Rosa-Johan Uddoh, ‘Breaking point’, 2021, installation view. Courtesy the artist. Image credit: Anna Lukala

The Bluecoat is delighted to present an exhibition of new work by Rosa-Johan Uddoh (born 1993, Croydon), an interdisciplinary artist working towards radical self-love, inspired by Black feminist practice and writing. The artist has previously performed at Bluecoat as part of New Contemporaries 2018. The exhibition is open to the public from 15 October 2021 – 23 January 2022.

Practice Makes Perfect is focused on the timely subject of childhood education in Britain. Rosa-Johan Uddoh looks at how schooling forms an early understanding of what it means to be British, but also at what within this is marginalised or left out. Responding to current debates about Black history within the National Curriculum, Uddoh has approached creating new work for this exhibition as therapeutic ‘wish fulfilment’ in a time of uncertainty and tension.

The exhibition includes a major new work by Uddoh – a large-scale collage – which investigates the historical figure of Balthazar. According to tradition, Balthazar was one of the three biblical Magi and later a Saint, who offered the gift of Myrrh to Jesus. Depicted since medieval times as a lone black figure in artistic imagery of the Nativity scene or ‘Adoration’, this King is often the first time school children encounter a Black person of importance in a performance.

Historically, Balthazar is also a figure through which white artists and their patrons in Europe first constructed ‘Blackness’. Through her research, with the assistance of Nasra Abdullahi, Uddoh has found and catalogued around 150 historical ‘Balthazars’ featured in ‘Adoration’ paintings made throughout European history. Thinking about the real, Black European sitters for these paintings, Uddoh’s billboard-style collage brings these Black kings together in friendship groups on a long march of solidarity to change the West.

The exhibition also includes works on paper, video and new works that adapt the exhibition to the interior and exterior spaces of the Bluecoat. A related programme of public events will be released September 2021.

Artist, Rosa Johan Uddoh comments: 

“I am so excited to be coming back to the Bluecoat and presenting work in Liverpool again. Spending time in Liverpool before the pandemic, as a fellow at the John Moores School of Art and Design, and exhibiting and talking with artists & activists based in the city, had a huge influence on my thinking as a young artist and teacher. I’m looking forward to putting my work around black identity and education in conversation with people doing the work here again and learning lots more”.

Uddoh’s exhibition will show alongside a solo presentation by American Artist Deborah Roberts (Austin, Texas, 1962). Both exhibitions will be open to the public from 15 October 2021 – 23 January 2022 and explore the formation of identity.

Head of Programme, Bluecoat, Marie-Anne McQuay says of the exhibition: 

“I’m so delighted to welcome Rosa-Johan Uddoh back to Bluecoat, after her performance in 2018 and her subsequent year-long New Contemporaries residency at Liverpool John Moores School of Art & Design. Practice Makes Perfect is a timely exhibition which explores childhood education in the UK and absent narratives around Black history from a deeply personal perspective. It’s exquisitely crafted, thought provoking, poignant, humourous and part of a very live debate”.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a new publication published by Focal Point Gallery and Book Works in partnership with the Bluecoat, Liverpool and The Bower, London which will be launched during the run of the show. The book comprises a collection of scripts by Uddoh, each aiming to interrogate how a particular character in popular culture performs (and produces) Black British identity. Presented as scripts, sheet music & instructional worksheets, the reader is encouraged to insert their own experiences and interpretations, in their head or through live performances of their own. Selected texts will also be exhibited as works on paper within the exhibition. The book is designed by Rose Nordin.

Find out more