How did you first meet Donald Rodney?
I first met Donald Rodney at a private view of a group show of black artists in King’s Cross in the mid-1980s. He had been working with Keith Piper and they were seen as two of the key visual artists working around race, representation and the re imagination of black life in Britain. Donald was a reflective and serious serious artist, who channelled any anger or pain that he suffered from sickle cell anaemia through his work and his sense of humour.
What would Donald Rodney have thought about having his archives devoted to Tate?
Donald once told me that a project he wanted to make in the future was a scale sized Tate Britain, small enough to fit in a gallery room, but standing feet high and made entirely of white sugar cubes. He was then going to place an elderly black museum attendant in front of it guarding the piece. The significance of the piece was that the Tate Gallery was built on the procedes of profits from sugar during slavery and one would see the irony in having an elderly black attendant guarding this artwork made from sugar cubes.
What was Donald Rodney’s work about when you met him?
Donald’s work was always very tactile, provocative, sometimes sublime, narratively compelling and engaging.
What key themes underpin Donald Rodney’s work?
The key themes that underpin Donald’s work were race, the body, questions of aesthetics and nature. He wanted to go back to flower painting at some point, especially sunflowers.
How do you feel about Black History Month?
Black History month is an initiative that all major institutions should invest time and events around. There is an essential need for the space that Black History Month has created, allowing events, discussions and debates around race and our multi-cultural society to talked about at all levels. This is an initiative that the Tate should continue to invest in.