Prophecy exhibition: The past resonates with the present and beyond – OurWarwick
OurWarwick

Prophecy exhibition: The past resonates with the present and beyond

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Art and society, Widening Participation and being a mature student.
Find out more about me Contact Leigh

Juggling exams and assignments meant I was late visiting Prophecy, the summer exhibition at the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre. 

When I did, I wished I’d had more time. It ends this Sunday (June 26) – so if you take anything from this blog, let it be this: get your skates on. 

The exhibition is imagined as a conversation that unfolds as you move around the space, which features artworks that explore themes of survival, history and migration, reflecting those in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. 

As it happens, I was lucky enough to have an in-person conversation with Coventry artist and co-creator Laura Nyahuye during my visit. She shared some of her thoughts around prophecy as a concept that we all experience at different points in life, even if we don’t realise it at the time. 

It helped me clarify in my mind why specific artworks resonated with me. And it is this I feel compelled to write about. 

Caroline Walker, Tarh, 11.45am, Southall (2017) 

Image of Tarh, 11.45am, Southall (2017), a painting by Caroline Walker

Through a narrow series of doorways, we see a woman preparing something in a cluttered kitchen.

These scenes of women in domestic settings, who are often tending to simple tasks, are a staple for Walker. She often makes the ordinary strike an extraordinary chord. 

It is not until you spot the blue ‘fire door keep shut’ signs that you realise this is not a home in the conventional sense. It is a temporary and managed space.

The subject we see is staying in accommodation for asylum seekers. Tarh, an activist from Cameroon, has propped open the doors as she goes about her work. 

Our view from the outside, looking in, suggests Tarh’s vulnerability, but also a defiance and a will to keep going.

In this alternative depiction of the refugee crisis, Walker gives us the felt situation behind doors that are normally closed. 

Dineo Seshee Bopape, Sedibeng, it comes with the rain (2016) 

Six steel sculptures anchor this installation, which you are invited to move around in order to amend your perspective – with the help of multiple mirrors. 

Much of the materials and symbols have a cultural significance that references the African diaspora. Sedibeng, from the Sesotho language, means ‘the place of the pool’. Medicinal herbs, and crows’ feathers adorn the geometric frames, which I couldn’t help but imagine to be human.  

Meanwhile, overhead projectors – the kind you find in school assemblies – cast shadows of star anise spices on the walls, themselves adorned with scattered flowers. 

The combination of elements, of what might seem to be unrelated objects, creates something immersive and quite beautiful.  

Matthew Krishanu, The Convalescent (after Gwen John), 2021 

A painting shows a woman in a hospital gown, seated reading a book, next to a table

By far the most bittersweet for me were Krishanu’s Interiors paintings. These were created over a 15-year period and capture the tenderness of family love and loss. 

Eleven intimate scenes move you through the interior sanctuaries inhabited by Krishanu and his wife, each a setting for significant moments in their lives. These include the arrival of their baby daughter, and the experience of managing terminal cancer. 

Soft, delicate pastels make way for deeper outlines and shadows as the crisis emerges. Anyone who has experienced a loved one’s death, particularly in hospital, will recognise the innocuous details… the refillable water jug, the hospital gown material, the clinical tones that sit in tension with the promise of comfort. 

For me, these were momentary glimpses of the highs and lows of being human. We recognise the safety of the home and the family unit, and come to realise that with deep love comes the inevitability of loss and grief. 

Past, present and future

The exhibition has many more artworks to see, and visitors are invited to contribute their own responses on a collective wall of prophecies.  

By drawing upon subjective experiences in the present moment, Prophecy connects us with our past memories, and offers the opportunity to share our learnings with future generations. 

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Art and society, Widening Participation and being a mature student.
Find out more about me Contact Leigh

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