For her first solo show in the UK, Russian-Ghanaian artist Liz Johnson Artur presents new sculptural works incorporating photographs selected from her substantial archive of images documenting the lives of people from the African diaspora.
Artur has taken photographs across Europe, America, Africa and the Caribbean for more than three decades. She calls this ongoing project the Black Balloon Archive, alluding to a 1970 song lyric by Syl Johnson that describes a black balloon ‘dancing’ in the sky, which is how Artur imagines her own movement when taking photographs.
This exhibition focuses on London, where Artur has lived since 1991, capturing the richness and complexity of Black British life. “What I do is people,” Artur says of her work. “But it’s those people who are my neighbours. And it’s those people who I don’t see represented anywhere.”
In the Main Gallery, four hanging and floor-based bamboo cane structures host a body of images taken across the city, including in Peckham Rye, at black-majority churches and at non-binary club nights. One section focuses on still life images taken in the artist’s London studio, which is home to a wealth of reference books, vinyl records and magazines.
Artur shoots exclusively on film, and here her images are printed at various sizes, materialised using traditional photographic techniques onto paper as well as applications onto fabric, tracing paper and cardboard. Artur uses these different techniques in the workbooks she has regularly made since she first picked up a camera, and the exhibition functions as an expanded version of these ongoing journals.
Liz Johnson Artur (b. 1964, Bulgaria) lives and works in London.
LIZ JOHNSON ARTUR: IF YOU KNOW THE BEGINNING, THE END IS NO TROUBLE
Exhibition Dates: June 14 – September 1, 2019
South London Gallery
65-67 Peckham Rd.
London, SE5 8UH