Art, Art In London, Artists Talks, Culture, Events, Exhibitions, FNA3030, Gallery Gems
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Charlie Phillips @ PhotoFusion

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It is extremely rare to visit an exhibition and have an overwhelming feeling of affinity to the Artists response. I felt this particular way when visiting Charlie Phillip’s exhibition at PhotoFusion in Brixton. His show named ‘How Great Thou Art’ is a photo-documentation exhibit of Caribbean and African funerals in London over the past 50 Years. Being of Caribbean heritage I was notably interested in how the difference in culture has changed throughout the decades. As soon as I saw the advertisements, it became fundemental for me to visit. How Great Thou Art is classic funeral ballad, that is almost eminent at every Caribbean funeral. The cunning ethos of making this the title of his exhibition was a powerful tool in creating a sense of acknowledgement to the African/Caribbean presence in Britain. With London now being labelled as ‘Gentrification City’ it was dynamic to see exhibitions of this kind happening. Photofusion is situated in an immensely warm environment- contrary to what we might know as the contemporary ‘white space’.

As I entered the gallery, I had an immediate feeling of nostalgia. The photographs were curated on such a real level, that I almost felt that I knew the people. The technical aspect of the photographs placed at eye-level also conveys a conversational approach. As my practice involves archival material and documentation elements, this exhibition was central to examine. I noticed that not only did Phillips have timelapse material, a video installation and photographic images, but also tangile elements. For example, a notepad for the viewer to express their opinion on both the exhibition and African-Caribbean heritage. It appeared that this form of communication and engagment is essential to his practice. The component of reflection adds to the principle of time- which is evidently played with throughout. Bringing material from the past, in to the present and having the commentary book to encounter the future was genius. My personal response was wistful at times. My mother keeps all of the funeral service programs that she/we have been to in our cabinet at home, so seeing his collation of funeral programs on a projected screen evoked clear representations of home,people and culture.

I later went to a connected event which was a discussion with the elderly at the same location, they spoke of how funerals have changed and manifested in to an event. A core discussion of the meeting was combatting the challenge of generational pass-ons. I was there to offer my opinion on my heritage and the responsibility of passing on cultural attributes. This, for me, was an interesting exchange as 3 quarters of my grandparents live in the Caribbean. I was infinitely intrigued by sitting and evaluating the way that older people respond to life and death- moreover, how each is aligned to cultural acts. This conversation reminded me of how essential the generational exchange is. I have to visit more exhibitions that have a connection to who I am artistically and culturally- Perhaps both.


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