Interview Ronan Mckenzie Invites You to Her HOME
When she’s not curating and celebrating the work of others, Mckenzie is working on her own fashion line, practices photography, sculpture and design that celebrates individuality, connection and relationships. Her work has been displayed at Aperture Foundation, Red Hook Labs, Somerset House and The National Theatre and can be seen next at HOME, of course.
A photographer, fashion designer and curator, you have achieved so much. What’s next?
Ronan McKenzie: Next is really taking the time to focus in on the projects I’ve begun in the last year; building a steady foundation for HOME to ensure that its impact is lasting and can reach, inspire and support as many artists as possible. I’ll give more time to SELASI [her made-to-order clothing line] – I’m excited to explore where it can go and to just move freely. Alongside that, I’m working on the solo show I’m having next year at HOME, which will be my first solo exhibition since my work was blu-tac’d to the wall of a basement studio in 2015.
TW: How did the concept of HOME come about?
I curated an exhibition in 2018 called ‘I’m Home’ that brought together Black British women artists, including Rhea Dillon, Joy Gregory, Liz Johnson-Artur and myself. The show was all about home and family; themes that are interconnected throughout the different areas of my work. We had a programme of events alongside the exhibition, which was designed to encourage people to spend a little longer in the space and feel comfortable to just stay a while. After seeing the impact and necessity of ‘I’m Home’, it had been my dream to create a more permanent space; to make a mark and build a place where artists and those interested in arts alike could come together on a regular basis, or where people can just be without having to buy anything.
A new art space concept is desperately needed, not only because the representation within most gallery spaces is still not diverse enough to respond to and appreciate the incredibly vast talent who is currently working, but no spaces are able to offer programming that has community and artistic development at the heart of its practice. Art spaces remain hierarchical and out of reach for most – especially BIPOC audiences, making entering artistic spheres extremely difficult and maintaining a place in them even harder. Drawing on my own experiences of showing work at institutions, and working across fashion and arts, I am all too aware of the difficulties of navigating creative industries as a Black female, and among the current offering in London, there needs to be a HOME.
TW: What experience do you hope people will have when they visit HOME?
RM: I hope people know that they are welcome, and they can stay as long as they like. They can take their coats off, and bring their children, mothers, friends, whoever. To be honest, as long as people feel comfortable, I’m happy.
TW: How would you like to see the art world facilitate more conversations around diversity and inclusion?
By actually wanting to include – that’s the first step. There’s an assumption that the wider art world has any interest in diversity and inclusion, which I actually feel isn’t accurate. It’s also so much more than having conversations, it’s buying the artwork of a broader range of artists, giving shows to new upcoming artists and older artists alike who don’t get the attention they need, supporting small independent spaces through subscriptions and patronage, showing up and shouting about people who deserve it.
It’s so exciting to think about being here at HOME for five years. In terms of cultural spaces for the Black community, it all feels quite temporary. There was the Black Art Gallery, which was originally near here, but it didn’t last. I think we need to know that our stamp is permanent. For many people from immigrant families, first or second generation, we grew up here, but we don’t have any markers that this is our territory, and I think it’s important that we do.