Self- Identity In The Face Of The Global Pandemic: London

22 Apr - 12 May 2021


Gallery 1957, London marks their third exhibition with a group show of new works by five artists: Joana Choumali (b.1974), Danielle De Jesus (b.1987), Shania McCoy (b.1993), Nabeeha Mohamed (b.1988) and Nadia Waheed (b.1992). Self-Identity in the face of the Global Pandemic presents five artists exploring concepts of self, and how identity can be exposed and re-shaped in the wake of personal or universal crisis. The show coincides with Gallery 1957, Accra’s 5th anniversary celebrations in 2021.

Danielle De Jesus presents paintings of her life growing up in Bushwick Brooklyn. Juxtaposing her experience as a Puerto Rican in the diaspora with the gentrification of her home neighborhood, she tells a story of displacement through various mediums including U.S currency. Danielle De Jesus’ background in photography informs her use of imagery, depicting the people native to Bushwick as a reference to tell the story of Bushwick’s displaced residents. As someone who has personally experienced the effects of gentrification, Danielle De Jesus highlights the relationships and intimacy of the people affected by gentrification - primarily of people of color and low-income households. Danielle De Jesus also paints images depicting the story and history of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Danielle paints on dollar bills to emphasize the effect that capitalism has on the colonial status of Puerto Rico throughout history.

Shaina McCoy shows a selection of portraiture paintings using her signature style of thick pasted on paint and featureless faces. Working with richly hued oil paints, McCoy creates selectively colored canvases that depict imagery drawn from photographs of family members and intimate moments. Finding a formal balance between artists such as Kara Walker and David Hockney, McCoy builds faceless figures from thick, tactile layers of glossy paint; resulting in vivid and vibrant anonymous portraits, loaded with sentiment and mystery. McCoy’s work captures the ambiguous and familiar essence of memory, radiating with both history and wonder.

Joana Choumali presents a continuation of her series Al’bahain (meaning ‘the first light of the day’ in the Agni language of the Akan group in Côte d’Ivoire). For years now, every morning Joana wakes up at 5am and walks for a long stretch of time. She begins each new day by getting in contact with the land surrounding her, observing the landscapes. Inspired by the photographs the artist takes during these walks, Choumali then sews together different layers of textile and photography and embroiders onto the fabrics her motifs and drawings. A ritual by which she can observe herself changing through the process, examine her emotions and reactions and reshape them in a different way.

Nabeeha Mohamed’s very personal work grapples with the complexities and contradictions of identity and class privilege in post-Apartheid South Africa. Her identity as a woman of colour, hushed during her childhood years to assimilate to the white society and culture she grew up in, is now celebrated in her paintings where bold colours, and identity take centre stage. Her paintings offer a tension when these celebrations of identity are intersected with a playful critique of the capitalist economy and class privilege from which she benefits.

Nadia Waheed makes partially autobiographical large scale allegorical figurative paintings that explore female selfhood, choice, and cultural trauma. Through the female body and cultural iconography, Nadia Waheed’s paintings explore dichotomies present in her own life as well as those that affect the female experience, one that forces women to navigate through the unrealistic, and often contradictory, expectations from others. Originally from Pakistan, and now based in Austin, Texas, the artist has lived all over the world, with her artistic practice providing the space for her to claim agency and be her true self, shying away from judgment.