The VAV Gallery and Art Matters shine a spotlight on black history
The personal and the political, the individual and the communal, the historic and the contemporary are all explored and considered within Hyper Real. In a collaboration between the VAV Gallery and Art Matters, the month of November has welcomed a range of events related to contemporary black art. With an interdisciplinary art exhibition, a film screening and a healing workshop led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, these events celebrate November as a month of black history.
As stated by the VAV Gallery in their description of the three events, Black History Month in February can leave artists overworked and with a lack of support and exposure during the rest of the year. The VAV and Art Matters hope to change this by making November a month to celebrate the work of artists of colour and provide a platform for exploration, creativity and healing.
Made up of a range of complex and dynamic artworks from nine of Concordia’s undergraduate artists of colour, the work featured in Hyper Real ranges from video and photography to painting, print and sculptural installation. Each work explores a distinct theme within the overarching focus of black culture, identity and history. The varied works play into each other, creating a full, dynamic and overall emotional exhibition.
Artworks on display included a diptych by David Durham, titled Hidden Figures. The two works mix acrylic paint, mixed media collage and coffee to create striking images of two ambiguous figures. The paintings find ties to the history of coffee and the significant role it played in the slave trade and colonization. With the continued presence and consumption of coffee today, the works acknowledge this history, while also considering its role and presence in the contemporary world.
Braids, by artist Theran Sativa consists of a series of woodcut and and wood burned prints on stained paper. As explained in the artist’s statement, Sativa, who specializes in print media and fibres work, looks at black identity and black culture while also incorporating her own experiences. Meaning is found in every aspect of the artwork—the artist draws a connection between the intricate process of printmaking and the act of braiding or twisting hair, through the time and care spent on both practices.
On Nov. 22, in connection with Cinema Politica, Hyper Real also hosted a film screening as part of the Black History Month. This screening featured three films, all directed by women of colour: Black Men Loving by Ella Cooper, Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukii, and Ninth Floor by Mina Shum.
The screening began with Black Men Loving, a film that questions the typical representations of black fatherhood while talking to black Canadian fathers. Made invisible by these negative representations, this film and the fathers featured can reclaim the stereotypes often placed on black men by society.
Yellow Fever incorporates mediums of poetry, dance and movement to address ideal beauty standards for women, specifically those related to colonialism. Colonialist history and actions perpetrate these ideals, particularly those of skin-lightening and hair-straightening.
The feature documentary film, Ninth Floor, looks at the anti-racist protest of 1969 at Concordia (then Sir George Williams University). The film highlights the ties still present between the protest and the contemporary context of the racist allegations made towards the university by splicing footage of the event with recent interviews.
As part of the VAV and Art Matters Hyper Real event series, the He(art) Healing Workshop scheduled for Nov. 29 will be led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, a feminist educator, writer and spoken-word artist. The workshop will provide a safe space for people of colour, women and femme-identifying people to share their stories and heal. It is open to everyone, however priority will be given to black students, with 15 spaces reserved specifically for BIPOC students.
The He(art) Healing Workshop will take place in the VAV Gallery on Nov. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Spots are limited. Those interested can register online.
Hyper Real will be exhibited in the VAV Gallery until Nov. 30. The gallery is open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday.