Alexandrina Hemsley introduces a showcase of work by visual artist Rudy Loewe.
One of the events I’m most interested in being attentive to and finding out more about, is how and why the voices of marginalised artists rise and fall. Even anecdotally, I know that rates of burnout among Black artists is exceptionally high and this is supported by the fact that we are more likely to experience mental health difficulties in our lifetimes, with the lowest treatment rates in the UK. We also have the systematic silencing of our experiences to contend with that can make it all the more exhausting to continue the fight of articulating a range of experiences – from joy and hope to anger and disappointment.
The hostile backdrop of heteronormative dominant white patriarchy is what makes acts of expression by artists of colour not only radical and necessary but also quite exceptional. Visual artist Rudy Loewe strikes me as one such artist – an artist dealing with the vast and overlapping narratives of Afro Carribean diaspora by constantly insisting on vibrant visibility. As ‘a storyteller, who works with visual narratives’, their use of drawing, painting and printmaking highlights differing races; non-conforming genders; sexualities; classes and (dis)ability.
“I make work that reflects the issues and histories that I think need to be lifted. I am drawn to thinking about how narratives can be disseminated in ways that increase their accessibility. For example, painting histories and working with oral histories outside of a context where they would usually be found.”
Within Rudy’s work, I encounter a very visceral sense of the labour and cost of speaking up or the injustice of needing to speak up in the first place.
“I use my artistic practice as a way of sharing my thoughts and feelings about issues that are important to me. So in some way it allows me to be very outward and then choose who I want to engage in conversations with politically. It’s exhausting to try to justify your existence to people who don’t understand. It also helps to be part of communities where speaking up is not a solitary act but something that we do together.”
It is often the work of artists of colour to invest in our own archiving. We also have to unearth and thread our own historical cannon. Rudy places their work in dialogue with:
“…those that I never learned about at school, that now form a thread through blackness, queerness and non conforming genders. Artists from the Black Arts Movement like Lubaina Himid; Ingrid Pollard; and Donald Rodney. As well as comic artists addressing disability and mental health like Ellen Forney.”
Of their contemporaries, Rudy highlights the work of
“Evan Ifekoya, Raisa Kabir, Raju Rage, Xana, Jacob V Joyce, Ajamu, Khaleb Salah Sojourner, Joy Miessi, Selina Thompson”