Rosa-Johan Uddoh: Practice Makes Perfect

15 October 2021 - 23 January 2022

Uddoh is an inter-disciplinary artist who is inspired by Black feminist practice and writing. She is no stranger to the Bluecoat and featured in a live performance in 2018, as part of her residency with Liverpool John Moores University and New Contemporaries.

We were absolutely delighted to welcome her back with her first substantial UK touring solo show Practice Makes Perfect.

Practice Makes Perfect is focused on the timely subject of childhood education in Britain. Rosa-Johan Uddoh looks at how schooling forms an early understanding of what it means to be British, but also at what within this is marginalised or left out. Responding to current debates about Black history within the National Curriculum, Uddoh has approached creating new work for this exhibition as therapeutic ‘wish fulfilment’ in a time of uncertainty and tension.

The exhibition includes a major new work by Uddoh - a large-scale collage - which investigates the historical figure of Balthazar. According to tradition, Balthazar was one of the three biblical Magi and later a Saint, who offered the gift of Myrrh to Jesus. Depicted since medieval times as a lone black figure in artistic imagery of the Nativity scene or ‘Adoration’, this King is often the first time school children encounter a Black person of importance in a performance.

Historically, Balthazar is also a figure through which white artists and their patrons in Europe first constructed ‘Blackness’. Through her research, with the assistance of Nasra Abdullahi, Uddoh has found and catalogued around 150 historical ‘Balthazars’ featured in ‘Adoration’ paintings made throughout European history. Thinking about the real, Black European sitters for these paintings, Uddoh’s billboard-style collage brings these Black kings together in friendship groups on a long march of solidarity to change the West.

The exhibition also includes works on paper, video and new works that adapt the exhibition to the interior and exterior spaces of the Bluecoat.

"I am so excited to be coming back to the Bluecoat and presenting work in Liverpool again. Spending time in Liverpool before the pandemic, as a fellow at the John Moores School of Art and Design, and exhibiting and talking with artists & activists based in the city, had a huge influence on my thinking as a young artist and teacher. I’m looking forward to putting my work around black identity and education in conversation with people doing the work here again and learning lots more."
Rosa-Johan Uddoh

Online event with Michael Ohajuru - The Black Magus: Power and Magnificence in Renaissance Europe.

Thu 9 Dec

Independent Art and Cultural Historian and Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Michael Ohajuru joined us online to present his research into the Black Magus, otherwise known as Balthazar, from a white European to African king within depictions of the Nativity. The event was devised as a response to Rosa-Johan Uddoh’s exploration of Balthazar.

A fully subtitled video recording of the conversation with a transcript is available in our archive to view on request.

Email to request.

To accompany her exhibition Uddoh made a new commission along our outer wall on Blundell Lane on blue backed paper. The piece, Windrush Tongue Twister, features a series of tongue twisters written on scrolls that cover the wall, reclaiming the tongue twister for Black British History.

Designed by Rose Nordin, with thanks to Jerwood Arts.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a new publication published by Focal Point Gallery and Book Works in partnership with the Bluecoat, Liverpool and The Bower, London which will be launched in 2022. The book comprises a collection of scripts by Uddoh, each aiming to interrogate how a particular character in popular culture performs (and produces) Black British identity. Presented as scripts, sheet music & instructional worksheets, the reader is encouraged to insert their own experiences and interpretations, in their head or through live performances of their own. The book is designed by Rose Nordin.

About the artist

Rosa-Johan Uddoh (born 1993, Croydon), lives and works in London. Through performance, film, installation and sound, Uddoh explores an infatuation with places, objects and celebrities in British popular culture, and the effects of these on self-formation. She is influenced by her architectural background, rooting stories in specific spaces and materials.

Solo presentations include ‘Studies for Impartiality’, Jupiter Woods and ‘Sphinx at the Crystal Palace’, Black Tower Projects (both in London, 2019). She has participated in group shows including: ‘Learning by Doing: A politics of practice’, 68 Institute, Copenhagen, 2019; ‘Black Blossoms: If we are going to heal let it be glorious’, The Royal Standard, Liverpool, 2017 and ‘Mene Mene Tekel Parsin’, Cambridge, 2017. Recently she has screened work at East London Cable’s ‘TV Dinners E03’ at Tate Modern, 2019; and performed at ‘Art in the Age of Black Girl Magic’ Tate Britain, 2019 and ‘New Contemporaries’, South London Gallery and Bluecoat, 2018. She was the 2020 Stuart Hall Library Resident

Commissioned by Focal Point Gallery, ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is presented in partnership with Bluecoat, Liverpool.

The book ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is published by Focal Point Gallery and Book Works, in partnership with Bluecoat, Liverpool and The Bower, London