Sonia Boyce transforms Liverpool's Bluecoat with Like Love - Parts One and Two and Action

By Ed Sexton | 19 February 2010
a film still showing a group of people dancing on a beach

(Above) Members of the Bluecoat's Blue Room on Crosby Beaach for Like Love Part 2. Courtesy Bluecoat

Exhibition: Sonia Boyce: Like Love – Parts One & Two and Action, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, until March 30 2010

Twenty-five years after her first show at Liverpool's Bluecoat, British black cultural pioneer Sonia Boyce has returned to transform the gallery with two multimedia installations.

Like Love Parts One and Two are on show alongside work from emerging young black artists personally chosen and curated by Boyce in her Action exhibition.

Part Two was created in partnership with members of the Bluecoat's Blue Room group, a year-round arts service for adults with learning disabilities which runs for three days each week.

"It really was an amazing opportunity for the Blue Room to work with an artist of Sonia's profile," says exhibition curator Sarah Parsons, who says Boyce "quickly realised" the talent of the "inspirational group of people".

a photograph showing a woman watching a film on a big screen

Grace Ndiritu's Journey's North. Courtesy Bluecoat

The work shows members of the Blue Room talk about friends, family or people they have loved with refreshing honesty.

One of the most moving pieces features the Blue Room's Donald Birchall, who recently lost his father. Boyce's simple setting and direct filming allows Donald to convey his loss in an incredibly moving piece.

The performative element is carried on through the rest of the Bluecoat's gallery space in the work of three young artists selected by Boyce.

"It's such an important reflection of the work we do here at the Bluecoat," reflects Parsons.

"We thought it would be interesting to look at young black artists who are just emerging, in a similar position to the one Sonia would have been in 25 years ago, and see what the difference is now."

a photograph showing pieces of artwork made of pins and paper

Beverley Bennett's beautiful, scary pieces in Action. Courtesy Bluecoat

The artists chosen are Beverley Bennett, Appau Boayke-Yiadom, Robin Deacon and Grace Ndiritu, whose themes, issues and approaches contrast with the platform of ideas presented by Sonia's generation of artists.

Ndiritu's film, Journeys North, is based on a trip to Alaska in 2008, filmed in 30-minute bursts in temperatures of -20.

"It's about developing an interaction with what's going on and forming a relationship with the landscape and the people," she explains.

"I always thought that when I was out there I was seeing something that very few people see, and there was a feeling that this was a new dawn.

"I was also looking at what it means to be native as there are lots of different communities living together in Alaska for different reasons – they are all living on the land and trying to put something back."

a photograph showing pieces of artwork made of pins and paper

Bennett's pieces are mounted at eye level for extra impact. Courtesy Bluecoat

Bennett's MA degree, completed six months ago, forms the basis for her pieces, interacting with the medium of drawing using a mix of paper, pins and sharp scoring actions which she says embodies "a sort of Hansel and Gretel approach" in one piece.

"From a distance it looks very alluring, with delicate pieces of paper floating above the background," she observes.

"But when you get close to it it's really quite scary and violent – it's also mounted at eye height, so you come face to face with the pins."

"Action allows me to explore my own concerns about the depictions of performative actions in art," says Boyce.

"With the four artists I have chosen, the object of their attention is not on depicting themselves.

"For example, Beverley Bennett’s subtle artworks become evidence of her interaction with the medium of drawing, and then the audience becomes witness."

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