Black Lives Matter Commissions
About the commission
In response to the Black Lives Matter campaign, we invited Luton artists to apply for three commissions worth £1,000 each to take time to: Stop. Think. Examine.
In return, we asked artists to facilitate an online salon in December (with guest speakers agreed by the artists and Revoluton Arts) and show evidence that they had taken time to explore and think about the topic.
Meet the commissioned artists
From the applications received, we awarded two of the three commissions available.
These went to Luton artists Sophie Gresswell and ENNÈ.
Sophie Gresswell is a multidisciplinary artist, working with a range of processes to explore identity, belonging and otherness.
Sophie’s commission will see her create studies in a mixture of poetry/spoken word, short animations and painting, exploring hidden histories and extremely personal revelations.
This work is motivated by exploring the question ‘Where are you from?’ and her difficulties in answering that question as a person of mixed heritage, as well as her discovery that St Helena, the isolated little island where her grandfather was born, is also the home to a mass unmarked burial site of approximately 8,000 ‘Liberated African slaves’.
“The fact that so much unmentioned history is hidden on the birthplace of my grandfather has caused me to reassess what it means for me as a British person with black ancestry, and the Black Lives Matter movement has been a strong inspiration in my decision to campaign for stories like these to be given their place in history.
“My overall aim is to promote an untold history and campaign for the preservation of the island’s [St Helena's] ‘Liberated African’ burial site, which is potentially the most important memorial for the middle passage of the Transatlantic slave trade in existence, and should be renowned as such for the education of future generations.”
ENNÈ is a multidisciplinary artist whose practices include music, abstract and collage, and fine art film photography.
For her commission, ENNÈ will create three large canvases combining abstract work and photography, capturing the generations’ experience of what it means to black and British.
“I want to explore how this year's events brought up a very authentic need for healing, understanding and change. I would like to address these matters vibrantly and authentically through my own style, and tell the story of my own family and Black community in Luton.
"Going through my own family history since their coming to Luton in the sixties and all the way up to my generation and indeed my daughters' generation who were born here in the UK. This project will be a sojourn into a wider view into our culture, not just as Black British but as members of a diverse community.
"I want to positively create something for the community to feel that they are part of, and that they are heard and they can begin to really see themselves represented and heal the past, with a view to go on to a vibrant, inclusive and accepting future, together.”
As well as taking photographic portraits of family members, family friends and other members of her community, ENNÈ will record interviews with these people and use their stories to influence her work.
ENNÈ will use the funding to develop her artistic practice, accessing mentoring from a San Francisco-based artist to explore innovative ways to transfer photographic images to canvas.
Forthcoming connected events
Sophie and ENNÉ will each hold online salons exploring themes around their commissions with guest speakers. Sophie’s was held on 17 December 2020 with the date for ENNÉ’s salon TBC.
Sophie and Enné will also contribute to Luton’s Black Lives Matter conference which takes place in January 2021.