Saturday, 29 June 2013

An evening of conversation with Yinka Shonibare MBE

Over the past couple of weeks, I've attended a number of talks.   Sunday 16 June - a talk on Tom Hudson (influential Art Teacher and Artist during the 60s and 70s) arranged by the National Arts Education Archive at the YSP; Sunday 23 June - a talk by artist Miro's grandson, Joan Punyet Miró  about Miro's life and most influential works.  Joan was an excellent speaker who brought new understanding and clarity to Miro's work; and then on Thursday 27 - a conversational talk with Yinka Shonibare MBE in the YSP's Visitor Centre restaurant.

Previously, (Friday 1 March 2013) My friend Helen and I attended the private View of Yinka's exhibition, Fabric-ation:

My friend Helen with Yinka in the background

As a 'Friend' of YSP, I get invitations to events and Private Views and Helen is often my 'plus 1'.

I had never come across Yinka before, but I liked his work, its incredible richness of multicolour and its quality of production.  My first impression, looking at the exhibition, was one of two messages: quizzical enjoyment and playfulness; and an underlying current of subversive darkness.  The work, much of it based around Middle Class Colonialism, was easy for me to identify with, coming as I do from a similar MC background - a background of pretension and lies wrapped in a veil of unquestioning social acceptability.

Here is a flavour of Yinka's work.  (One of the good things about Private Views, is the allowance of public photography in the gallery areas:

Yours truly standing next to 'Earth' - coincidentally, the Astrological sign of my father.
Clare Lilley (Curator of YSP) interviewed Yinka in front of a paying audience of about 100 or so people.  Peter Murray (Director of YSP) was also, and unusually, in the audience.  At previous events he has always introduced the speakers with an opening talk of his own.

Yinka's social background is not unlike my own and I think for this reason, I saw aspects of his life mirrored back at me through his conversational comments and amusing asides as he navigated the proceedings like a tightrope walker balancing between authentic rebel and respectable socialite.  Sometimes appearing quite materialistic and selfish, but underlying this, tremendous insight and wisdom, rarely witnessed in a public arena outside of a 'mind, body, spirit' convention.  I wondered how much of this glimpse into the understanding of human nature anyone else was appreciating.  The open audience Q&A session at the end qualified my thoughts: many seemed confused.  I wish I had written down what he said - not because it was new to me, but because it was one of the best descriptions of personal power versus victimhood that I had heard in a long time.  Essentially, it was a version of 'turning the other cheek'; calmness in the midst of conflict; mindfulness applied in daily life situations; reclaiming personal power in adversity.

So cheers, Yinka - here's to you!

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