Let Me Tell You A Story
— The Arts Club, London

Derrick Adams, Float 35 (Unicorn and Watermelon), 2017, Acrylic and fabric on paper, 73.7 x 73.7 cm

Aliza Niesenbaum, Las Talaveritas, 2015, Oil on linen, 162.6 × 144.8 cm

Christina Quarles, For a Flaw/For a Fall/For the End, 2018, Acrylic on Canvas, 139.7 x 243.8 cm

Derrick Adams, Float 35 (Unicorn and Watermelon), 2017, Acrylic and fabric on paper, 73.7 x 73.7 cm

Faith Ringgold, Tar Beach 2, 1990-92, Silkscreen on silk, 167.6 x 167.6 cm

Installation View: (Lubaina Himid, Faith Ringgold, Christina Quarles) Let me Tell you a Story, The Arts Club

Installation View: (Alex Klimt), Let me Tell you a Story, The Arts Club

Installation View: (Mequitta Ahuja), Let me Tell you a Story, The Arts Club

Installation view: Let me Tell you a Story, The Arts Club

Installation view: Let me Tell you a Story, The Arts Club

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Derrick Adams, Float 35 (Unicorn and Watermelon), 2017, Acrylic and fabric on paper, 73.7 x 73.7 cm

Let Me Tell You A Story is a group show of international contemporary artists whose powerful figurative paintings explore a range of salient topics affecting us today, from race, gender, and war, to love, privacy, policy and social media. 

In recent years, the art world has welcomed an extraordinary resurgence in figurative painting. Let Me Tell You A Story will present works from Mequitta Ahuja, Derrick Adams, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Lubaina Himid, Maryam Hoseini, Sanya Kantarovsky, Aliza Nisenbaum, Faith Ringgold and Christina Quarles. Collectively, the artists reveal intimate stories, both fictional and real, which invite their viewers to engage with contemporary narratives from around the world.

Artist and activist Lubaina Himid won the Turner Prize in 2017 and was awarded an MBE for services to art in 2010. Her work has, for decades, celebrated black creativity and shines a spotlight on institutional invisibility and misrepresentation of people of colour in the British media. American artist, curator and cultural agitator Derrick Adams playfully studies and reshapes racial identity in his work, seen in his Floaters series, featured in the show, which depict and celebrate the black body at leisure.

Also featured is the highly influential American artist and social activist Faith Ringgold, who was instrumental in fighting for the representation of female artists and artists of colour throughout the 1960s and 1970s to present day with her paintings and narrative quilt works. Tar Beach 2 (1990-1992) addresses memories of community life in Harlem, where in the heat of summer people took to the ‘tar beach’ of their rooftops at night, mixed with Ringgold’s own fictional characters and their dreams. 

Christina Quarles, who identifies as a queer, cisgender woman of mixed race, uses figuration to explore the intersectional desires and anxieties that come with identity, and Iranian artist Maryam Hoseini also tackles current constructs of gender inequality to create new spaces of inclusion. Sanya Kantarovsky’s satirical paintings use a cartoon-like figuration to explore social realities such as personal anxiety and power dynamics.

Merging the roles of artist and subject, Mequitta Ahuja’s monumental paintings depict the artist engrossed in various stages of her artistic process, often within the clearly defined space of the artist’s studio. In comparison, New York-based Aliza Nisenbaum turns the subject of her figurative paintings outward. Her intimate portraits of mainly Latin American families were produced after spending several years working with undocumented immigrants in the US. 

Together these artists present a compelling survey of how it feels to be alive now, commenting on the messy, polarised, fast-changing, hyper-connected and often overwhelming moment in which we live. Via its diverse applications by these contemporary artists, the medium of figuration attains a timelessness through which the socio-political stories central to the artworks are sustained long into the future.

The exhibition is curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes from Wedel Art.