Visual Arts

Black Curriculum Learning Resources
Curated by Carol Leeming MBE FRSA

Notes on Viewing

All of these pieces have been intricately constructed, and some of the original works are quite large. To make the most of experiencing this work, make sure your screen is bright and have some fun zooming in on all the interesting details.

We have indicated suggested ages for these materials, but they can be adapted to suit any age range.

0 - 8 Years

A young Black girl relaxes across her mother’s lap with her chin resting in her hands and gazes out of the painting with bright, thoughtful eyes. Her mother is wearing a colourfully patterned dress with yellow, lilac, and blue swirls and floral designs. Small squares in the background create a tiled or quilted effect.

Sonia Boyce (1984) Big Women's Talk. Pastel and ink on paper.

Feminist art – Postcolonial art

Sonia Boyce, OBE RA, is a British Afro-Caribbean artist who gained prominence during the Black Cultural Renaissance of the 1980s. Boyce was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion prize at the Venice Biennale 2022 for the work Feeling Her Way. Her work frequently addresses Black representation, hope, pervasive racism, and the experience of being Black in a white society through paint, pastels, collage and caricature.

Thinking points: Expressions, texture, patterns, colour, family

Learn more: Who is Sonia Boyce? | Tate Kids

A Black woman sits in a brown armchair with her granddaughter on her lap on the left side of the painting. They are looking tenderly at each other and are holding hands. A thin, leafy green plant is growing up along the right side. The background is a warm untextured orange colour which contrasts with the expressive highlights and shadows in the skin tones.

Joy Labinjo (2020) Having the Conversation. Oil on canvas.

Joy Labinjo is a British-Nigerian woman, and her work explores race, identity and culture as well as joy and liveliness in Black diasporic cultures. Her vibrant portraits elevate and celebrate representations of Black families.

Thinking points: Quality of the colour, tone & highlighting on Black skin, use of space, storytelling, family, tenderness, Black figures in the everyday and lived experience, Black diasporic experience.

Learn more: Joy Labinjo

This is a very textural painting with a deep, glassy, reddish-blue focal point at the top-centre of the image. Shades of pale blue spread out across the rest of the piece with some darker stippling and splotches. There are foamy, bubbly textures and pale lines like cracks in ice.

Frank Bowling (b.1934) Clutch

Sir Frank Bowling, OBE RA, is a pioneering painter whose energetic compositions broke new ground in the abstract art world. Bowling was the first Black artist to be elected to the Royal Academy and has continually experimented with methods and materials in his work. He worked largely within abstract expressionism and colour field painting.

Thinking points: Colour and texture. Imagination. Close up art/photography. Possible locations, elements, feelings that come up? What is it?

Learn more: Who is Frank Bowling? | Tate Kids

A tessellated image in various shades of blue and indigo. The painting is divided into many different coloured squares with geometric patterns of swirling black lines. There are some large, blocky geometric patterns while others have more dense, detailed patterns of lines. The different patterns create layers and depth within the painting.

Anwar Jalal Shemza (1967) Blue Blue Jazz

Anwar Shemza was a Pakistani artist, writer, and printmaker. He was influenced by Modernism and Islamic traditional arts and is regarded as a central figure of postcolonial modernist art. He explored shape and form, and many of his works were built from the layering of squares and circles.

Thinking points: Significance of the colour indigo – a historically highly valued dye across the south of Asia and the African continent in the textile industry. Patterns and tessellation, sense of rhythm. Repetition. Arabic calligraphy. Recreating patterns - potato printing.

Learn more: Anwar Jalal Shemza - Overview | Hales Gallery

8 - 12 Years

A Black non-binary person sits on a sandy beach in front of the sea and a blue and white clouded sky. They are wearing a rimless white hat and white fabric covers their legs and their chest is bare. Their face is covered by a gold sequin veil. They are delicately holding a shell to one ear and there is an array of Caribbean fruits around them.

Ada M. Patterson (2019) Looking for 'Looking for Langston'. Still from a video project viewable here

Ada M. Patterson is a Barbadian visual artist and writer who explores masquerade, fear and desire, ways of seeing, and sense of self. This piece references the poet Langston Hughes, and filmmaker Isaac Julien's film 'Looking for Langston', which is about Hughes and fellow Black artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Patterson uses she/her and they/them pronouns.

Thinking points: Queer narratives & gender identity, Caribbean heritage, and queer Black intersectionality. Black Atlantic imagery, culture, and religions. Feminine imagery and evocation of the classical woman with cornucopia.

Learn more: Ada M. Patterson – Framer Framed

A white family with a mother, father and child are shown from behind sit on the sofa together watching TV. On the TV a group of Black individuals are holding up a sign which says ‘STOP KILLING US’. The empty space on the wall around the TV screen draws the eyes in to this part of the image.

Joy Labinjo (2021) Terrible Isn't It. Oil and pastel on canvas.

Joy Labinjo is a British-Nigerian woman, and her work explores race, identity and culture as well as joy and liveliness in Black diasporic cultures.

Thinking points: Domestic settings and experiences, political relevance, current & recent events with the expanding presence of BLM activism. Texture, colour and contrast. Different perspectives.

Learn more: Joy Labinjo

A large full body portrait of a Black woman. She is wearing loose-fitting black trousers and a black jumper and stands with her legs slightly apart and her hands behind her head in a casual and relaxed, yet powerful and unapologetic stance. She stares directly out of the painting with confidence.

Claudette Johnson (1983) Woman in Black. Watercolour, gouache and pastel on paper.

Claudette Johnson is a British visual artist known for her large-scale paintings of Black women. Her intimate portraiture shows strong character and presence and she has been described as 'One of the most accomplished figurate artists working in Britain today' by Modern Art Oxford. She is also known for her association with BLK Art Group.

Thinking points: Black feminism and Black arts movements of the 80s, oppositions to the traditionally white male gaze in portraiture. Identity, self-love and beauty, as located within Black feminism. Female and specifically Black female representations in art. Invisibility and objectification.

Learn more: Claudette Johnson – Hollybush Gardens

Rasheed, a Pakistani man, is pictured in a black jumper holding a baton from which two tails are hanging down and covering his eyes. The left tail is on fire and he holds a flame to the bottom of the other tail. The background uses similar colours to the fire, with red, scaffolding-like beams criss-crossing over a yellow background.

Rasheed Araeen (1976-1979) Burning Ties. One of a series of photos documenting the live performance of this work.

Rasheed Araeen is a Pakistani London-based conceptual artist, sculptor, writer and activist who has been regarded as a leading light in Black conceptual arts. Araeen was important in establishing Black voices and presence in British arts through his work and writings and is a critic of British imperialism.

Thinking points: What do fire and burning evoke? What does a necktie represent? What makes this performance political? Symbology, ritual rebirth. Are there different effects from live performance and recorded/photographed performance?

Learn more: Rasheed Araeen - Overview | Grosvenor Gallery