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Your Space Or Mine

The Molasses Gallery

We spoke to the art curator and tailor about his second collaboration with BUILDHOLLYWOOD and how he defines success for himself.

While the last month finally saw the grand return to art galleries and creative spaces, the process of going and enjoying an exhibition is still not quite as accessible as it once was – with the backlog of exhibitions creating an extremely long waitlist for tickets. However, thankfully for art lovers all over London, curator Tanaka Saburi has collaborated with BUILDHOLLYWOOD for the second year in a row to bring an exhibition to the most accessible location of them all, the streets.

If there’s one thing, in particular, that is clear when talking to Tanaka Saburi is his naturally determined and hardworking demeanour. Born to a Zimbabwean family and raised in Birmingham, he attended Keele University to complete his undergraduate degree in Law and Liberal Arts. With the initial intention of becoming a painter, Saburi’s interest in curation was birthed when he moved to London in 2017 to work on Savile Row. Since, Saburi has occupied important roles at Paul Smith, Joseph and Richard James (where he currently works through the week). Extending beyond tailoring, his responsibilities have included working on merchandising and PR. “I used to go to all the northern cities and show them how to display Paul Smith suiting in certain ways, how to show it off and understand the mix between art and fashion for him in his context,” he explained.

Launched last year, during the height of the pandemic alongside designer Nina Kunzendorf, The Molasses Gallery is a space to promote the work of young artists of colour. The first iteration of the collaboration with Your Space or Mine featured 12 artists, with a theme inspired by the 1975 poem “To a Black Artist” by Gordon Parks. This time around the exhibition entitled ‘commodities’ focuses on the relationship young up-and-coming artists of colour have with the concept of value and commercial success.

Following suit of the last exhibition, this year’s selection of visual artists cross over all mediums. As the winner of the Molasses Gallery Submission contest, 20-year-old Miles-Jaye Clement’s ‘Red Lady’ depicts a highly detailed painting of his mother. Also, channelling her skill in this medium fellow oil painter, Okiki Akinfe’s painting ‘Magdalena’ focuses on the effect of racial and cultural differences on current social landscapes. Elsewhere, photographer, video and performance artist Tejoso “Plantation” Ayomide used her body to communicate her thoughts and perceptions in her piece ‘Black sex is forbidden’.

“Red Lady” by Miles-Jaye Clement
“Magdelena” by Okiki Akinfe
“Black sex is forbidden” by Tejoso “Plantation” Ayomide

Tapping into the notion of identity politics from their unique perspectives, Tulani Hialo, Jessica Gianelli, Leah Hickey, and Shaye Gregan’s work all dissect the multi-layered aspects of the black experience, in regards to gender, sexuality, appearance and culture.

“Papiyon 21” by Jessica Gianelli
“Untitled” by Shaye Gregan
“EXOTIC / EROTIC” by Leah Hickey

Photographers Casper Kofi, Xavier Scott Marshall, Matthew Manning and Nick Goulden all turned their lens towards more experimental perspectives, expressing the overarching sentiment of the exhibition. Other multimedia visual artists featured in the exhibition include Rene Matić, Ryan Christopher and Nahuel Conteras.

“MAMADOU” by Casper Kofi
“akwesi” by Nick Goulden
“Touch starvation” by Nahuel Conteras

Alongside a plethora of artwork going on display, the exhibition also features a series of social commentary on the theme written by a selection of artists. Key members of the Molasses Gallery team including Jaafer Al-Khafji, Nina Kunnzrndorf and Saburi himself all contributed to the array of social commentary. Each piece of writing unpacks the artists’ sentiments towards the theme ‘commodities’. Filmmaker Iggy Ldn’s ‘Dear Brands’ perfectly articulates the sentiments artists of colour often have towards many companies – stating that their “conversations on inclusivity are often boiled down to nothing more than strategic ways to build a following”.

Amongst the other creatives chosen are: Photographer and stylist Bevan Agyemang, photographer Kevin Lanre, artist and business director Mia Powell, Cherelle “Coco” Janay, writer and cultural producer Kennedy Jopson. Discussing the decision to chose these artists, Saburi said “they’re very vocal in their opinions of the scene. I thought it would probably be better off to get their words or their notions instead of their pieces. Words are more impactful sometimes and I think their work speaks for themselves.”

With the artwork and social commentary on billboards all around London until 23rd September, this exhibition aligns with the values of Your Space or Mine in giving a platform to the underrepresented and amplifying voices which ordinarily may be disregarded. At a time where the traditional artist portfolio has been traded for a social media feed and a fixation on online engagement, Saburi remains true to what is often easy to forget: the internet is not real life. “I think the industry now and just society in general, is making artists and anyone who creates anything into content creators”, he shared. “And if it’s not seen to fit into a certain bubble, you won’t get the retweet or the share or whatever that it takes to be seen as successful.”

We spoke to Tanaka Saburi about his upbringing in the Midlands, defining success in the art world and his latest exhibition.
Read the full interview here

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