At a time when we are facing deep divisions across our societies, shaped by intensely partisan politics, and social and economic inequality, the work in 'Unity' is a reminder that when people come together they can achieve the seemingly impossible. Nicola Green's new works, Unity I & II are a celebration of the democratic process, a commemoration of change, and a symbol of hope.
Zuleika Gallery is delighted to present 'Unity', an exhibition of work by Nicola Green seen together for the very first time, related to when the artist witnessed, first-hand, Barack Obama’s meteoric ascent to power as the first African-American President of the United States, including new works titled Unity I & II created in response to the 2020 United States Presidential election.
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At a time when we are facing deep divisions across our societies, shaped by intensely partisan politics, and social and economic inequality, this work is a reminder that when people come together they can achieve the seemingly impossible. Two new works created in 2020 Unity I & II are a celebration of the democratic process, a commemoration of change, and a symbol of hope.
The iconography in these artworks is derived from Day 1, Light the first of the seven silkscreen prints from Green’s critically acclaimed series In Seven Days…for which Green created the symbol of the seven hands, with different gestures, united in a circle of light. This is a powerful example of how non-verbal gestures embody and communicate so beyond words.
The imagery represents the long arc of history, it can take generations to enact meaningful change, and many years before the impact is truly understood. The original design was inspired by the Democratic National Convention which took place on the 28th August, 2008, a hugely significant date in African American history. It was not only the day President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination, but alsothe passing of the UK Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 and the date of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.
The iconic design in 'Unity I & II' has been reproduced in red, white, and blue. It has taken on a new level of meaning, representing pride, freedom, heritage, liberty and justice.
In Seven Days…
Between August 2008 and January 2009, Nicola Green witnessed, first-hand, Barack Obama’s meteoric ascent to power as the first African-American President of the United States. Over six trips across the country, Green gained unprecedented artistic access to President Obama’s monumental campaign. From the infamous DNC nomination speech in Denver, to election night in Chicago, to Inauguration in Washington D.C. Green was behind-the-scenes taking photographs, making sketches, and having conversations with press, staff and citizens.
Green’s intention was to make a portrait of the Presidential hopeful, to understand why this story had captured the interest of the entire world. As the story began to unfold she was struck by the implications Obama’s campaign would have for future generations, and particularly for her three children who, like President Obama, have mixed heritage.
“I began to think deeply when I was pregnant with our first son about how my children would experience the world differently to me by virtue of the colour of their skin. I wanted to understand what that would mean for them. So I started thinking about role models, how the world would see them, how they would see the world.” Nicola Green
Green focused on her role as a witness on behalf of her children. She watched President Obama speak at his 2008 DNC nomination, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s momentous ‘I have a Dream’ address. Green began to reflect on the wider trajectory of history of Obama’s campaign. She realised it would be many years until we could truly understand the impact, across the world, of Obama’s election on the next generation. She spent years reflecting upon what she had witnessed, and what she had recorded before creating In Seven Days...
Nicola Green’s silkscreen printing development
After her numerous trips to the US on Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign, Nicola Green had amassed a huge archive of sketches and photographs, as well as newspapers, magazines and paraphernalia. Green spent countless hours researching the complex themes contained in this story. She deliberated for months, working out how to distil this extensive primary material and research.
Green understood that she must find new and unique ways to make sense of this story, to uncover its most essential meaning and form, and ensure its themes could continue to be explored and understood for generations to come.
The artist began her process at the London Printworks Trust, an institution uniquely experienced in hand printing textiles. Here she used vast silk screens on endlessly long tables, printing onto reams of paper. She began by isolating elements from her many sketches and photographs, projecting and printing the sectioned images at speed with the goal of exposing the most powerful and pure symbols from this mass of material.
Through the process of pushing ink through the screens again and again, it became clear which elements conveyed meaning, and which could be discarded. By using the screens as a drawing tool Green pushed the boundaries of her materials; overlaying icons, multiplying them, reducing them: testing the limits of negative space, pattern and repetition. Green unsentimentally experimented with their form and colour, exposing the most essential gestures and symbols. Through these relentless processes, Green’s abstractions minimised line whilst still maintaining critical form. Through this practice, meaning was layered into every inch of the apparently simple imagery.
Please note: In line with government guidelines, the gallery is closed physically. A virtual viewing appointment booking system is available, and our exhibitions can be viewed virtually. Announcements regarding openings or further lockdown measures will be shared on the website and social media.
Illustrated: Unity I, 2020, Two-colour silkscreen print with water-based pearlescent ink on Somerset white cotton paper 400gsm, H35 x W33cm , Edition of 25
Video: 'In Seven Days...' Short Film, courtesy of The Studio of Nicola Green.