The first iteration of the Black Life Drawing session is a gallery of unfinished work.¹ An informal exhibition produced under a collection of pressures—of time, space, distance, information—it is work that is unfinished by design. Rejecting the constraints—really, the violence—of standardization, we understood that finishing was never the point. The point, one could say, was to engage in a question(ing) of form. To interrupt form, to not let it finish.
We are unfinished, it is true.
And I think, now, of unfinished lives.
If they were sentences,
these unfinished lives of ours
would be interrupted by the everyday.
Life, interrupted by the living of it.
So, to say we are unfinished is to say, more subtly, that we are not finished. We all know there is more to do, and we set about doing it however we can (because we know we must). Necessities aside, there is yet another sense to consider: to be consciously “unfinished” suggests the awareness of an incompleteness that collaboration—collective creation—enables us to address. It reinforces our need for each other.
Yes. Yes, I need you. You have to know.
You have to, have to know.
As such, this collection is also an allegory of a particular reality—Black Life—that is expressed in a space it has claimed for its own fleeting ends, absent of the pressure to explain itself. So, as you and I are invited to consider the notion of Blackness as Life without the “benefit” of subtext—or much preparation—we are simultaneously invited to situate the ethos of these works in terms of their beginnings, rather than what may be discovered or assumed from their completion. Here, the meanings we find are ours to keep. Our shared presence is enough, our shared interruptions rising out of the half-muted hum.
We are all troubled beauties, at times.
All of us, at all times.
Do we need proof that we are more than our missing parts, more than the things that afflict us? Here. Look. We are afflicted in one way or another. But we are not our afflictions. We are not our losses. We are not what remains, what stays and stains, what lingers and dries. We are not what defies, however beautifully, however troublingly. And, of course, we are. All, at all times.
Simone is a multidisciplinary artist from Trinidad and Tobago, ever curious in all visual media. She graduated from the John S. Donaldson Institute as a graphic designer and has held the position of Creative Director at advertising agencies for 20 years. Her fine art exploits have seen her create and exhibit jewellery, paintings, collages and sculptures.
Follow Simone @SimoneJacelonArt.
“Some of the positions the models chose seemed to me, at first, in contradiction to the theme they were meant to express. That’s when I would converse, using no words, just my deeper self to theirs. I would question their expression and their intent, they would answer. And I would draw.
Draw from their feeling and expression.
Draw from my own depth.
Draw my breath and hold it.
Draw with simple tools, just pencil and paper, and line.”
Sabrina is a Visual artist and educator from Trinidad and Tobago, currently teaching Visual Arts and Art and Design at Queen’s Royal College. She received her BA in Visual Arts at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in 2006. Her work includes figure drawing, figurative painting, and street art. She has exhibited in several group shows since 2006, the most recent being “States of Confinement” in November 2020 curated by Adeline Gregoire. Her first solo exhibition “LOVEHate” was at Medulla Art Gallery in 2015.
Follow Sabrina @sabrina_charran
“I am a product of an image culture that celebrates public art, so my aesthetic choices combine my love for graphic, illustrative styles that are used in graffiti, as well as traditional painting techniques. Working in charcoal and searching for the colour of Black…this was the challenge, because it was everything but black.
So I drew on lines, shapes and light. I connected to the way the bodies connected to the props—and to each other—within the white box.”
Sundiata (born Winston Ian Stewart) is a Barbados-born artist based in Trinidad and Tobago. His artistic awakening and talent/ gifts were manifested at early age. Mainly self-taught, he developed his skill by working and collaborating with senior artists. He works in a variety of methods, including drawing, painting, sculpture. costume design and building. His efforts honor and celebrate human existence and nature. Currently, he is working to interpret and represent what is manifested in his immediate environment.
“It was interactive, truly.
‘No Words:’ the experience of working with other creatives in a bubble, energizing the space, bringing form and substance to thoughts, feelings, mood, and the undaunted spirit of Black/human continuity.”
Maya is a multimedia artist from Trinidad and Tobago. As a tattoo artist, she partnered to form Bald Babes Ink with Gesiye Okpofabri in 2017. Together, they have worked to center the experiences of women, people of color and LGBTI+ people, and recognize the implicit politics of the body in contemporary life. She continues this work now, as a solo artist.
Follow Maya @tattoosbymayaxl
Of course, these works are not without the preoccupations of the artists. They, too, are affected by the ideas and hesitations of their makers. Threats of erasure apply here, as well. But while their deliberate incompleteness may forestall a question of “ends”—for, indeed, these works are ends in themselves—they remind us that we also begin. Beginnings, unfinished as they are, ought to be seen, if not altogether celebrated. Not somehow separate from their originating hands and smudging fingers, but connected, intertwined.
1. Images shot by Marlon James.