Updated: Sep 11
Theresa Weber, is a talented artist with German, Jamaican, and Greek heritage. She currently resides in London, where she actively creates and showcases her artwork. Weber obtained her Master of Arts degree in Sculpture from the esteemed Royal College of Art in London.
In anticipation of the prestigious Morgan Stanley commission at Somerset House, Theresa Weber embarked on a captivating journey of exploration and discovery for her project ''Cycles of the Unmasking''. The objective was to challenge the entrenched history and architectural design of Somerset House. Immersing herself in extensive research, the artist unraveled the intricate layers of imperial narratives and hierarchies that were intricately woven into the very fabric of the building. One fascinating aspect that caught her attention was the physical embodiment of social stratification within the structure itself. The artist was particularly drawn to the stamp stairwell, a remarkable architectural feature where the bottom and the upper levels mirrored the hierarchical divide between the working class and the affluent elite. Another aspect that influenced her creation was Masque Balls that took place at Somerset House, starting with the ‘Masque of Blackness’ in 1605 with its overt blackface and costumes inspired by cultures of the British Empire. Drawing inspiration from the vibrant and empowering traditions of Notting Hill Carnival and Caribbean Carnival, they aimed to counter the violent hierarchy inherent in these events by infusing their artwork with elements of celebration. Motivated by the desire to bridge these gaps and challenge the status quo, the artist set out to create a sculpture that transcended traditional hierarchies. Weber envisioned a non-hierarchical, vertical sculpture that would connect the different levels, symbolizing unity, equality, and the breaking down of societal barriers. This sculpture would serve as a striking visual representation of their commitment to creating genuine dialogue.
To bring her vision to life, the artist carefully selected materials that carried potent symbolism. Fabrics, synthetic hair, golden chains, and rings became extensions of the body, evoking a sense of connection and shared history. The sculpture took on an abstract shape, influenced by the organic forms found in nature, serving as a poignant counterbalance to the dominating forces of colonialism and imperialism.
But the artist's work did not end with the sculpture alone. Complementing it was a wall piece, meticulously crafted as an archive of historical fragments and diverse perspectives. Utilizing resin as a medium, the artist embedded prints, visual imagery from their research, and remnants of the sculpture itself. This wall piece became a visual narration, a snapshot of entangled histories and unmasking the past.
To further amplify the impact of the artwork, the artist collaborated with a talented sound artist, Nathanael Amadou, in order to orchestrate the performance "Cycles of Unmasking - Presence". The performance, imbued with a healing approach, aimed to activate the sculpture and its surroundings.
Through her multidimensional approach, the artist sought to challenge preconceived notions of power, representation, and identity. The work served as a catalyst for dialogue, transcending boundaries, and inviting viewers to confront the complex histories embedded within Somerset House. It was an embodiment of resilience, resistance, and joy, a testament to the artist's unwavering commitment to rewriting narratives and forging a more inclusive future.
Our interview with Theresa Weber;
How do you wish do communicate with the audience?
My aim is to evoke emotional and intuitive reactions from viewers, providing them with a joyful and empowering experience. I aim to create a shift in the energy of the space, making individuals feel seen and acknowledged. This initial reaction is crucial, as it establishes a connection between the viewer and the artwork on an intuitive level. To further engage viewers, I design my wall pieces with intricate details, density, and layers. This complexity encourages people to spend time examining the artwork, attempting to unravel the meanings behind the motifs and the historical references I incorporate. I think about power hierarchies and try to work non-hierarchically, which means that I would like for people to be able to critically reflect, but also approach my work in playful ways that can be healing.
Has your choice of medium remained consistent or has it evolved throughout your artistic journey?
Upon beginning my studies in art, I embraced experimentation and a sense of freedom. Through intuition, I discovered recurring materials and themes in my work, such as fabric, mythological figurations, silicone, and building materials. Engaging in dialogue with my teachers, particularly Ellen Gallagher, I began to understand their deeper meanings. The materials symbolized the connection between the body and architecture, sparking a conceptual understanding of my artistic direction. This intuitive and genuine exploration led to distinct bodies of work, including silicone paintings, fabric works with modeling clay, and body extensions. The process of discovering the genuine essence of my art and its narrative was far more intriguing than being inspired by external sources. It became evident that the medium found me, guiding my creative path.
What are your inspirations?
My inspirations stem from various sources. Moving to London exposed me to artists from the Caribbean diaspora, whom I had not known before. Discovering their works, such as the impactful exhibition " In the Black Fantastic " at the Hayward Gallery, deeply inspired me. It made me realize that my own artistic practice, which involves utilizing collected ornaments, fabric, and creating wall collages, aligns with a tradition established by a previous generation of artists. Furthermore, reflecting on my Caribbean background and making regular trips to Jamaica since 2015 has been a significant source of inspiration. Experiencing the contrasts between different countries and understanding how I connect with each place has greatly influenced my creative process.
Overall, my inspirations encompass encounters with artists, personal journeys, and meaningful interactions with fellow creatives, all of which contribute to shaping my artistic vision.
Are there any significant challenges you've faced as an artist?
As an artist, I face challenges such as avoiding being tokenized, seeking genuine contexts for my work, and protecting my energy. Moving from Düsseldorf to London was motivated by the desire for a more international dialogue with like-minded people. Financial challenges and visa issues due to Brexit have also been significant hurdles. It tested my determination. However, reclaiming my power and staying true to my vision outweighed the obstacles faced. It's about taking control and not allowing others to dictate my life decisions.
The work of Theresa Weber at Somerset House; ''Cycles of Unmasking - Entanglements '' Photo copywrites; Reinis Lismanis.
The Performance "Cycles of Unmasking - Presence" featuring : Theresa Weber, Nathanael Amadou, Joy Yaa Kincaid, Alïn-Sitoé Diallo. Photo copywrites to Anne Tetzlaff.