Life Between Islands
By Alex Farquharson & David A Bailey
This fascinating exhibition book traces the connection between Britain and the Caribbean in the visual arts from the 1950s to today, a social and cultural history more often told through literature or popular music. It celebrates how people from the Caribbean have forged new communities and identities in post-war Britain – and in doing so have transformed British culture and society.
With its multi-generational perspective, the catalogue reveals that the Caribbean connection in British art is one of the richest facets of art in Britain since the Second World War, and is a lens through which to understand the Caribbean diasporic experience in all its social, cultural, psychological and political complexities across generations.
Featuring around 40 artists – among them Aubrey Williams, Frank Bowling, Althea McNish, Donald Locke, Sonia Boyce, Isaac Julien, Black Audio Film Collective, Lubaina Himid, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili, Steve McQueen, Alberta Whittle, and many more – it includes a variety of works by UK-based African-Caribbean artists, and also those whose work addresses Caribbean themes and heritages.
Arranged chronologically, it sheds light on a number of themes such as Caribbean modernism, social and political struggles, subculture and its policing, the front room as a private and public space, after-images of slavery and the Middle Passage, and syncretic and creolised metaphor and allegory (carnival, folklore, new world religions). Readers will find themselves charting a course between two worlds: London or other urban localities in the UK and images of formerly British Caribbean nations.
With contributions by a variety of authors, including Paul Gilroy and fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner, Life Between Islands presents post-war British art history in its global and transnational dimensions, and reveals how these were shaped by the struggle against Empire and its legacies.
Alex Farquharson is the Director of Tate Britain and leads on conceiving and delivering the museum’s artistic programme.
David A. Bailey MBE is a photographer, writer, curator, lecturer and cultural facilitator. He is the founding Director of International Curators Forum (ICF), Visiting Professor at University of the Arts London, and a Trustee of the Stuart Hall Foundation.