“Radical vulnerability” in Stacey Gillian’s work.
Radical vulnerability is a concept much talked about by the famous art critic Jerry Saltz, who admits he got it from theorist Gavatri Spivak, Jerry talks about radical vulnerability as the ability for the artists to put all their feeling and being into an artwork or practice without fear of failure or criticism, following this theory as an area of interest for a while and to me the artist who best embodies it is Stacey Gillian.
According to the gallery that represents her (Afriart) they describe her practice as one that highlights “specific complex situations as autobiographical documentation drawn from earlier and continuous experiences, they attempt to review conventional depictions of her as a black woman by drawing focus to the mind’s suppleness. These materialize into created imaginary spaces that instigate a surreal mystical feel to the work as it probes unsettling narratives on the subject of identity, gender, spirituality, and cultural mysticism, the past, and present.”
I’m just like you, art speak sometimes baffles me too but let’s get to know a bit more about Stacey.
She graduated with a BA Hons in Art and Industrial Design from Kyambogo University (my Alma mater too), Kampala in 2014. Her work has shown at exhibitions, galleries and biennials (links in sources) and is represented by Afriart Gallery Kampala.
I came to know Stacey Gillian after her work “Seat of Honour” got the first Merit Award in the Absa L’Atelier, this work in itself was sensational, it built on themes of Stacey’s identity as a woman and how that identity is projected and interpreted in her culture (the Lugbara), in this work she expresses the feelings of stress and multiplicity of consequences that haunt her possibilities as woman, and how a woman may be held back by patriarchal expectations. This is her in an interview with Bag Factory;
“I will take the throne with all might and blistering pain and seat on my vaginas, my womanly essence and feel them pressed hard against my balls’’ (1)
Pretty safe to say she is not one to shy away from speaking her mind, now with this introduction you may think Stacey is some really intimidating person but on the contrary, her energy is comforting and she is just the sweetest,I have had time to interact with her when she showed new work and she is an absolute delight to hang out with, but I’m getting a head of myself.
Stacey’s art practice is how she expresses her “radical vulnerability”, in the works in the series “Enya Sa” (this work needs its own analysis, I just can’t lump it up in this, but quick one, Enya Sa according to Stacey means food, specifically millet bread, I’ll have to take time and interact with this work) back to the work, “Enya Sa” is a very nuanced portrayal of the feminine, if I could put it into the exact words I want well I’d be Stacey Gillian, but in the work she is serving shiny vulvas and “clitorises?” This is not an attempt to understand the work, (that’ll be later) I’m leading you into understanding the “radical vulnerability” in her work.
After achieving success and fame for her photography Stacey could have chosen to solidify her gains in that medium, but Stacey again chose to be able to go out on a limb and try something new and it turned out to be amazing work, Stacey made paintings that she exhibited at Afriart gallery in the show “Playing to the gallery”
no body expected Stacey’s paintings and when asked why she made them she said, and I paraphrase; “she wanted to try something new in the lockdown and shedecided to paint her experience with the quarantine situation” Stacey’s approach to her work is feeling and thought, not of critical reception but of what is important to her and growing her practice and that to me is “radical vulnerability” the feeling that the quest to do work that is good and meaningful should rise above self censorship and fear of how work will be received.
Sources I scrounged information from:
(1). Bag Factory.
Stacey Gillian’s website.