A bright blue painting featuring portraits and bottles of hair product.

Hurvin Anderson’s new painting unveiled in Nottingham

Posted on 28 June 2016

Hurvin Anderson’s latest painting will be unveiled as part of a solo exhibition featuring new, existing and unseen works at New Art Exchange in Nottingham. It is one of eight new pieces by contemporary British artists to be commissioned for the Arts Council Collection’s 70th anniversary.

A black and white portrait of Hurvin Anderson
Hurvin Anderson. Photo © Vanley Burke.

Growing up between two cultures, Anderson - a Birmingham-born artist of Jamaican heritage - uses painting to explore cultural meanings, identities and our sense of belonging.

His latest work for the Arts Council Collection asks the provocative question: Is it okay to be black?

A bright blue painting featuring portraits and bottles of hair product.
Hurvin Anderson, Is It Ok To Be Black (2016). Photo © courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London

Is It Okay To Be Black? (2016) takes inspiration from the eclectic decoration often found in the barbershops set up in the homes of new Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s. 

For Anderson, the barbershop represents what he describes as ‘being caught between two places at once,’ because they are spaces where the UK and the Caribbean come together.

The provocative question, ‘is it ok to be black?’ reveals the musings of a hypothetical barbershop customer who is surrounded by the owner’s assortment of photographs and belongings.

Beyond pictures of hairstyles, the images include iconic figures – politicians, musicians and sportsmen - some of which are fully identifiable through Anderson’s brushstrokes, while others you are you are left to imagine.

In the mirrored barbershop, the customer’s own reflection becomes mounted among heroes as a way of questioning our personal sense of cultural identity in relation to history.

A painting of a barbershop.
Hurvin Anderson, Barbershop (2006). Photo © courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London

The exhibition

Is it Okay to Be Black (2016) will be on display as part of the Dub Visions exhibition at New Art Exchange, the UK’s largest centre for culturally diverse art. 

The show explores themes of dislocation, identity, belonging and race and will include works by Hurvin Anderson never seen before by the public.

Dub Visions is open from 1 July until 18 September 2016.

“We’re incredibly proud to be presenting the work of an artist who has emerged from the Midlands region of the UK, and is now celebrated on a global scale," said Melanie Kidd, Director of Programmes at New Art Exchange.

Great art for everyone

Known as the nation’s art lending library, the Arts Council Collection takes art by contemporary British artists on tour for new audiences to enjoy.

It is made up of over 7,500 works by over 2,000 artists.

Is it Okay to Be Black? has been commissioned by the Collection to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

After being on display as part of Dub Visions, the painting will be available for loan to galleries and museums across England and beyond.

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