Nahem Shoa: Black Presence

Nahem Shoa: Black Presence
Library Shelf Location 18.SHOA
Publication Date 2019

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Black Presence, curated by artist Nahem Shoa, who has chosen a large selection of his striking oil paintings of black sitters, that will be shown alongside key portraits by a wide range of British artists from the 18th century to the present day. Nahem Shoa is especially keen to increase the number of positive images of black people in British art collections and has donated many of his own works to this effect. This exhibition includes, among others, work by Joshua Reynolds, Desmond Haughton and Sonia Boyce, as well as Allan Ramsay’s outstanding ‘Portrait of an African (probably Ignatius Sancho)’.

In additions to powerful nudes, group scenes and full-length portraits Black Presence features six of Nahem Shoa’s giant heads.  These studies of his friends are some of the largest portraits ever painted directly from life and they convey a formidable sense of individual character. Many of these giant heads took Shoa up to a year and involved around fifty, four hour sittings.

It may surprise people that when Shoa painted his black portraits he never used black, umber and brown oil paint in his palette, in fact he has always used the same colours to paint both white and black people. Using oils, as realistically as possible, he was exploring the nuances of colour in different types of black skin, a study not dissimilar to the way Lucian Freud or Euan Uglow explored white skin.

Nahem Shoa was born in London in 1968.  His parents are from Jewish, Scottish, Yemeni, Eritrean, and Russian backgrounds and he grew up in Notting Hill, London one of Britain’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods. In his teens he worked as a graffiti artist before studying at Manchester Collage of Art, the Princes Drawing School and with Robert Lenkiewicz.

Shoa states, “Without all these friends sitting for me for free, who believed in me and my art I would have been unable to follow my artistic dream. I appreciate them giving so much of their valuable time by posing for me over long periods of time.  I hope the final portraits and naked portraits are a fitting testimony to this shared passion and commitment.”

Multiculturalism is now acknowledged as a fact of life in 21st century Britain.  Shoa’s paintings of his friends are a unique contribution to celebrate this mix of race.

ISBN 9781874516224
Quantity 1
Authors Stephen Whittle, Isobel Johnstone
Format Paperback
Publisher Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport
Related Artist Nahem Shoa
Category Artist (relating to a single artist/collaborative team)
Keywords Painting, Portraits
Related Event Travelling Library Collection (Portraits, suitable for Primary)
Language English

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