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Connecting a Colonial past and present: 'A Procession' - by black British Sculptor Hew Locke

I recently had the privilige of a private tour of this thought provoking exhibition at Tate Britain, and I recommend it to people of all cultural backgrounds with an interest in the deep rooted and continuous effects of colonialist rule. Hew Locke captures the messages and imprints of history in a way that is educational and captivating, whilst brutally honest and provocative.

The procession is an airy, surreal, and captivating representation of the cycle of life; it shows how people gather and move together to celebrate, worship, protest, mourn, escape or better themselves. This is the heart of Hew Locke’s ambitious project, The Procession, a must-see exhibition showing at Tate Britain.

The art gallery is brought to life by the colour and detail, immediately capturing the imagination of every visitor, instigating conversations between strangers. Tate’s website says:

The Procession invites visitors to ‘reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people, finance and power.’

Tate Britain’s founder was the well-known sugar magnate Henry Tate. In the installation Locke says he ‘makes links with the historical after-effects of the sugar business, almost drawing out of the walls of the building,’ also revisiting his artistic journey so far, including for example work with statues, share certificates, cardboard, rising sea levels, Carnival, and the military.

Hew Donald Joseph Locke (born 13 October 1959) is a British sculptor and contemporary visual artist based in Brixton, London.

The life like figures carry historical and cultural baggage, from evidence of global financial and violent colonial control sewn into their clothes and banners, to the powerful images of some of the disappearing colonial architecture of Locke’s childhood in Guyana.

The installation takes inspiration from real events and histories but overall, the figures invite us to walk alongside them, into an enlarged vision of an imagined future.

What I try to do in my work is mix ideas of attraction and ideas of discomfort – colourful and attractive, but strangely, scarily surreal at the same time.

Hew Locke

In 2000 he won a Paul Hamlyn Award and the EASTinternational Award.

In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square, London. In 2015 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge dedicated Locke's public sculpture The Jurors, commissioned to commemorate 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta.

Locke has had several solo exhibitions in the UK and USA, and is regularly included in international exhibitions and Biennales. His works have been acquired by collections such as The Tate gallery, London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2016, the National Portrait Gallery in London acquired a portrait of Locke by Nicholas Sinclair. In 2022 he became a member of The Royal Academy of Arts.

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