Josie KO (she/her)
The Society of Scottish Artists New Graduate Award: Runner Up, Royal Scottish Academy New Contemporaries: Selected Artist
Bringing together a kitsch DIY aesthetic full of colour and humour with dark gothic undertones, my work playfully presents narratives which speaks towards the Black British experience in a white dominated environment.
Come see my final piece this July at Part Two of the Alternative Degree Show Festival!
All images beautifully photographed by Tamsin MacArthur
In this piece, I have responded to a poem by Scottish poet William Dunbar titled ‘Of Ane Blak-Moir’ which records the documentation of the presence of an African women in Scotland in the 16th century.
By integrating craft practises into my work, I use its relegated status in the art world to address the identity politics of marginalised groups. In addition, by interacting with craft practises, my work celebrates the art from these communities that is often left out the canon of art history.
This rejection of the Western art canon and the white gallery space, is a theme that perpetuates throughout my work as I incorporate mixed media techniques to present a new reimaged depiction of the Black body. The collection of these materials and embellishments makes the work loud, seducing the viewer into looking at it. My figures consequently become unavoidably noticeable, counteracting the erasure of Black women in art history. My construction of the women with irregular limbs and glittery bodies, glorifies the handmade and rebelliously drifts from the norms of Western painting traditions, re-evaluating conventional Western art ideals.
Significantly, this autonomy I have towards my work speaks through the figures as they are similarly raised to a high status and stand independently as I capture the Black figures on my own terms. I do this by reimaging racist caricatures and stereotypes placed on the Black female body and turn these ‘Mammy’-like figures into empowered, historically significant symbols. At the same time, with cheap blonde hair which is clearly a wig, make up and dresses that have western origins, I consider the physical and mental changes that Black bodies go through to be seen by a predominantly white audience.
The contrasting ideas within the work, with juxtaposing materials brought together in one cohesive piece, attempts to mimic the same duality of being Black and European at once and illustrate a shared Black experience of living with that dichotomy.
To help me with this project and inspired by the works of Gee’S Bend quiltmakers and crafts in marginalised communities, I formed a little network of knitters. Together during lockdown, we connected through Zoom or messaged on WhatsApp and knitted squares which they would then post to me to add to the patchwork. I would like to thank everyone who donated their scrap bits of yarn to me and Hannah Moitt, Leonie Edmead, Tamsin MacArthur, Jemimah Vaughan, Sophie Constant, Olivia Juett, Samantha Ofili, Jessica Blackburn, Olive Endeacott and (and her mum), Emma McAndrew D’Souza, Letty Kennedy and Michelle from the Scottish Machine Knitters Association for helping me with this project.
Would also like to thank Theo King for making the music for my installation and my cousin Neriah for beautifully reading this very hard to read William Dunbar poem ‘Of Ane Blak-Moir’ which inspired this installation.
2021, Papier Mache, Plaster, MDF, Metal Armature, Synthetic hair, Acrylic Paint, Glitter, Plastic Flowers, Turf, Acrylic and Wool yarn
Plinth Approx.- 65cm x 65cm x 120cm
Sculpture Approx. – 180m x 85cm x 100cm
‘My Ladye with the Mekle Lippis’
2021, Papier Mache, Plaster, MDF, Metal Armature, Synthetic hair, Glitter, Acrylic Paint, Plastic flowers, Turf, Acrylic and Wool yarn
Installation space: Approx. 220cm X 340cm x 190cm
Sculpture one (far right) – Blak Elene – Approx. 185cm x 80cm x 110cm
Sculpture two (centre)- Blak Ane – Approx. 190cm X 130cm x 120cm
Sculpture three (far left)- Blak Margaret – Approx. 160cm X 80cm x 110cm