Below are the 3 resources I have submitted to shades of Noir.
- Olivia Mcgilchrist is a minority ethnicity photographer / film maker dealing with issues of cultural identity.
- Nan Lawson is an illustrator (ethnicity / background unknown) tackling ideas of diversity from an illustration viewpoint.
- Caramelaw is a graphic designer / illustrator from Singapore (and Candy land).
Olivia Mcgilchrist – Sudden White, my dear daddy and Ernestine and Me
I went to college with Olivia back at the turn of the century where she specialised in photography and later fine art film. She is of French-Jamaican origins and in April 2011 she moved back to Jamaica to mange her family’s estate. Since then she’s started making work examining her relationship with the country, the experience of being a white woman living and working there and her relationship with her dead father, mediating her relationship with her Caribbean heritage through this metaphor. In the process she has created an alter ego – Whitey and her investigation has taken the format of a series of photographs and short films : Sudden white, my dear daddy and Ernestine and Me. Sudden White won the highly prestigious Jamaican Super Plus Under 40 Artist of the Year in 2012.
There is a lot going on in the images. Strong colours and poses separate Whitey from the landscapes of Kingston and the nations landmarks. Olivia uses the mask (A stylised stark white obfuscation) in particular, as a device to explore her journey towards unification with her ethnicity and Jamaica itself. As the series progress the mask is slowly lifted giving a sense of her true self looking out on the world for the first time, while we as viewers can see her from the outside entering into the composition more fully.
The cultural issues that surround Olivia’s experience in Kingston are particularly interesting. When I saw her over the new year on a brief trip to London she told me about how different the cultural landscape she is now living in is to the environment she had become accustomed to…
- Art gets nowhere near the funding or subsidy that it enjoys in England or across much of Europe and the US. Culturally it does not hold a place of reverence to the degree it does in the UK.
- The art scene and arts education is on a small scale, expensive and relatively elite.
- She has encountered an endemic racism toward whites in the country. (Not universal but never the less substantial).
- Additionally there is considerable gender inequality, sexism, homophobia and a pronounced division of wealth with many living in poverty.
To over come these obstacles and succeed as a WME (white or mixed ethnicity) individual in this context raises many of the same inclusivity issues I feel this APP unit engages with but perhaps from an alternative perspective. In this regard it may be useful to look at her work to better understand the issues in our own back yard.
Art Attack // DIVERSITY Timelapse Photoshop by Nan Lawson
What does Diversity mean to you? – Art Attack Bonus (Nan Lawson talks about her illustration)
I’ve interpreted the brief here to include works investigating racial diversity through art rather than just finding artists from black, asian or minority ethnicity backgrounds. In fact I have no idea about the artists ethnicity beyond what I can ascertain visually. (So for all I know she could be an Inuit living in Brazil or of South African origin living in Trinidad). The film could have been produced in such a way that the artists identity was never revealed. In this case I think the content is more interesting than analysing the hand that penned it.
As an illustrator I wanted to find a resource that approached the issue of racial diversity from a more visual perspective. Nan’s piece is essentially a Photoshop line drawing that she proceeds to colour in. The message is in some ways simplistic. Until the drawing is in it’s final stages the skin colour of the subjects is unknown. All the characters are drawn in the same way, the same lines create their shape and until they receive the final wash over with tone they are differentiated only by their more obvious characteristics of gender and form. Even when they are differentiated in this way they still share the page. I like this simple approach. It clearly communicates a powerful idea through it’s metaphor and it de-intellectualises a subject that can easily be over intellectualised. Equally it doesn’t dig into the diversity debate in terms of presenting solutions to some of the burning issues that the Shades of Noir project tackles in terms of attainment gaps or low numbers of BME proffessors in University, but perhaps it doesn’t have to.
Caramelaw is a Singaporee graphic designer and illustrator also working in film. Her work is globally recognised and represents a rich vein of design tradition in the East. I think it would make an excellent example of work from a BAME author for a tutor delivering an graphics orientated curriculum.