Spotlight

Spotlight Visual artist and performer Heather Agyepong

Championed by James Hyman
The Wick - Somebody Stop Me, ego death, Commissioned by Jerwood Arts & Photoworks, 2022
Above  Somebody Stop Me, ego death, Commissioned by Jerwood Arts & Photoworks, 2022
ONES TO
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ONES TO
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The Wick - Heather Agyepong, Hydar Dewachi, 2022
Above  Heather Agyepong, Hydar Dewachi, 2022
Interview
Heather Agyepong
19 October 2022
Interview
Heather Agyepong
19 October 2022
Art historian, collector and director of his namesake gallery, James Hyman has been championing London-based artist Heather Agyepong from the very beginning. After discovering her self-portrait series ‘Too Many Blackamoors’, which she was commissioned by Autograph to create in 2015, he decided to acquire the lot.

Hyman says: “The series uses the format of a carte de visite and takes as its starting point the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta in the court of Queen Victoria. I was delighted to meet Heather and hear about the ideas behind the work. Claire [James’ wife and business partner] and I decided to acquire the whole series for The Hyman Collection. I think these were Heather’s first sales!”

In 2019, the Hymans commissioned Heather to produce a major new body of work inspired by the life of the Vaudeville performer and “Queen of the Cakewalk”, Aida Overton Walker. He says: “I was intrigued by the early 20th century craze for the cakewalk and its shifting significance. We had been collecting the original postcards and, by serendipity, Heather had also been looking at this imagery. So, it was obviously meant to be! This time the series uses the format of a postcard and is appropriately called ‘Wish You Were Here’. It is certainly one of her most powerful bodies of work.”

He adds: “We are particularly interested in contemporary women photographers who use their own presence to produce performative self-portraits that draw from the photo-therapy legacy of two of the key figures in British photography of the last half century, Jo Spence and Rosy Martin. It was fascinating to discover that, whilst a student, Heather had attended a workshop given by Rosy and that there was a direct connection in their use of
self-portraiture to explore issues around health and wellbeing.”

Agyepong has been using both photographic and performance arts since 2009 to create a range of works that explore mental health, activism and the diaspora. Through her lens-based practices and performances that draw on her own personal histories and work at understanding herself better, she hopes to create a cathartic experience for both herself and audiences.

Her latest deeply personal work, ego death, was created for the fourth edition of the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, which commissions early-career artists working with photography to make ambitious new work. It’s inspired by psychiatrist Carl Jung’s concept of ‘The Shadow’ – the aspects of one’s personality deemed inappropriate, that have been shamed and repressed, generally during childhood and adolescence, by family, education and social norms. In ego death, Agyepong explores her own shadow; confronting, and making peace with it through this body of work. The exhibition will run until 10 December 2022.

Hymans says: “It was fabulous to see this intense new body of work, ego death, premiered at the Jerwood Space. We believe that Heather is one of the most exciting young artists working in photography and look forward to seeing her next body of work!”

About the champion

The Wick - James Hyman

Curator and gallerist Dr James Hyman received his PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art. As well as being passionate about British photography – he has an extensive private collection with his wife Claire – he’s a leading authority on 20th century British art, especially the painters of the “School of London”. In addition to running his namesake gallery, which he opened in 1999, he is a trustee of the Robin and Inge Hyman Charitable Trust, The Hyman Foundation and the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation.

“We believe that Heather is one of the most exciting young artists working in photography.”

Place of Birth

London, UK.

Education

A psychology degree and MA in Photography and Urban Cultures.

Awards, Accolades

I was nominated for the South Bank Sky Arts Breakthrough Award 2018, awarded the Firecracker Photographic Grant 2020, and have recently been selected as part of Foam Talent 2021, Jerwood/Photoworks Award 2022, Photo London x Nikon Emerging Photographer Award 2021 and The Photographers’ Gallery New Talent Award 2021. I was also recently announced as a Nikon European Ambassador.

Current exhibitions

‘ego death’ will be at Jerwood Space, London until 10 December 2022.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

My faith has been the bedrock of my practice. Special shout out to Adelaide Bannerman for her beautiful guidance and the start along with Yemisi Blake.

Advice

Create work that you want to make, integrity is more important than success. Your sleepless nights will prove that.


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