Capturing the beauty of Cornwall’s people of colour in Black Voices Cornwall exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery

A groundbreaking new art exhibition launches this weekend to raise the visibility and representation of Cornwall’s ethnically diverse community.

Captured Beauty is a partnership between Newlyn Art Gallery, the Arts Council and Black Voices Cornwall.

The exhibition – which is celebratory and vibrant but also shocking in its depiction of racism – runs from February 19 to June 18 and features contemporary works drawn from the Arts Council Collection, with paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Denzil Forrester, Ryan Mosely, Mowbray Odonkor, and Caroline Walker. Vanley Burke, Tarik Chawdry and Colin Jones present photographic portraits of Britain in the ’70s and ’80s, alongside other artists using photography including Sunil Gupta, Ifeoma Onyefulu, Horace Ove, Tetsuya Noda, and Veronica Ryan.

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It has been curated by Abi Hutchinson, artistic director of Black Voices Cornwall.

The organisation was set up to enable Cornwall to become an actively anti-racist county. The ambition for Captured Beauty is for ethnically-diverse visitors to feel seen through the works in the exhibition. It is also an opportunity for Cornwall’s predominantly white community to have an insight to how it feels to be a person of colour in the 21st century, and to come away from the exhibition with a determination to finally end racism.

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As she gave CornwallLive a tour of the exhibition, which is based across two floors at the Newlyn gallery, Abi said: “Captured Beauty is a new exhibition where we want to raise the visibility and representation of the ethnically-diverse community. That is something that is rarely achieved in Cornwall and we completely understand that, so this is an exhibition where we can come and feel represented and see people who look like us, because we don’t get that on the streets of Cornwall.”

One of the installations is a series of Polaroids depicting some of Cornwall's ethnically diverse population
One of the installations is a series of Polaroids depicting some of Cornwall’s ethnically diverse population
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“This is a place where we can feel welcome, we can see ourselves represented and really feel at home.”

One of the most striking pieces is a huge, colourful nightclub painting by Grenada-born, Truro-based Denzil Forrester. “It’s just fabulous,” said Abi. “It showcases how black culture is so vibrant and creative. It came from jazz, it’s got reggae, it’s got dancehall. You just want to be transported into that club and be dancing with those people as it looks like a place you need to be.”

She added: “The piece by Ryan Mosely looks like there’s some form of ritual going on which nicely relates to the ceramic pieces by Catherine Lucktaylor, one of our local artists based in Cornwall. Her work is based on her Ghanaian heritage and is a ritual ceremony to grieve ancestors.

“There is going to be an event we’re putting on exclusively at the gallery for people of colour to remember our ancestors who would have been enslaved. Cornwall has a not very well known history relating to Britain’s colonial past and slavery, so it’s important to raise awareness of the slavery that took place in Cornwall and give people of colour who live here the chance to grieve.”

Cornwall-based ceramicist Catherine Lucktaylor's work is based on her Ghanaian heritage
Cornwall-based ceramicist Catherine Lucktaylor’s work is based on her Ghanaian heritage
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

One installation is a series of Polaroid images depicting a small percentage of the ethnically-diverse population who call Cornwall their home. “It’s an opportunity for people to not feel so isolated,” said Abi.

Growing up in Cornwall, Abi says she hasn’t faced overt racism but ‘micro-aggressions’.

“The double look or the stares or the, ‘no, no, no where are you really from?’ is what you get. It’s the subtle micro-aggressions that really tear you down. It’s offensive at the end of the day.

“We want this to be an educational opportunity for people to continue, or even start, to take racism seriously because it affects every single person within the exhibition. That burden needs to be lifted by everybody to help dismantle racism.”

Captured Beauty at Newlyn Art Gallery is curated by Abi Hutchinson, artistic director of Black Voices Cornwall
Captured Beauty at Newlyn Art Gallery is curated by Abi Hutchinson, artistic director of Black Voices Cornwall
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

One striking artwork donated to Black Voices Cornwall following the murder of George Floyd features a quote by Martin Luther King writ large: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’

Abi added: “Martin Luther King speaks so closely to Black Voices Cornwall’s heart and we find him such an inspiration, so we’re so privileged and blessed to have this piece.”

For more details about Captured Beauty see the gallery’s website.

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