New Exhibition: Black Presence: Nahem Shoa

New Exhibition: Black Presence: Nahem Shoa

Saturday 21 September 2019  – Saturday 23 November

 The Atkinson’s new exhibition takes place during Black History Month. Most British museums and art galleries have very few paintings of black people and even fewer by black artists even though there has been a black presence here since Roman times.

This exhibition addresses this imbalance by showing portraits of black British individuals from the 18th century to the present day, who were known for their talent and achievements. It counteracts negative stereotypes inevitably portrayed in so many historical paintings and even in today’s media.

 Some of the paintings in the exhibition are from The Atkinson’ collection and the contrast with Nahem’s work is immediately obvious. Historic images including those from The Atkinson’s collection tend to be negative and based on a limited number of stereotypesStephen Whittle, Principal Manager, The Atkinson

 Black Presence, has been curated by artist Nahem Shoa, who has chosen a large selection of his striking oil paintings of black sitters, that will be shown alongside key portraits by a wide range of British artists from the 18th century to the present day. Nahem Shoa is especially keen to increase the number of positive images of black people in British art collections and has donated many of his own works to this effect. This exhibition includes, among others, work by Joshua Reynolds, Desmond Haughton and Sonia Boyce, as well as Allan Ramsay’s outstanding ‘Portrait of an African (probably Ignatius Sancho)’.

In additions to powerful nudes, group scenes and full-length portraits Black Presence features six of Nahem Shoa’s giant heads.  These studies of his friends are some of the largest portraits ever painted directly from life and they convey a formidable sense of individual character. Many of these giant heads took Shoa up to a year and involved around fifty, four hour sittings.

It may surprise people that when Shoa painted his black portraits he never used black, umber and brown oil paint in his palette, in fact he has always used the same colours to paint both white and black people. Using oils, as realistically as possible, he was exploring the nuances of colour in different types of black skin, a study not dissimilar to the way Lucian Freud or Euan Uglow explored white skin.

Nahem Shoa was born in London in 1968.  His parents are from Jewish, Scottish, Yemeni, Eritrean, and Russian backgrounds and he grew up in Notting Hill, London one of Britain’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods. In his teens he worked as a graffiti artist before studying at Manchester Collage of Art, the Princes Drawing School and with Robert Lenkiewicz.

Shoa states, “Without all these friends sitting for me for free, who believed in me and my art I would have been unable to follow my artistic dream. I appreciate them giving so much of their valuable time by posing for me over long periods of time.  I hope the final portraits and naked portraits are a fitting testimony to this shared passion and commitment.”

Multiculturalism is now acknowledged as a fact of life in 21st century Britain.  Shoa’s paintings of his friends are a unique contribution to celebrate this mix of race.

The exhibition is on Saturday 21 September 2019 until Saturday 23 November 2019, open Mon – Sat, 10am – 4pm and is free entry. An illustrated catalogue of the exhibition will be available to purchase.

Nahem Shoa: Black Presence

Saturday 21 September 2019 – Saturday 23 November

Monday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm, Free Entry


Posted on 12 July 2019 under General news

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