Call for volunteers: Imperial and the Royal College of Art’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portrait Prize

Imperial’s Artworks Group has joined forces with the Royal College of Art (RCA) to launch the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portrait Prize. The Artworks Group, chaired by Professor Sian Harding - Professor of Cardiac Pharmacology in the National Heart and Lung Institute - was commissioned by the President and Provost to consider how Imperial can better reflect the diversity of our community through its art.

As part of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portrait Prize, students from the Royal College of Art have been selected to receive £2,000 to cover the cost of creating and displaying a portrait of a member of Imperial’s student, staff or alumni community.

The prize will have a particular focus on works that depict members of Imperial’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community by artists that also identify as BAME. We want to hear from Imperial As One members and members of our BAME community who are interested in becoming a subject for / sitting for one of the artists.

A summary of the selected artists’ proposals can be found below:

Sichan Wang

Sichan Wang, born in China. She is currently studying for an MA in Photography at the RCA. Her practice often takes herself as a medium through the system of art of experiencing and experimental creative approach. She is interested in playing with fiction, creating characters, and performing identities, to reveal the implicit political and cultural criticisms behind the mechanisms. In her recent work, she is attempting to explore the identity crisis at the intersection of sexism and racism.

Alexander Ikhide

b. 1993, Lagos, Nigeria. Lives and works in London, UK

Alexander Ikhide is a multidisciplinary visual artist working in a range of media, primarily collage (analogue/digital) and photography in the vein of documentary portraiture to interrogate issues of representation, identity, history, gender and race. Examining the political, social, historical and cultural ideologies of African diasporic traditions in a post-colonial age and drawing upon surrealist aesthetic sensibilities of the post modern and contemporary that inform his stylistic approach to his practice.

Tami Soji-Akinyemi

b. 1991, London, United Kingdom. Lives and works in London.

Tami Soji-Akinyemi is a multidisciplinary artist working between painting, printmaking and sculpture, exploring the building and ruination of the ‘agenda-ed’ image, and the hierarchies of seeing and knowing. By enacting ‘propaganda’ devices as making processes, the work stretches between the stable image and the fragile, unearthing the multiplicities of meta-narratives beneath the surface of images and text. The dot/plot point features heavily in the work; as a fragmented text, image building cells - alluding to the precision and focus but also the vagueness of data passing from one place to another. For the RCA/Imperial Portrait Prize commission, the untold journeys and stories of a face, a title or a position in time, is of interest. I see the portrait as reconciling the subject with the intricacies and conditions of place and time.

Education

MA Painting, Royal College of Art, 2020 - 2022

BA Fashion Design, University for the Creative Arts, 2010 - 2014

Foundation in Art and Design, Central Saint Martins (UAL) 2009 - 2010

Exhibitions

RCA WiP Show 2021, Online - www.wip.rca.ac.uk/students/tami-soji-akinyemi, 2021.

Miya Browne

My practice involves experimenting: using painting and performance to play around with the idea of nothingness and intense representation. Rejecting both colour and femininity, restricted entirely to an achromatic palette. Embodying ideas of masculinity and race, man-spreading my "female" form taking on the archetype of an "artist". Hijacking old Masters’ compositions to create alternative narratives, I provoke the canvas and viewer. Manipulating Biblical stories, merging sentimental childhood self-portraiture to analyse: the “human” “subhuman” and condition of the “other”. My painting and performances are a conversation with the viewer as well as a conversation with the self.

Approach

I would hope to approach the portrait by understanding the student or alumni or staff member’s practice. I am looking to work with someone studying a chemistry-based subject. I would like to visit their laboratory, facilities they interact with and – study their day to day activities. Fundamentally build a relationship with the person. I would try and get inside their mind by analysing their routine or lack of one. I would document their space as a starting point through sound and photography. Through conversations we would get to know each-other and find similarities and/or differences. Thinking of this portrait as a mirror - in a parallel universe maybe I would have studied science at Imperial College. The portrait will explore what could have been for me and what is, opening up parts of myself that I haven’t discovered yet – a portrait within a portrait. Understanding their process of thinking would be an objective. I am currently looking deeper into materiality through abstraction. Calculations, equations, notes could be a vehicle. I hope to assume that my sitter would have an understanding and would like to provoke conversations of the theory behind abstraction - materiality and chemical reactions - chemistry vs witchcraft. I will continue the conversation around “humanism”, ”sub humanism” and “otherism” linking it to the sitter’s narrative. I would set out to take a walk in their shoes. I will be using tangible and intangible knowledge as part of the conversation and research. I would use this opportunity to understand my practice alongside understanding the student staff or alumni, exploring the intersectionality of arts and science.

If you would like to get involved, please email artworkgroup@imperial.ac.uk, indicating your preference for which artist you would like to collaborate with by Monday 24 May. Alternatively, if you would like to nominate a staff member or student to be part of this project, please get in touch.

The final works will be displayed in an exhibition at Imperial’s Blyth Gallery in January 2022, before being moved to a permanent location on campus.