In conversation with Michael Uzor: a preview of Glasgow’s ‘New Decade’ art exhibition

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[Words by Graham Peacock (he/him)]

The sound of a gentle and tentative sigh of relief can almost be heard from the art world as galleries around the world begin to reopen their doors after months of lockdown.  Glasgow is no different, and after building social media hype over the last few weeks, the city’s latest exhibition has opened its doors.  Titled ‘New Decade’ this exhibition, running from the 29th of October to the 3rd of December 2020 in A.Scot Gallery, features a wealth of artists of different mediums, mostly living in Scotland.  Painters, filmmakers, photographers, stylists, fashion designers, graphic designers, and visual artists, predominantly from African and Scottish origins, have come together in Glasgow to offer art lovers a truly unique experience.  Also available online to experience virtually, the exhibition celebrates the new decade we have entered and the future of art and it’s artists.  We sat down with artist and organiser of the exhibition, Michael Uzor, to discuss inspirations, creative freedom, and the future of art. 

This exhibition is called ‘New Decade’.  Where did this title come from, and what does it mean to you? 

The exhibition is called ‘New Decade’ because as the 2020s kicks in we believe that the artists we have chosen will be some of the ones to go forward and inspire the old and new generation. We want to be able to showcase artists that have a creative uniqueness: trendsetters that will help the ushering of the new decade blossom into something never before seen in Scotland. Art tells our history and we want to document this history (the 2020s) through the work produced.

How has it been trying to plan an in-person exhibition during the pandemic? 

It has been challenging with all the COVID-restrictions but it gives us more space to create without too many distractions. The exhibition will feel more intimate as not too many people will be allowed to enter. Giving visitors an exclusive feel.

This exhibition is multidisciplinary.  It includes paintings, films, photography, fashion designers, graphic designers, visual artists, and more.  Most art exhibitions are not this varied.  Why was it important to you to give space to all of these different mediums? 

It is very similar to the 19th and 20th century when artists from different backgrounds who specialized in different mediums would congregate into groups to push forward a movement. We saw this with the Impressionist, Alfred Stieglists Photo-Secession, Surrealists, and the various movements that went on during those centuries. I believe that art has become a selfish act. Generally, artists crave solitude. However, the greatest artworks could only be created with the fusions of two or more minds. Picasso and George Braque for example. When artists come together, something special happens that can only be explained through their artworks.

How did you select which artists would be included in the exhibition? 

Many of the artists are people I have worked with for nearly four years in different projects. So this isn’t a group of people I don’t know. Many of them I have seen work up close and have been greatly inspired. Institutions aren’t paying attention to some of these artists and I believe it’s time that space is opened to give these artists a way to show their work. This is the inspiration behind the gallery.

This project mainly involves artists from African and Scottish origins, and is displayed in St Enoch’s Square, in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre.  The city of Glasgow has a long and abhorrent history of racism, which is finally being given more attention after this year’s Black Lives Matter protests.  Does the work in this exhibition comment on Glasgow’s historical roots?      

I don’t force the artists to create artworks that they don’t connect with. The main thing is creative freedom. Some of the artists are exploring the idea of the ‘Black Experience’. However, the main focus is not racism but the artists themselves. If they choose to go down that area of racism they have every right to do that. That is creative freedom. 

Do you think the art industry as a whole is doing enough to ensure artists from all communities and backgrounds are being represented, or is there still more that needs to be done? 

It has improved. Art is very difficult because it’s not a primary necessity to live, especially when the economy isn’t doing too well. Nevertheless, as the years have gone by there have been many artists from all communities and backgrounds that have succeeded in the art world. The great thing about art is that if it’s spectacular it outshines the artist. 

The creative industry in Glasgow and around the world is going through perhaps the hardest time it has experienced.  How can people continue to support the industry when many of the most traditional ways to do so are no longer available? 

It is very difficult now as money is short and people are now focused on surviving. We have it good in the western world but in some countries with too much visible corruption, art is seen as frivolous. In my humble opinion, this time is very good for creatives as we are problem solvers! That is what God has gifted us with the ability to look at a problem and help bring the solution. Once we find that solution we succeed. The world can’t move on without us! Let’s solve the problems and allow the people to decide.

I was intrigued to hear that the exhibition can also be experienced virtually.  What can visitors expect from engaging with the artwork in this way? 

The virtual exhibition space will allow the user to feel like they are within the space without physically being there. They can move around the space. The interface allows them to read the statement of the artwork from the artists. We also play the right music to amplify the experience. I believe that online exhibitions will be the future.

What do you hope visitors take away from experiencing your exhibition? 

I hope that visitors go away inspired. They will be invested in the artwork and begin looking at artists around them with a newfound intrigue.

The New Decade Exhibition will be open until the 3rd of December 2020 in A.Scot Gallery (St Enoch Square, Station House, 3rd Floor, G1 4DF)

Visit to find out more and book your tickets.


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