Vanley Burke, born in Jamaica in 1951, resident in Birmingham since 1965, is renowned as a photographer concerned especially with black culture in Britain.
Burke has had numerous exhibitions surveying his career as an artist, and these have sometimes included material from his archive, a vast collection including printed material (posters, flyers, publications), clothes, records, ornaments and countless other items that provide invaluable insights into Britain’s African and Caribbean communities. The religious and political beliefs of black people at home here, their artistic activities, fashions and leisure pursuits, food, health issues and many other aspects of everyday life are all equally of interest to the artist.
Burke’s archive is partly in storage at the Library of Birmingham, but most of it is to be found in his flat in Nechells, near Birmingham’s city centre, in filing cabinets or boxes or on display. It is an extraordinary interior, a cabinet of wonderful curiosities.
At Home with Vanley Burke is an exhibition, more or less, of its entire contents – the archive with artworks and souvenirs, as well as decor and furniture, wardrobe, kitchenware etcetera – so that the artist is revealed as a subject of his own enquiry.
Burke’s personal story, involving such a vital archival impulse, is integral to the bigger picture he is making for us, on this occasion with the help of many others. This catalogue includes texts by Pete James, Curator of Photographs at the Library of Birmingham, and artist/curator Marlene Smith.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition At Home with Vanley Burke at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 22 July – 27 September 2015.