Anticlone Gallery Conversation 001: Life Between Islands
Anticlone visits the Life between Islands exhibition at the Tate Britain. To Illuminate the amalgamation of pieces celebrating the relationship between the Caribbean and Britain
from the past to the present.
This features a collection of tender as well dark art pieces surrounding the Caribbean
diasporic relationship with Britain. I felt an overwhelming comfort in the space as it was
surrounded by art that I identified with. When entering the space, you are greeted by the
works of Aubrey Williams.
Aubrey Williams is a Guyanese-born artist whose works are based on pre-Colombian
artwork of the Indigenous people. This abstract expressionist works such as Tribal Mark II
(1961), convey raw and animalistic symbols. Markings, earthly tones, and contrasting use of
colour display a freeing expression with the use of abstract shapes. Aubrey unearths the
known and unknown through his pieces. He was dissatisfied with British art and went on to
become the founder of the Caribbean Arts Movement (1966-1972). CAM celebrated and
promoted artists, writers, and filmmakers from the Caribbean diaspora. Aubrey Williams
created a pathway for the Caribbean artists as he felt pigeonholed by the industry. Creating
a neutral space for artists to exhibit and promote their work, is integral to combating the
arts industry’s indifference. Anticlone has adopted these values and pushes an anarchic
approach blurring the lines between emerging and established. Art becomes the forefront,
and the artist is prioritised.
Tribal Mark 1961
Aubrey Williams (1926–1990)
Alongside Guyanese artist Williams, Donald Locke was one of the generations to travel from
Guyana in the 1950s. In 1969 Locke was awarded a British Council Grant which would allow him to further progress with his ceramic work research. Locke’s work consists of biomorphic shapes and phallic structures mixed with themes of psychological darkness.
This is shown in Trophies of Empire 1972-4. The piece consists of a partitioned shelf, open-
ended on both sides with objects placed in each segment. Each segment is what Locke’s
described as being ‘bullets’ made from ceramic, metal and wood. This striking piece has said to be a commentary on colonial violence and the sexual fetishism of the black body.
Displaying the pieces as trophies highlight identity being stripped away and the body being
objectified. Locke’s work is a commemoration of the colonised and enslaved. Recognising
their pain and struggle but also portraying strength and overcoming. I enjoyed the
minimalism of this peace as it creates space for contemplation. There was a feeling of
unease juxtaposed with sadness; Locke’s work forces the viewer to pay attention through
the ambiguity of his pieces.
Trophies of Empire
In addition to Martina Attille’s Dreaming rivers (1988). A film that brings to light themes of
the Caribbean diaspora and black womanhood through a lens of darkness and ambiguity.
Martina Attille is a St Lucian born (1959) artist. She graduated from Goldsmiths in 1983 and
was a part of the Sankofa video and film collective that was established in 1983. Attille
continues her works in film and education research.
The film opens with an overhead shot of the protagonist and late mother Miss T. She
appears to be in a sombre and tranquil state suggesting her wake. Her children stood over
her contemplating her life and delving into themes of religion, ritual, beauty, and love. Miss
T has migrated from St Lucia to the UK to be with her now-absent husband. Highlighted in a
scene where Miss T and her husband are both dancing, “Are you happy Titi, are you
The undercurrent of sadness and monotony echoes throughout her reflective commentary
and fragile state. Her strength and perseverance are apparent yet challenged by her
exhaustion. She performs ritualistic practices through lighting candles, braiding her hair,
washing her feet. Each stage of ritual is filmed in its entirety and meticulously captures
details of domestic day-to-day life. Closer to death, she reflects on her life before the slow
descent into melancholy, mental and physical fatigue “she is tired”. This work
illustrates the knock-on effects of migration within the modern family, it’s a
topic that is rarely discussed that melancholy exists and is greatly transferable through
The Life Between Islands consisted of a multitude of artists using different mediums and
forms of expression. It shed light on the relationship between the Caribbean and Britain and
the influence impact it has made on the arts industry. A well-balanced exhibition portraying
the facets of what displacement feel like in a home away from home. However, as much as
the Tate promotes inclusivity, the categorisation of ‘Caribbean art’ creates a sense of
otherness and segregate black art from other art. Institutions need to reflect on the way
they are perpetuating the values that they appear to be against. Art from black artists
needs to be continuously recognised as any other art which is why Anticlone has created
the platform and space that we have.
Text: Krissie Marie Heliodore