Islesolation gallery

The De Fortibus Galleries

In this gallery we open the festival of Islesolation with a series of exhibitions by guest curators. visit a new exhibition every month. If you would like to be guest curator please get in touch

In this exhibition we will be celebrating black culture by exploring the work of several black artists throughout history. From the thought provoking instillations of Kara Walker to the bright ‘African’ Batik of Yinka Shonibare. This exhibition illustrates a process of profound questioning as these artists interrogate culture and heritage through their creativity. 

Keys to the Coop - Kara Walker 1997

Yinka Shonibare

 Born in 1962 Shonibare is a British- Nigerian artist living in London. Shonibare was born in London and moved to Nigeria at the age of three he later returned to London  to study at Byam school of art (this school became St. Martins) and he later attended Goldsmiths to be awarded his MFA. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race culture and class through an interdisciplinary approach. His work is often recognised through his use of the African batik fabric he buys in London. His achievements  include a nomination for the Turner Prize along with a fourth plinth commission in Trafalgar Square. He is regarded as an International artist exhibiting thought provoking works around the globe.

Shonibare is also partially paralysed due to an illness as a teenager, although in a wheelchair he has overcome his obstacles and now has a team of studio assistants that help create and bring Shonibare’s ideas to life. One of Shonibare’s concepts is a hybrid or citizen or “citizen of the world”, this is reflected in Nelson’s ship in a bottle which stands for the multicultural British society along with its historical legacy, this piece also speaks to the post colonialism often depicted in Shonibare’s work.

Woman Shooting Cherry Blossoms - 2019
Flowe Power Kid (suicide) - 2013
The American Library 2018
Nelson's Ship in A bottle - 2010
Wind sculpture VI- 2014
Creatures of the Mappa Mundi, Gigantes - 2018

Click the fish to join our Yinka Shonibare workshop

A notable work is “The American Library” which is a celebration of the diversity of the American population. Thousands of books make up the art instillation each covered with the signature “African” batik prints which are actually dutch but embraced by African culture as a symbol of identity since the 1960’s.

“Nelson’s Ship in A bottle” – 2010 was commission for Trafalgar Square and was on display on the forth plinth until 2012. this was the first fourth plinth commission by a black British artist. The work is now on permanent display outside the national maritime museum in Greenwich park.

The Royal Academy featured “Wind sculpture VI” in the courtyard during the Summer Exhibition in 2017. These wind sculptures are like suspended movement, a moment of air shifting and frozen in time, each sculpture is unique having its own movement and an individual patterned motif.

Click the fish to join our Yinka Shonibare workshop

Kara Walker

 Born in 1969 Kara Walker is a contemporary painter silhoutettist print maker and instillation artist. Her work primarily explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity. Walker is best known for her room size tableaux or friezes of black cut paper silhouettes. These silhouettes originate  from the American tradition used for family portraits or books however, Walker uses this method to create nightmarish landscapes often using images of women in slavery found in textbooks to inform her figures.

Walker describers herself as an “unreliable narrator” disrupting the romantic ideals of past and exposes the daily truths of plantation slaves.

Exodus of Confederates from Atlanta, from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005.
Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro populace 2004
Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro populace 2004
Keys to the Coop - Kara Walker 1997

A lot of my work has been about the unexpected—that kind of wanting to be the heroine and yet wanting to kill the heroine at the same time. That kind of dilemma—that push and pull—is the underlying turbulence that I bring to each of the pieces that I make.

 – Kara Walker

Fons Americanus -2019

Walker lives in New York and previously thought at Columbia University. Walker has previously been commissioned to exhibit in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern where she created the work Fons Americanus. Walker is keen to discuss the power struggles of humans alongside the physical world, this is shown through water in Fons Americanus where the moving water is a signifier for the seas connecting Africa to America and Europe.

This work was noted as being so full of both historical references and art history. The piece itself standing at around 13 meters high is inspired by monuments specifically the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace, Walker describes monuments as complacent and an invitation to seal off the past whereas she would rather prompt us to remember so as to not repeat.

Click below to join our Kara Walker workshop

Enter the sound filled world of Nick Cave

Soundsuits 2009 - 2012

 Nic cave is an American artist born in 1959 Missouri. He is best known for creating “Soundsuits” – which are wearable sculptures that when moved create rustling surreal sounds. These suits are then worn by dancers or Cave himself, their bright colours create a ‘second skin’ this hides race identity and gender allowing non bias viewing.

Cave works in collaboration with various choreographers and performs across America including a notable performance in Grand Central station New York. In this performance the dancers were paired and in a horse like costume, this has historical references to the early railways and the motifs found in the station itself.

Often the performances are recorded so enjoy some chosen film and interviews with the artist below.


Mickalene Thomas

 Thomas lives and works in Brooklyn, she wanted to be a painters painter, however her practice developed to involve painting, collage, photography, video and instillation. These images draw on a combination of art history and cultural influence such as Jet Magazine, specifically the beauty of the week. After a photography class with David Hilliard Thomas began to consider the black body and media, specifically around notions of stereotyping and beauty.

This led to a more self reflective period of her work, including photographing her mother and taking self portraits. These portraits developed into mimicking childhood idols such as Naomi Sims and taking photographs which then develop  into collaged “paintings”.

Thomas celebrates women and their inner strength not just their exterior beauty, resilience and their redefinition of beauty, how they define themselves id something that greatly interests Thomas.

During her undergraduate Thomas couldn’t afford oil paint or expensive materials so tended to buy crafting materials to use in her practice. This  itself contains cultural references especially with the materials chosen such as sparkly plastic stones, these materials were then used for meaning, identity and for making her image.

Polaroid series 10
Naomi Sims 2018
Afro Godess Looking forward -2017

 My gaze is unapologetically a black womens gaze loving other black women.  

– Mickalene Thomas

Doris Salcedo

 Salcedo was born in 1958 and is a Columbian visual artist and sculptor. Salcedo uses familiar materials such as furniture, textiles and clothing along with concrete, glass and natural materials such as flower petals. Through these materials Salcedo’s work explores pain, trauma, and loss, much of her work explores mourning often items or pieces representing the missing individual.

In 2007 Salcedo was commissioned to create a work for the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern. The work Shibboleth – (the word itself meaning a custom or tradition used as an identifier), involved creating long fissures or cracks along the floor of the turbine hall running from each end (pictured right) which had Colombian rock face along with a chain link fence cast into the cracks.

Shibboleth IV

Shibboleth is a piece that refers to dangers at crossing boarders or to being rejected in the moment of crossing boarders. So I am making a piece about people who have been exposed to extreme experience of racial hatred and subjected to inhuman conditions in the first world.

 – Doris Salcedo

Salcedo also states that although these cracks will be covered over, the permanent scars will remain ingrained into the floor of the Turbine Hall. This is a direct parallel to society where although we appear harmonious the past is still felt and remains a visible scar though our society.

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Visual Arts Review: The Art of Kara Walker — A Mix of Cozy Charm and Historic Horror

Doris Salcedo “Shibboleth”