Altitude – the new show at 198
Altitude showcases the work of finalists for the Womxn of Color Art Award – a bi-annual award given by 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, to women artists of color across the UK. (Womxn is an alternative spelling of women and is intended to avoid the patriarchal implications of using a word derived from “men”. Consistent with Gallery 198’s choice, we will use this term throughout this review.)
The show both celebrates their work and acknowledges the barriers to success that women of color too often face. It includes the work of eight finalists reflecting a range of media, subjects and techniques. Traditional painting and drawing sit alongside CGI, collage, embroidery and rug making in the gallery’s three rooms. These diverse and very contrasting techniques make it a very engaging show. And whatever the medium, these works tell a story.
Perhaps the centerpiece of the show is the winner Maybelle Peter’s “The morning has gold in its mouth” – a story of world travel and navigation.
Created especially for the show, this CGI piece is a fascinating and rather magical visual contemplation of bodies in space, gently forming and reforming as they wander through a seascape.
“The return” by Charmaine Watkiss uses the more traditional mediums of pencil and watercolor to create what she calls “memory stories” – a beautifully rendered moment that skillfully captures a sense of history and historical change.
by Sofia Niazi “Pond Land” is a large, vibrant handmade rug that tells her personal stories of life during the pandemic. the mixed media collages of Cherelle Sapplton, “Fit”, “We” and “Machine”, are striking and dynamic explorations of the ways in which women of color are represented.
The work of the remaining finalists – Mani Kambo, Marcia Michaels, Rebekah Ubuntu and Sola Olulode – is thought-provoking and provides insight into the world of women of color. It is a spectacle in which it is necessary to linger. The works offer their ideas slowly and in a way that reflects complex and nuanced ideas. Go see it if you can.
Altitude until February 26 at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, 198 Railton Road, SE24 0JT. The exhibition is free and open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information go to www.198.org.uk
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