Maud Sulter: The Centre of the Frame, a Panel DiscussionNovember 19, 2021 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Organised to coincide with the exhibition Maud Sulter: The Centre of the Frame at the New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, this panel focuses on the life, work and legacy of Scottish-Ghanaian artist, Maud Sulter (1960–2008). Featuring curators, researchers and artists, the discussion will explore the multi-disciplinary nature of Sulter’s practice which crossed different mediums but was rooted in questioning the representation of Black women in art and literature. The panel accompanies Maud Sulter: The Centre of the Frame, which brings together Sulter’s iconic photographic series Zabat (1989). The series, which the artist called a ‘diasporan family portrait’, features photographs of contemporary Black female figures dressed as the Greek muses. The panel will include reflections on Sulter’s process of creating Zabat, her interest in the history of photography and portraiture, and her challenging of the role of model and muse. It will explore her network of female collaborators and life-long passion for supporting Black women, as well as her self-identity as a Black lesbian woman. Taking an expanded view of her practice, it will consider the importance of drama, sound and performance in her work and exhibitions and the way in which she collaborated with practitioners in different creative fields. The event is organised in partnership with the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.
- Gilane Tawadros (Chair), Chief Executive of DACS
- Laura Castagnini, Curator and Writer
- Dionne Sparks, Artist, Teacher and Zabat sitter
- Marcia Michael, Artist and PhD student
- Evan Ifekoya, Artist and member of Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.)
15.00-16.00 Time to look around Maud Sulter: The Centre of the Frame
16.00-17.30 Panel discussion
18.00-19.00 Curator-led tour of Sutapa Biswas: Lumen at Kettle’s Yard and drinks reception
A little more about our speakers
Gilane Tawadros met Maud Sulter in the early 1990s. One of her earliest pieces of writing was a review of Maud Sulter’s solo exhibition Hysteria which began its tour at Tate Gallery, Liverpool in August 1991.
Laura Castagnini has long admired Sulter’s work and worked on Tate’s acquisition of Les Bijoux IX, a sequence of nine performative self-portraits by the British artist Maud Sulter. She presented Maud Sulter: Les Bijoux at QBAxBBA, a joint event by the British Art Network’s Queer British Art Network and the Black British Art Network, in December 2020, in which she used excerpts of a catalogue essay to form a queer reading.
Evan Ifekoya finds great refuge in the breadth of practice that Maud Sulter has left behind. In particular, the ‘saphie’, a token of remembrance the viewer leaves with after viewing an artwork, has been an inspiration for their own investigations into a collectively oriented art practice.
Marcia Michael says of Sulter: As kin who returned to search for their heritage in these places of remembrance, who also searched same landscapes of our foremothers for words and memories that keep on returning, like Maud as one who returned to search, I am reminded through her poetry that history repeats and words often do. Speaking Maud’s words and mine
Dionne Sparks met Maud Sulter while studying on the BA Fine Art at John Moores University in the late 1980s. Sulter was a great champion of black women artists and invited Dionne to show work in exhibitions such as Passion: Contemporary Black Women’s Creativity of the African Diaspora. They also worked together for a short time as part of the Feminists Arts News collective. Following her graduation Maud invited Dionne to model for Zabat, in which she is represented as Erato, the muse of lyric poetry. Dionne gained an insight in Maud’s practice as she also assisted her during the making of Zabat.
Gilane Tawadros is the Chief Executive of DACS, a not-for-profit visual artists rights management organisation and is Co-Director of the Art360 Foundation which she established in 2016 with Mark Waugh. She is a curator and writer and was the founding Director of the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) in London, chaired by Professor Stuart Hall, which, over a decade, achieved an international reputation as a ground-breaking cultural agency at the leading edge of artistic and cultural debates nationally and internationally. She has written extensively on contemporary art and curated a number of international exhibitions. She was the first art historian to be appointed to the Blanche, Edith and Irving Laurie Chair in Women’s Studies, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, USA. She is Chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation and Trustee of the Stuart Croft Foundation. Her most recent book The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Difference is published by Bloomsbury.
Laura Castagnini is a curator and writer interested in the histories of feminism and their current articulations, especially as they intersect with the politics of sexuality and race, and their expression in modern and contemporary art. She has over a decade’s experience working as a curator, most recently at Tate as Assistant Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, where she curated monographic displays on Lubaina Himid and Liliane Lijn, as well as assisted on major exhibitions including Frank Bowling’s first retrospective. She also played an active role in building Tate’s collection of feminist and queer art and led on a major acquisitions of work by several unrepresented artists including Maud Sulter. She has since moved into freelance work, with a particular interest in LGBT+ exhibition histories in Britain, and was recently awarded a Research Continuity Fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre to trace an exhibition history of the touring exhibition Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs (1991-1992).
Evan Ifekoya is a London (U.K) based artist, educator and energy worker who through sound, text, video and performance places demands on existing systems and institutions of power, to recentre and prioritise the experience and voice of those previously marginalised. Their practice considers art as a site where resources can be both redistributed and renegotiated, whilst challenging the implicit rules and hierarchies of public and social space. Through archival and sonic investigations, they speculate on blackness in abundance. Their ongoing investigation considers the somatic experience of listening, the healing potential of sound and spiritual ecologies.
They established the collectively run and QTIBPOC (queer, trans*, intersex, black and people of colour) led Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.) in 2018. Upcoming presentations include a solo exhibition at Migros Museum, Zurich and a moving image commission with LUX in collaboration with University of Reading in 2022. They have presented exhibitions, moving image and performances across UK Europe and Internationally, most recently: Herbert Art Gallery and Museum as nominees of the Turner Prize (with B.O.S.S. 2021); Gus Fischer New Zealand (2020); De Appel Netherlands (2019); Gasworks London (2018).
Gaining her BA at the University of Derby and attaining her MA at University of the Arts London, Marcia Michael’s multidisciplinary practice centres on the reconstruction of the Black family archive. Michael injects current discourses of the personal that speak about and to the black presence in Britain. Michael does so within a Black feminist, intergenerational and decolonial visuality that pertains to her own diasporic experience and that of her ancestors. Michael’s work has been shown in the UK and internationally.
Dionne Sparks is a London based artist whose painting practice explores abstraction and the transformation of materials to create objects of contemplation. She gained her BA Hons in Fine Art from Liverpool John Moores University in 1989 and is currently studying on the MA Painting programme at the Royal College of Art. Dionne is a recipient of The Basil H. Alkazzi Scholarship Award 2021.