Saturday, 19 March 2011

FOWOKAN: His Spiritual and Political Journey

Alexandra Galleries has come together with Yahw Arts and Kofiarts to launch Better than Good (BTG), an arts education initiative aimed at highlighting the achievements of Black Artist's in Britain.

The coalition was formed out of a passion for the arts and a desire to strengthen the link between the artist, their community and the art appreciative public. A diverse programme of events is planned to stimulate discussion and creative thought which the group hopes will lead to a deeper cultural, moral, aesthetic and personal awareness of Black art in Britain. BTG has teamed up with London South Bank University to launch this ambitious project.

BTG is the brainchild of artist's Ken McCalla and Alvin Kofi, and Clem Richards of Alexandra Galleries. The three worked together in 2009 presenting "A thin line between love and the Black Arts", a panel discussion at the Original gallery on the issues facing young and emerging black artists pursuing a career in the creative arts. Among the panel at that lively debate were, artist Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy MBE, photographer Charlie Phillips, journalist and broadcaster Dr Mike Phillips.
To launch this ambitious programme, BTG will be presenting A Spiritual and Political Journey of an Artist, an evening in conversation with an icon of the Black British art movement, Fowokan George Kelly (see photo above).

It was during a visit to Benin Nigeria in the mid-1970's that Sculptor Fowokan George Kelly experienced a somewhat spiritual enlightenment that led him on a path to becoming one of the UK's leading sculptors with work deeply rooted in the traditions of pre-colonial Africa and ancient Egypt.
Nearing 70, and showing no sign of curbing his ambition or his dedication to encouraging the next generation of Black artists, Fowokan, a true "Elder" of the UK black art scene, shares insights, influences, stories and writings of his incredible creative journey.

Taking the Yoruba name Fowokan, meaning 'one who creates with the hand', he began practising as a sculptor in 1980. Over a period of some 30 years he has received many prestigious commissions, including the South bank Spring Festival, Marcus Garvey Centenary celebrations and the African People's Historical Monument Foundation.

He has exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem USA, the British Museum and the Royal Academy London. His sculptures are in collections such as the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, the University of the West Indies, Unilever and Marcus Garvey Park, as well as in private collections in various parts of the world. He was elected as an honouree to the prestigious Royal Society of Portrait Sculptors.

Fowokan will be interviewed by artist Larry Achimpong, with a media presentation of Fowokan's work narrated by actor, writer and director Shango Baku.

There is also an opportunity for students and artists to participate in Cultural & Spiritual Expression - A master class in African cultural Expression, an arts workshop which explores the ideology behind African symbolism. Participants will be challenged to create and express themselves through 3D construction and the process of design. Fowokan gives a rare insight into the mystical world presented in African art with artist's Alvin Kofi and Ken McCalla also facilitating the workshop.

To register your interest in these events email

Cultural & Spiritual Expression - A master class in African cultural expression
Sat 14 May 2011, 12pm - 4pm

London South Bank University
Abbey Conference Suite
100 - 116 London Road
London SE1 6NG

A Spiritual & Political Journey of an Artist
Tues 17 May 2011, 6.30pm - 9pm

London South Bank University
Event's Theatre
Keyworth Centre
Keyworth Street
London SE1 6NG

Thursday, 10 March 2011

African Art Sale

Alexandra Galleries are pleased to announce substantial reductions on original African paintings by Ghanaian born artist Jerry Blankson. Blankson has had a long association with Alexandra Galleries, dating back to 2004 when he arrived from Lagos in Nigeria where he had relocated after leaving Ghanatta College of Art & Design in Accra.

It was during his time in Lagos that Jerry developed his style in mixed media and subsequently had his first exhibition of paintings called Craft Heritage with a group of local artists. Jerry says, "My paintings for me represent my cultural heritage, the colourful sights and sounds of Ga Mashie and stimulate feelings of peace, unity and love within the viewer".

He has featured in two recent exhibitions with Alexandra Galleries, Calling Africa a solo show at Diverse Gallery in 2009 and The Journey: Cultural Expressions in 2010, a group exhibition at the Original Gallery in Hornsey where he exhibited alongside Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy (MBE), Alvin Kofi and Carol John.

"These reductions are incredible and I expect these paintings to be snapped up by appreciative collectors", says Clem Richards of Alexandra Galleries. Blankson made the call to Richards early this week informing him to reduce the prices of his existing paintings. At these prices Blankson's paintings are a real bargain. For more information on Jerry Blankson contact Clem Richards.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ibiye and Sokari Douglas Camp

Last week Alexandra Galleries completed the framing of eleven paintings by 19 year old London artist Ibiye Camp, daughter of one of the leading female sculptors of African origin, Sokari Douglas Camp, CBE.

Ibiye, currently studying BA Fine Art at Byam Shaw, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, was preparing for her first major show at Artco Gallery in Herzogenrath Germany where she will display a collection of her portrait paintings.

The exhibition opens on Friday 11 March and Ibiye, whose bubbly character instantly comes across in her work, is both excited and nervous at the prospect of her first major exhibition.

The planning and organising has had to fit in with preparations for her college end of term show, her lectures and of course a busy social life. But she need not worry as not only is her work refreshingly youthful and showing signs of promise, but she comes from a formidable stable of artists. As well as an accomplished sculptor for a mother she can also boast a successful architect father and an older sister who is a photographer.

Ibiye works with oil and acrylic paint both on board and on canvas. Her portraits are varied but predominantly based upon London life, its cosmopolitan atmosphere, style and vibrant youth culture. Growing up in Walworth, near Elephant & Castle SE17, has clearly had an influence on this young, and very ambitious artist. Her portraits focus on the energetic, diverse and confident nature of those people closest to her rather than convey the negative side of youth culture often associated with that busy part of London.

Ibiye sites Chris Ofili, Paul Gaugin, Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach among the many that have influenced her work.

When I visited the stunning family home, designed and built by father Alan Camp, to deliver the framed portraits I caught up with Douglas Camp in her studio/gallery and enquired as to what she was working on. As well as preparing for a solo exhibition in October 2011, also at Artco Gallery, she told me that she had not too long returned from the Bahamas where she had been invited to submit a proposal for a public art commission.

Her long time friend the photographer, writer, curator and lecturer David A Bailey, MBE who has well established links with the Bahamian art community, was the instigator. It was Bailey who curated the Remember Saro-Wiwa Living memorial, designed and built by Douglas Camp, to keep alive the issues that Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta fought and died for.

Discussions between Douglas Camp and officials in the Bahamas are well on the way. Meanwhile the artist considers the prospect of having to spend some 3 - 4 months away from her family, on a tropical island in the sunny Caribbean. How daunting!