Black Blossoms: The black female artists you should be following

Being a woman in the art world is not easy. Art history is told through male artists’ work and female artists are often overlooked.

Data compiled by the Guardian in 2017 found that just four per cent of works in the National Gallery of Scotland were created by women. Other galleries didn’t fare much better with 20 per cent of works at Whitworth Manchester being produced by women and 35 per cent of works at Tate Modern coming from female artists. In the same year, Artfinder released statistics that revealed the only one of the top 100 artworks sold in 2015 had been created by a female artist.

Even Guerrilla Girls, founded in 1985 and one of the best-known feminist art collectives of the last 30 years, didn’t have a solo exhibition in the UK until 2016.

It’s statistics like these that led Bolanle Tajudeen and Cynthia Silveira to found Black Blossoms, an organisation working to curate exhibitions that provide opportunities for the public to engage with female artists, and specifically female artists of colour. Here, they have named a few of their favourite emerging black women artists living and working in the UK to watch and invest in…

Rosa Johan

A BA architecture graduate from Cambridge, Rosa quit her job in the city to pursue an MA in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Fine Art, the core of her practice is to reach maximum self esteem. She was chosen by Nick Knight to become Sarabande: Lee Alexander Mcqueen scholar and did her first solo show at the Sarabande this year, presenting her work ‘The Thigh House.’

The Thigh House is based on a Cuban myth that it was the job of black female slaves to make roof tiles on their thighs. To reclaim the bodies of black women and to also look and to reclaim architectural spaces, Rosa ran workshop for women and non-binary people of colour to attend and learn to make roof tiles from their thighs.

Follow her Instagram: @rosa_johan

Phoebe Boswell

Eva Langret, head of exhibitions at London’s Tiwani Contemporary Gallery poetically described Boswell’s work, saying: “The fragility of her Kenyan identity, and this rootless aspect of her being, ignites her work with a delicate search for belonging, through which her art becomes a vehicle that drives her on her journey home. And even though she admits Kenya will never be home, her art enables her to channel this yearning, so that through it, she can get closer to her heritage, metaphorically. The words of James Baldwin are particularly crucial to Boswell's sense of belonging; ‘the place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.’”

 Follow her on Twitter: @phoebeboswell

Sola Olulode

Sola Olulode is a Fine Art graduate from University of Brighton. Her work aims to portray both the complexity and optimism of the black womxn/femme identity. Each canvas is stretched with her own version of Adire, an indigo-dyed textile traditionally made by Yoruba womxn in Nigeria.

Exploring the relationship between Blackness, colour, and identity. She exhibits on painted walls to enhance the indigo tones present in her work and as a political statement confronting the whiteness and white walls of art institutions.

Follow her on Instagram: @solaolulode

Joy Miessi

Joy Miessi translates moments, conversations, feelings and intimate thoughts into mixed media works. Through abstract shapes, figures and written musings, Joy utilises a range of processes to compose pieces that make reference to the duality of everyday life in the UK and her Congolese heritage.

 Follow her on Instagram: @joymiessi

Linett Kamala

Linett Kamala is a London based visual artist whose paintings merge collage with expressive hand script. She draws inspiration from calligraffiti and abstract expressionism, as well as artists such as Jose Parla, Niels Shoe Meulman, Jenny Holzer and Jean Michel Basquiat.

Presently she is creating work as part of her ‘State of Education’ project which documents aspects of the English school education system.  Elements of critique, celebration and comedy all overlap throughout her work. She sees it as an on-going artistic conversation about constantly learning within her environment, being resilient and open to change.

Follow her on Instagram: @linett_kamala

Lesly Asare

Lesley Asare is a British-Ghanaian artist and facilitator who makes solo and collaborative work. She wholeheartedly believes in the healing power of creative expression and the creative process. Her work explores identity, personal histories and the experiences of Black Women/Women of Colour and aims to create the space for play, self-reflection, self-awareness, empowerment and healing.

Inspired by the belief that ‘the body holds our entire life experience,’ Body Arcana is a new series of large scale drawings created with the artist’s body and oil bars on paper.

Each drawing begins with the question “if my body could speak, what would it say?”

This then acts as a springboard for the discovery of current life lessons and resources that are found within the body. Each discovery is symbolically recorded using the body on paper.

Follow her on Instagram: @layasland

Enam Gbewonyo

Gbewonyo’s current body of work, ‘Nude Me/Under the Skin’, is an investigation into hosiery. Particularly how this seemingly simple garment, a staple of western women’s wardrobe has for the black woman been another mode of marginalisation, ostracisation and castration. Further by delving beneath the skin, makes the statement we are all the same. The explored themes are expanded to include sustainability, dance and performance as well as delving into the history of slavery and its hidden role in the story.

Follow her on Instagram: @enamgd

Shadi Atallah

Shadi Atallah a recent Camberwell College of Art graduate and is a queer, Afro-Arab identifying painter based in London, UK. Their work explores ideas surrounding the intersections of spirituality, identity, childhood, and mental health. Largely informed by memories of their childhood in Saudi Arabia, the personal relationships they developed, their bipolar diagnosis and their family history.

Follow them on Instagram: @ramenate

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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