Altitude exhibits the work of the finalists of the Womxn of Colour Art Award – a bi-annual award offered by 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, to womxn artists of colour from 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”. In line with the choice of the 198 gallery, we will use that term throughout this review.)
The show both celebrates their work and recognises the barriers to success that womxn of colour 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 three gallery rooms. These diverse and very contrasting techniques make for a very engaging show. And whatever the medium, these works tell a story.
Perhaps the centrepiece of the show is award winner Maybelle Peter’s “Morning Has Gold in its Mouth” – a story about journeys and navigating the world.
Created specially for the show, this CGI piece is a compelling 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 media of pencil and watercolour to create what she calls “memory stories” – a beautifully rendered moment which deftly captures a sense of history and historical change.
Sofia Niazi’s “Pond land” is a large vibrant handmade rug which tells her personal stories of life during the pandemic. Cherelle Sapplton’s mixed media collages, “Fit”, “We” and “Machine”, are arresting and dynamic explorations of the ways womxn of colour are represented.
The work of remaining finalists – Mani Kambo, Marcia Michaels, Rebekah Ubuntu and Sola Olulode – provides much food for thought and glimpses into the world of womxn of colour. This is a show to linger in. The works offer up their insights slowly and in a way which reflects complex and nuanced ideas. Go and see it if you can.
Altitude runs until 26 February in 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, 198 Railton Road, SE24 0JT. The exhibition is free and open Monday to Friday, 11am – 5pm. For further information go to www.198.org.uk