In this episode of Art After Dark, the artist and poet Julian Knxx visits an exhibition by the photographer Jermaine Francis, at the new Center for British Photography on Jermyn Street. In A Storied Ground, a series of works here shown in London for the first time, Francis explores the black presence in nature – historically the black figure is absent in the English landscape, both in life and in art. Our landscape too has a strong relationship to nationalism and colonialism – the idea of Englishness woven into the landscape, the idea of land stewardship and ownership.
Francis considers how these complex, layered codes influence how the black figure is seen. What does it mean to be black in these spaces? he asks. Julian Knxx, who has exhibited his work at 180 The Strand and elsewhere, uses words, images. films and performances to tell stories rooted in his Sierra Leonean heritage, exploring identity in all its complexities and his birth country’s untold history.
Francis’s exhibition is one of a number of shows at the Center of British Photography, which opened last year. It was set up by James and Claire Hyman, who wanted to create a non-profit space in which they could share their vast collection of photography with the public. The displays change several times a year, and explore the full range of photography being made here, and of what it means to be British.
In this film, Julian examines Jermaine Francis’s work on a physical as well as a visual level, and the metaphors he uses to explore his subject.