This work represents a close-up portrait of a 10-13th century Benin sculpture of a priest-king, peppered with smaller images taken from photographs by Tim Page, showing American helicopters in Vietnam. The giant head displays the characteristic ribbed texture of this form of traditional African sculpture, executed in vibrant red, orange and yellow tones. The sculptural relic seems to glance beyond the air-borne activity in the foreground, gazing somewhat passively towards the viewer. The square canvas contains black shadow marks which work to frame the face, the nose and lips have a three dimensional, sculptural quality as they cast shadow onto the rest of the painting, accentuating their fullness of form. The painted lines are thick with some areas heavily textured with paint. This mixed media painting addresses the conflict manifested by colonial expansion; the act of marginalising certain nations through dominating them politically, economically and culturally. Keith Piper was a member of THE BLK ART MOVEMENT, working to voice concerns of black artists in Britain throughout the 1980s.
Untitled 1986 Keith Piper born 1960 Emulsion on canvas The black British artist, Keith Piper was a member of the radical BLK Art Group in the 1980s. The artist said that much of his work at this time was aimed to shock a white audience and 'communicate the structuring of oppression and means of struggle to a black audience'. This powerful image about black identity and colonialism uses an African bronze head of a priest-king and a Tim Page photograph of helicopters in Vietnam. The giant head looks out impassively over the symbols of Imperialist aggression which are reduced to the size of mosquitos. Purchased 1987.21
Canvas: 218.4cm x 213.4cm
Place of creation
[G6] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 6
© Keith Piper