An installation of the sixteen original photomontages of Syrcas, a seminal body of work created by Maud Sulter (b. 1960 – d. 2008) during the early 1990s.
Sulter was an influential visual artist, poet, playwright and curator of Scottish-Ghanaian descent. Throughout her career and across different media, Sulter has questioned the lack of representation of black women in the histories of art and photography, and critically investigated the complex experiences of the African diaspora in European history and culture over the past six hundred years.
Arguably the artist’s most intricate and layered body of work, Syrcas aims to revive the forgotten history of the genocide of black Europeans during the Holocaust through the technique of photomontage. Sulter juxtaposes canonical imagery from classical European art history with African art objects, overlaid on vintage postcards of picturesque, unspecified Alpine landscapes. As multi-layered collage works, the photomontages’ visual tropes are intimately tied up with Nazi ideology and questions of racial purity as well as African presences in Europe, while the raw montage of the various visual elements serves as reference to children’s scrapbooks.
The composite works of Syrcas are supported by a reproduction of Sulter’s seminal poem Blood Money: written in 1994 and inspired by German photographer August Sanders’ Circus Workers (1926-1932), Blood Money represents a harrowing tale of a young African woman and her family caught up in war, dealing with the constant threat of discrimination, violence and persecution. Two large-scale exhibition prints of the same series will also be part of the show.
'I felt that the piece should resemble something more like a diary. I’d been to see Anne Frank’s house and liked the diary, but I wanted something more direct, more visual, and, ultimately, more personal. Then I remembered sticking pictures into a scrap-book as a child, and I saw that this was the perfect way of juxtaposing images to present the historical problems surrounding the presence of black people in Germany.' - Maud Sulter
This exhibition forms part of an ongoing series of engagements to preserve the late artist’s legacy.
Maud Sulter was a prominent visual artist, writer and curator of Scottish-Ghanaian descent. Her work has been widely exhibited, including at the ICA in London (1985, 1990), the V&A in London (1989), Tate Liverpool (1991), the Studio Museum in New York (1997), the National Portrait Gallery in London (2002) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh (2003).
Her work Africus was chosen by the Arts Council to represent Britain at the Johannesburg Biennale in 1996. Sulter’s work is represented in various public collections including the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish Parliament Collection and the Arts Council, as well as numerous private collections.
As an outcome of in-depth curatorial research led by Deborah Cherry, Professor of Art History at the University of the Arts London, and artist and curator Ajamu, this programme includes a strategic partnership between Autograph and Street Level Photoworks partnership, in association with TrAIN - the University of the Arts London research centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation. Syrcas is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, the support of The Maud Sulter Estate, and the loan of Duval et Dumas, 1993 from the private collection of Eileen Yeo.
Special thanks to Ajamu, Deborah Cherry, Malcolm Dickson, Ingrid Pollard, and Eileen Yeo.
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