News Archive 2023

Claudette Johnson: Presence opens at The Courtauld Gallery

29 Sep 2023

A major exhibition of work by British artist Claudette Johnson (born 1959), one of the founding members of the Black British Arts Movement, has been unveiled at The Courtauld Gallery.

One of the most significant figurative artists of her generation, Claudette Johnson creates larger-than-life drawings of Black women and men that are at once intimate and powerful. For over 30 years she has consistently pushed herself to create the most authentic renderings of her sitters, addressing both Black bodies and interior lives and lending them a profound sense of presence. Featuring significant early works alongside recent and new drawings, the exhibition offers a compelling overview of Johnson’s pioneering career and artistic development.

Working in a variety of media, ranging from monochrome works in dark pastel to vast sheets brightly coloured in vibrant gouache and watercolour, combined with a dramatic use of pose, gaze, and scale, her distinctive drawings of friends, relatives, and often herself seek, as the artist puts it, “to tell a different story about our presence in this country”.

Johnson came to prominence in the 1980s as an art student in Wolverhampton, starting her career as part of the newly formed BLK Art Group, an association of young Black artists raising questions about the role of Black artists within the British art establishment. Johnson was a pioneer of Black British feminism in the visual arts. She delivered a formative presentation at the First National Black Arts Conference in 1982, at what was then Wolverhampton Polytechnic, in which she actively questioned the role and place of Black women artists in the emerging movement. In the 1980s, she showed her work in numerous era-defining exhibitions, including Five Black Women, Africa Centre, London (1983); Black Women Time Now, Battersea Arts Centre, London (1984); and The Thin Black Line, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1985).

Presenting a carefully selected group of major works from across her career, from key early drawings such as the arresting I Came to Dance, 1982, and And I Have My Own Business in This Skin, 1982, alongside recent and new works, Claudette Johnson: Presence considers how Johnson has directed her approach to representing her subjects over three decades. It also considers how her practice draws on the art of the past, with The Courtauld’s collection providing a rich context in which to see her work.

The exhibition is the first monographic show of Johnson’s work at a major public gallery in London and is rooted in the ongoing research, teaching and activities in the field of Black and Diasporic British Art by Dorothy Price, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Critical Race Art History at The Courtauld. The exhibition is accompanied by a new catalogue based on original research and conversations with the artist.

Claudette Johnson: Presence
29 Sep 2023 – 14 Jan 2024
The Courtauld Gallery Somerset House, Strand London WC2R 0RN

Opening hours: 10.00 – 18.00 (last entry 17.15)
Temporary Exhibition tickets (including entry to our Permanent Collection) – Weekday tickets from £13; Weekend tickets from £15.
Friends and Under-18s go free. Other concessions available

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Claudette Johnson: Presence

29 Sept 2023 – 14 Jan 2024  | Tickets from £13. Includes entry to the permanent collection. Friends go free. Other concessions available.

A major exhibition of work by British artist Claudette Johnson (b.1959) will open at The Courtauld Gallery on 29 Sept 2023....

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