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. A related programme of public events will be released September 2021.
Uddoh’s exhibition will show alongside a solo presentation by American Artist Deborah Roberts (Austin, Texas, 1962). Both exhibitions will be open to the public from 15 October 2021 - 23 January 2022 and explore the formation of identity.
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 during the run of the show. 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. Selected texts will also be exhibited as works on paper within the exhibition. 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