Rachel Jones is interested in producing paintings that form echoes of what could be described as a portrait of blackness that speaks to her own everyday experiences. The new works within this presentation use teeth as a formal device to explore the complexities at the centre of society’s reading of the black body – how it is understood, how it is culturally reproduced, and the role of these representations. The depiction of teeth has previously been subjected to racial stereotyping and here they act as thresholds for the viewer, both internalizing and externalizing. Interested in using colour and form to develop a visual language as a substitute for words, Jones’ paintings narrate a personal journey in an attempt to grasp what an identity might be made of.
British artist Nicholas Pope came to prominence in the 1970s and early 1980s for his large-scale sculptures made of wood, metal, stone, sheet lead or chalk. Following his 1980 exhibition representing Britain at the Venice Biennale, Pope visited Tanzania in 1982 where he contracted a rare form of encephalitis, which left him severely debilitated for nearly ten years; an experience that affected the rest of his life and twisted his artistic practice completely. In a move towards softer, more malleable materials such as glass, porcelain, texture, moulded alumin- ium and ceramics, Pope began to make abstract works that reference complicated themes of spirituality, suicide and society. The works became personal, infused with intimacy, or a ‘sticky intimacy’ as he puts it, occupying an uncomfortable space between the sacred and the profane. One long running body of work that illustrates this is his ‘Mr and Mrs Pope...’ series, representing Pope and his wife almost as martyrs, variously spiked, holed, melted or hung; an invocation of the fallibility of human nature, yet with their apparent redemption later marked by an inner light.