Sonia E Barrett

Sonia E Barrett performs Composites of plants, animals, elements and people to create interventions that present their objectification and commodification. She also thinks about how to change perceptions of phenomena in “nature” that are a given. The work seeks to create new questions where there was a kind of certainty that has to do with the hegemony of normative western European values. 

Born in the UK of Jamaican and German parentage Sonia E Barrett grew up in Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Cyprus and the UK. She studied literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland and her MFA at Transart Institute Berlin/New York. 

Her work unpacks the boundaries between the Determined and the determining with a focus on race and gender. She makes sculptural works so she can run her hands alone the fissures and manifest strategies for multiple compatible existences and mourn.

Her sculptural practice includes place-making with a view to assembling communities under the threat of climate to (Re) claim space as well as instituting permanently.

Sonia is a MacDowell fellow and has been recognised by the Premio Ora prize, NY Art-Slant showcase for sculpture and the Neo Art Prize. She has been exhibited at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Tate Britain, 32 Degrees East Gallery, Kampala, Uganda, the Heinrich Böll Institute Germany, the British Library, The Museum of Derby, and the Kunsthaus Nürnberg. Her work has been shown at a number of galleries, including the OCCCA California, the NGBK Berlin, Tete Berlin, The Format Contemporary in Milan and Basel, John Hansard Galley, Southampton and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery Philadelphia.

Her works have been published and written about in the International Review of African American Art, The British Art Studies Journal, Black History 365, Kunstforum International, Protocollum Journal, ELSE, Financial Times, Evening Standard, Open University Geography Textbooks and Contemporary & América Latina.  

What was your journey into the arts?

I started out selling my paintings to members of the black community and was able to make enough money to invest in a Summer School that was attached to an NFA program. I was invited to apply for the MFA and received a scholarship and so was able to do my MFA. I started without a studio and started working with my furniture at home.

What inspires you?

Currently, other artists who have institutional success inspire me most and I feel that now I am able to be in dialogue with them as I have access to the capital.

Driving my work to date has been encounters with spaces of "old money", Open countryside, environmental angst and slavery historical and modern day.

Where can people find out more about you?

I have a website and am on Instagram  

Why should people join CVAN  London?

Everyone has to look to meet their own needs but it is always powerful for any set of individuals to stand together. We learn more about each other and can advocate for shared needs.

What are your goals for CVAN  London?

I think goals always need to be addressed and adjusted and that the work is not so much driving goals forward or finding consensus but rather creating a space where multiple goals can be pursued and members are in  touch with each other. 

What is one piece of advice or learning that resonates with you right now as part of the AREVA writer's room?

I am thinking about the voice of the documents that we use to frame our relationships.

I feel that the hard work of de-edifying that voice and tone is worthwhile and powerful. It frees us to take different paths that are somehow hidden before.

What's coming up / what are you working on?

I am working on the Dakar Biennale and have an upcoming show with Unit Gallery. 

A favourite art moment in London:

London is a continual unfolding art moment.

From the placards on the Mall to the images inside the service lifts in Tate Modern, art/mark-making is everywhere in this city.