For our new commission project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Othello De’Souza-Hartley is reflecting on the loss of his father Nevil Hartley to Covid-19. Read about the new series of works, and his wider practice as an artist.
Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Behind Closed Doors from the series Masculinity , 2010
Othello De’Souza-Hartley’s (b. 1977, London) artistic vocabulary encompasses photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. Working across multiple platforms, his practice is concerned with ideas around the human body as a site of embodiment, often taking inspiration from classical paintings and art historical tableaux.
Through works such as I AM (2017) and his decade long project Stylees (2003-2013), De’Souza-Hartley explores changing perception of the black body and dominant societal notions of beauty. Several past bodies of work openly question established ideas around gender representation, investigating what masculinity, and fatherhood, represents within modern day societies by photographing men from different cultural backgrounds. Through an intimate – and ongoing – engagement with auto-portraiture, De’Souza-Hartley stages his own body in multiple settings, both private and public – from domestic interiors to vast industrial spaces. The result is a deeply personal, poetic mediation on notions of self, and other, offering viewers different depictions of masculinity and vulnerability as visually performed ideas.
For this new artist commission, De’Souza-Hartley will respond to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community by reflecting on what he describes as the “treadmill of life that never stops”. Following the unexpected loss of his father, Nevil Hartley, to Covid-19, he will create a new self-portrait in his late father’s empty room, capturing “the unequitable stillness within it”. Alongside symbolic moving imagery of a tree outside the artist’s window, the project will look at mediating grief through photography while emphasising the inevitability of change, and seeking tranquillity in the beauty, especially amidst the personal and collective crises we are living every day.
Read "We Were Here": Remembering Nevil Hartley, on Autograph's blog.
We'll update this page as the commission progresses, join our mailing list for updates. In the meantime, read an introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project by Autograph's Senior Curator Renée Mussai.
Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Image 1 from the series I AM , 2017
Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Steel Works from the series Masculinity, 2013
Autograph has commissioned ten artists to create new work responding to the wider context of the Covid-19 crisis. Initiated during the first month of lockdown, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with a constituency of creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community. For the first phase, we have invited UK-based artists working with photography, film and lens-based media to create a new small-scale, open-ended visual arts project. The second phase will encompass ten new writing commissions, where each writer – paired with one of the artists – will be tasked to produce a short essay contextualising these newly commissioned works.
Othello De’Souza-Hartley has been the recipient of numerous artistic commissions including from Camden Arts Centre; The Photographers’ Gallery; Platform for Art and the National Portrait Gallery – recently his work has been exhibited at The Museum of Liverpool, UK; Shanghai Centre for Photography, China (2019); Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and Gasworks, London.
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Images, from top: 1) Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Behind Closed Doors from the series Masculinity, 2010. 2) Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Image 1 from the series I AM, 2017. 3) Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Steel Works from the series Masculinity, 2013. All images courtesy of and © the artist