For the warehouse that it is, surrounded by when you peek inside, indolent industry and more frenetic creative commerce, daytime streets barely abuzz unless you count the parked cars, and all, everything about to bow down to the luxe apartment bulldozer that rumbles constantly, and no matter how enervating the sights and sounds within... There's always something that becalms on a visit the Eastside Projects gallery space.
Currrrrently, art superstar, Sonia Boyce, fills the room. Probably with the strength of her personality alone, but her installation, In The Castle of My Skin, comes with plenty of help from Art-World All-Stars... even I have Bridget Riley panniers for my bike. Oh wait, that was Orla Kiely, but you know, A-list names...
Sonia Boyce's piece lands amorphous in the room, pancake mixture on the pan, spreading into every corner of the floor and every corner of the eye, shapeshifting as you move around it, it's surfaces stick with you, covered in wallpapers Sonia has designed over time. Incorporated into that larger piece, work from the likes of Andrew Logan - who founded the Alternative Miss World competition, Flora Parrott, Harold Offeh, Lynn Chadwick and Jacqueline Poncelet. More. Friends.
Sonia Boyce recently had her second brush with the Queen, this time for an OBE, well, soon it'll be "what else have you got?" Seeing her work at Eastside Projects is a big, big deal. The length of the list of 'firsts' after her name, as a Black British Woman Artist is astonishing. Incredible as she is, even more incredibly is that she slated to be the first black british woman to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale in 2021... Say it slow. It's 2020 and it always fucking amazes me when this late in the day I am told about black british firsts. We're ashamed, not proud, right?
To be fair to Sonia Boyce, she has been an unfettered iconoclast from at least the moment she decided to go to art school in Stourbridge. Maybe she is not good with maps? Maybe she didn't know Miles Hunt was there hatching his humour-free-80s-funny-band that put the town on the map. If I could know one thing, I'd love to know why she chose Stourbridge? If you're in any way unsure of the massive distance Sonia Boyce's talent has taken her, there's the great quote she gave to Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian. Oh man, Sonia was not even considered to be potential Lee Krasner material in college! WTF?
"It was very clear when I was at art college that I was somehow out of place; the system hadn’t anticipated me, or anyone like me. Even though there were a lot of female students, they were thought about as though they were being trained to become the wives of artists, not artists themselves. As a black person, there wasn’t a narrative at all. Maybe to be a model."
Urrrggghhhh. That. Now here she is still.
In The Castle of My Skin
Until April 4th, 2020