she lives and works.

For those artists wondering how they could have got involved with this project - here is the original call for entries 

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