Reformation presents the work of Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Michael Forbes and Barbara Walker who unearth hidden histories. Their work proposes alternative narratives that expose and undermine cultural assumptions. In an exhibition that includes sculpture, installation and large scale drawing, Reformation explores racial, sexual and personal identities within historic economic and cultural currents that still shape our world today.
The work of Michael Forbes and Barbara Walker was shown at last year’s Venice Biennale as part of the Diaspora Pavilion, an initiative of the International Curators Forum. Khasif Nadim Chaudry has recently completed a major new commission, The Three Graces, for Turner Contemporary, where he spent a year in residence.
All three artists share an interest in remodeling and remaking, using techniques that range from pencil drawing directly onto gallery walls, to the use of textiles and found objects that range from skulls to fake designer handbags.
Kashif Nadim Chaudry was trained at Goldsmiths. He uses elaborate, textiles based techniques to create monumental installations from fabric and found objects. His work is concerned with power, the sacred and the ceremonial; he situates his sexuality as a gay man within different religious and political contexts. For Reformation he brings together medieval heraldry and Islamic decoration, creating a louche cast of characters in fetishistic finery to question ritual, custom, and belief.
Michael Forbes presents a series of sculptural tableau informed by the entwined political and social histories of Africa, the Caribbean, America and Europe. Bleeding at the edges and erupting from their formal plinths, tribal masks jostle with historical porcelain figurines and disembowelled electronics. Forbes is concerned with migration – of objects, and of the people who have become refugees. His work alludes to the conspicuous consumption of the new economic empires, as well as the arbitrary cultural acquisitiveness that created historic museum collections. Forbes’ work invites a dialogue on both the post-colonial black presence in Europe and new developing Diasporas.
The visceral drawings of Barbara Walker bring to life the forgotten histories of black service men and women in the British Armed Forces. Monumental drawings, often large scale and rendered directly onto gallery walls, powerfully document the erasure and cultural negation of black combatants. In other works these figures are embossed on paper, their ghostly pale shadows a vivid contrast with their meticulously illustrated cohorts, resulting in an optical tussle between absence and presence. Graphite and blind embossing techniques draw attention to the fluidity of history, the way it is made, erased and redrawn, and how its figures are repositioned over time. Unearthing these invisible but true stories, of lives given and indelibly altered in the name of Empire, is a particularly poignant endeavour during the last centenary year of the Great War. Walker’s work is an affecting reminder of the social, political, cultural and individual histories that have been expunged from our collective remembrance.
Kashif Nadim Chaudry Michael Forbes Barbara Walker