Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s - Now ★★★★★ Tate Britain | Dec 1, 2021 - Apr 3, 2022


Life Between Islands demonstrates the huge diversity of Caribbean-British art since the 1950s. This immense and striking show is ranged over more than a dozen rooms each one offering an eye-boggling range of work. There are some striking photojournalistic elements in the exhibition with works from the Black Arts Movement including photography by Dennis Morris, Vanley Burke and others. Paintings depicting tensions with the police demand our attention and Denzil Forrester's Death Walk (1983) stands out. Tam Joseph's incredibly evocative image The Spirit of the Carnival (1982), showing a Notting Hill Carnival reveller surrounded by dozens of police officers and a vicious dog, is unforgettable. On the surface many paintings show vibrantly colourful images which frequently conceal darker meanings; Njideka Akunyili Crosby's Remain, Thriving (2018) tellingly depicts the grandchildren of the Windrush Generation. There are also sculptures and installations; we particularly enjoyed Michael McMillan's recreation of The Front Room as it was in the 1970s, whilst Hew Locke's busts of British Royalty are incredibly beautiful as well as deeply ironic. Lubaina Himid shows us a strikingly evocative collage of Toussaint L'Ouverture (1987), the eighteenth century revolutionary, who's spirit continues today. Blue Curry's beautiful and spectacular sculpture interweaves the cassette tape of Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen" (1984) with a huge palm frond. Some still see the Caribbean Islands only as a hedonistic tourist paradise; this deeply effective – and affecting – exhibition takes us far beyond those preconceptions. In addition to there being so much to enjoy, we were frequently shocked by many deeply sobering images. This is a truly unmissable exhibition.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Denzil Forrester Jah Shaka 1983. Collection Shane Akeroyd, London © Denzil Forrester

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