September 11, 2015
Kenturah Davis is a Los Angeles artist and has produced work for exhibitions, artist collaborations, film and commissions. The core of her work oscillates between portraiture and design, exploring themes related to the body and the formation of identities.
The core of my work oscillates between portraiture and design, exploring themes related to the body, language and the formation of identity. From rendering a figure by writing a text repetitively to sewing highly individualized uniforms, my work unpacks layers of meaning embedded in how we socialize and perceive one another.
Employing the use of the written word to make drawings came about during my detour away from painting, as a way to investigate the mechanics of construction our personal and collective identities. I stripped my work of color and gesture and instead began to construct works on paper by layering hand-written text. The process of writing a text in repetition to compose the portrait became a metaphor for the way that we acquire and inhabit language. It also extended the work into the realm of a performative act, in which the process of making it is as important as the finished piece. I see the drawings as a series of conversions where the subject has first been rendered with light through the photographic process, then carefully converted to text as I filter the photographic information through my eyes and hand.
What was the inspiration behind your showcase?
Kenturah I was already thinking about making flags, but the theme of the CHALE WOTE ARTS FESTIVAL, African Electronics, guided my process in making them. They are pixelated portraits made by hand-stamping QR-codes on the fabric. So a barcode reader app could scan it and link you to my website.
Your subjects, was there a particular thought put into choosing them for your showcase?
Kentura Yes. My choice of subjects was also guided by the theme. It embodies the idea of Afrofuturism and Afrolandscapes to reimagine how we project our stories. I chose to draw people of the creative community because I feel that they are in the best position to tell the stories and open the conversations about what it means to be African and of the diaspora
Art is perceived differently by each individual that comes across it, what did you want your artwork to convey?
Kenturah On a superficial level I want people to acknowledge the strength and beauty of our black brothers and sisters. But my hope with using the code is that people can see this kaleidoscope of images and text that encourages unity and respect amongst each other....and acknowledges the collective power we have to make change.And this series is ongoing. I'll continue to make these coded portraits
Are there any mediums that you are anxious to explore?
Kenturah I’m super into collaboration! So right now, I've got things in the works with a dance company....and something with a filmmaker. I just did some lettering for a graphic novel coming out with Kamasi Washington's vinyl release for his album The Epic. I'm learning that I don't have to try to be an expert in everything. Collaboration allows me to expand my work into other areas with far greater success than trying to do it all myself.
You speak of your work in a very impacting manner. Do you ever create work that sheds responsibility and takes on just aesthetics?
Kenturah Not really, My work is language based so all the drawings are using text (or code, in this case)...The collaborations I'm working on are more performance based so it may seem more about aesthetics or the body, but it still deals with deeper concepts. I guess the nice thing about doing portraits is that people can just appreciate it on a superficial level for just being a "nice picture"...but for those who are truly drawn to them and sit with them, they can unpack layers of meaning in the work…hopefully
Your Favorite place in the world?
Kenturah Oh man, that's hard. California is home base, so I'd say this coastal town Big Sur is a favorite....also Wli waterfall in Ghana....and there's an amazing town in Vietnam, Sa Pa, that's really special. Those are ties for top....but there are so many places on my list to visit.