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Portraiture of Black Women

"To understand is to perceive patterns"

Art Portfolio :

In 2016 I started this journey where my work's main focus was on the representation of black women in society and on social media. I wanted my work to bring attention to the more positive and celebratory image of black women other than the usual stereotypes of negativity. I was visualising it as creating portraiture of a modernized Queen Nefertiti. 

Now in 2017 as I continue to experiment and push what I see in an image further I realized that its not just the narrative of what a black woman is or should be as I believe most 'black artist' who's subject are black women want to tackle the representation of them.

I now know for me as an artist it's more to do with the patterns, shades/ tones of skin that has my attention. It's the process of working within those patterns to explore and represent the subject I am painting. I have also been an artist who loves the process of layering and working with the medium over the final look of the work and what the work ultimately means. I will always want the meaning of my paintings to be created by those who view it.

Black women are not one single thing, they are a collective, they come in different sizes, shapes and colours as well as possessing different talents and personalities and for me to represent all these beautiful things I have to be absorbed in the patterns I see in images to perceive a better understanding.

The Black Man, my first painting of a black man. It's called 'Serene' because I get a sense of calm and tranquility when I looked at the image. I am exploring a new avenue within my aesthetic of painting black women by branching out and including black men. My aim is for representation of black men to be seen as welcoming, not dangerous, exploring both the femme and masculinity as well as showing the beauty they possess just like black women. It's an exploration of the interconnection of beauty between black women and black men. The new phase of my art journey. 

My practice has progressed towards experimenting with different ways to create texture on the surface of my paintings. I am still obsessed with patterns and I try to demonstrate that one way or the other.

Currently I'm using glass paint to create abstract patterns to mimic designs that are printed onto fabrics. The process has been quite exciting to practice as no two pieces are ever the same. I'd say it's like doing a science experiment, combining different substances and waiting for the reaction. Once the glass paint has dried your left with a shiny, reflective and smooth surface which makes you want to constantly touch it. 

Another technique I have used a few times is applying paint with a piping bag, this turned out to be perfect for creating the texture required to depict black women's hair. Our hair comes in a variety of textures and I love that now I can portray it a lot better simply by using this technique. I am also practicing to paint better with a palette knife so that I can add another type of variation of mark making. 

I'm always looking to learn different art processes and I'm sure I'll be adding another new element. I started with gold leafing now I'm at glass paint and painting with a pipping bag. Who knows what's next...

Where I'm from and Located:
I was born in Jamaica, Montego Bay and lived there for 11 years. I'm currently living London.

Central Saint Martins (UAL). Bachelor of Art Fine Art


Mikela Henry-Lowe is a Jamaican artist based in London whose vibrant portraits celebrate the beauty of black women. The artist’s primary interest is the representation of black women in society. By breaking down her images into patterns and fragments of colour, Mikela aims to break down the overarching negative image of black women that dominates the media. We love the array of shapes and colours that make up each portrait, capturing the colourful personality not just of the subject, but also of the artist herself.

The artist studied at Central Saint Martins and has showcased her work at a number of London galleries. Mikela has also been featured in a number of articles, including an interview feature for The Artist’s Magazine.

The Insider Adriana Marques says:
"The multiplicity of black women is celebrated and recreated in these layered and beautifully rendered compositions, forcing us to question our preconceived notions of iconic black culture. Striking, colourful and yet relaxed, Mikela reimagines contemporary portraiture for our digital world”.