Life Between Islands at Tate Britain

Life Between Islands, presented at Tate Britain until 3rd April 2022, seeks to highlight the new identities, communities and cultural expressions shaped by Caribbean-British people through strong works, encompassing the full spectrum of media, by artists Peter Doig, Isaac Julien, Hurvin Anderson, Grace Wales Bonner, Sonia Boyce, Frank Bowling to name a few. Sonia Boyce, selected to represent the UK at this year’s Venice Biennale and soon to be featured in Radio Ballads, presented at Serpentine, is included with two paintings and a video piece.

Coming from Barbados, Guyana, (then British Guiana), Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other islands, artists discovered a common identity in the UK. Many of these Caribbean artists, photographers, fashion designers, and writers advocated for the role of culture in decolonisation.

The exhibition reveals the ways in which people of the Caribbean diaspora have created a distinctly Caribbean British culture while influencing British society as a whole. British artists whose work has been influenced and inspired by Caribbean themes and heritage are also present in this important exhibition. These dialogues draw attention to racial inequalities and the pursuit of New Black identities and modernity.

This exhibition celebrates how people from the Caribbean have forged new communities and identities in post-war Britain – and in doing so have transformed what British culture and society looks like today.

Over 40 artists are included in this necessary show. Some artists chose to move from Britain to the Caribbean, including Peter Doig and Chris Ofili who relocated to Trinidad in 2003. Doig’s large-scale and vibrant painting, Moruga, produced between 2002 and 2008 takes centre stage in the exhibition. Lisa Brice and Hurvin Anderson (recently featured at Thomas Dane) have also both made paintings inspired by their time on the island, including Brice’s After Ophelia 2018 and Anderson’s Maracas III 2004.

The exhibition culminates with artists who have emerged more recently, many of whom revisit themes encountered earlier in the show. Grace Wales Bonner’s beautiful installation references the brass bands and parades of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Marcia Michael’s multimedia collaboration with her Jamaican mother connecting her voice and body to generations of history and memory, and a photographic installation by Liz Johnson Artur charting the early development of south London’s Grime music scene. Further highlights include The Otolith Group’s video work which mixes shocking statistics with historical research in a revealing and poetic piece.

Image: Hurvin Anderson, Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 50s – Now, Tate Britain.