Artist Alberta Whittle explores cultural grief in new exhibition

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Artist, activist and film maker Alberta Whittle explores the power of multidisciplinary art; how it cultivates community and shines a light on cultural catastrophe

Alberta Whittle’s creative practice is motivated by the desire to manifest self-compassion as a means of battling anti-Blackness. Her multimedia practice encompasses drawing, digital collage, film, sculpture, performance and writing. In each discipline, she develops a visual, oral, and textual language that questions accepted Western constructs of history and society.

Alberta’s public presentations are often choreographed as interactive installations that prioritize questions of self-care and compassion, while considering the historic legacies and contemporary expressions of anti-Blackness, colonialism, and migration.

In the most recent H&IS ‘Art words’ feature, the Barbadian-Scottish artist leads us through her exploration of grief through paint.

“Painting has always been a companion to my more digital work,” Alberta explains. “The films I make generally have a very strong political angle, which can become all-encompassing. My painting however, takes me to a more meditative place.”

This is a painting by By Alberta Whittle, part of her most recent exhibition: Learning a New Punctuation for Hope in Times of Disaster' at Regen Projects, Los Angeles
IMAGE | Painting by Alberta Whittle, part of her recent exhibition ‘Learning a New Punctuation for Hope in Times of Disaster’ at Regen Projects in Los Angeles

The above painting comes from Alberta’s most recent exhibition, ‘Learning a New Punctuation for Hope in Times of Disaster’, hosted at Regen Projects in Los Angeles. The collection of work includes a suite of new paintings that approach cultivating community and care as an antidote to catastrophes, from ecological collapse to the legacy of anti-Blackness.

“When making this new body of work, I really wanted to try and find ways to think about how to recover from grief,” Alberta confides. “What does grief look like? How can we find ways to recharge our bodies and rest?”

The person featured in the painting is one of Alberta’s dearest friends and chosen family, Sekai Machache. “It is an image of Sekai in my studio where she is deep in meditation and really became the anchor painting for this show.”

Alberta tells us that the painting very deliberately came about when she was thinking about the pressures for womxn. “Especially Black womxn, to always be working and labouring, often for others – and not necessarily feel like they can nurture themselves or rest.

“I wanted to create a space for people to come into my studio to rest, recover and think about their own healing and for me to share that opportunity to rest with others.”

As a result, all the paintings that feature alongside this work are of women at rest. “This particular painting of Sekai is one where she is surrounded by nature. Nature and the landscape have become big motifs in my work because of a conversation myself and Sekai had about rewilding,” Alberta reveals. “We consider: what does it mean to be wild? What are the repercussions of these different oppositions of being ‘savage’ or ‘civilised’?

“I wanted to make something that really challenged that; to have this image of Sekai in an imaginary landscape – one that also felt very Caribbean and would address ideas such as the Caribbean Gothic. I also want to focus on the idea that the landscape in the Caribbean is hostile for European bodies.”

Visit Alberta Whittle’s website | Follow Alberta Whittle on Instagram

Read more art words from some of Scotland’s finest creatives. Most recently, we spoke to Hannah Lim, sculptor and interior artist.

Hannah Lim’s mythological designs feature in Dolce & Gabbana show

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