Hurvin Anderson’s paintings are based on personal experience. Many explore sites of leisure where the mind is free to wander. They convey the sense of being in one place while thinking of another, an allusion to Anderson’s Caribbean heritage, black history and community. For each new work Anderson collects newspaper clippings, posters and photographs before compiling reams of drawings and sketches as precursors to the final painting.
His commission for the Arts Council Collection’s 70th anniversary is an extension of previous works such as Jersey (2008) and Flat Top (2008) which are set around typical barbershops within south London’s black communities. In these paintings, Anderson explores the architectural space of the quasi-domestic setting of the barbershop. He is interested in the shapes and colours of their interiors as well as the relationships between the materials in the space and the real and imagined conversations taking place in the room.
In Is it OK to be black? Anderson subverts the gaze of the viewer, placing us in the role of sitter, confronted by more or less abstracted images of key figures in black history including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. The title of the work poses a clear question, interrogating the viewer, who can no longer remain a passive voyeur, and implicating them in the complexity of race relations, cultural history and notions of ‘otherness’.
- Artwork Details: 130 x 100cm
- Material description: Acrylic on canvas
- Credit line: A 70th Anniversary Commission for the Arts Council Collection with New Art Exchange, Nottingham and Thomas Dane Gallery, London. © the artist.
- Medium: Painting
- Accession number: ACC22/2015