Rayvenn D’Clark’s work is dissecting the politics surrounding black bodies in the western worldGucci AW18
To celebrate its AW18 collection, Dazed has teamed up with Gucci to spotlight three young British artists using their art to spark conversations around identity, freedom, and self-expression.
Young, London-native artist Rayvenn D’Clark is using her art to shine a light on the politics surrounding black bodies in the western world, looking specifically at the UK and US. As a recent grad from Chelsea College of Arts MA Fine Art programme, her hyper-real human feature sculptures – faithful recreations of feet, faces, and vaginas – have been gaining a lot of attention.
Mainly dissecting the political issues surrounding race and gender, D’Clark’s work could be easily held up as a mirror against the current climate of systematic racism in the western world. With police brutality, misrepresentation of black bodies and a greatly unbalanced wealth divide still dominating much of America and the UK, the sculptures are her way of representing the current and the now. She’s been exploring these themes consistently, even writing her dissertation on it; “the American microcosm vs. the British microcosm and how bodies are dealt with depending on race or gender.”
With London having always been her stomping ground, D’Clark is passionate about making the city a more accessible environment for young creatives with little money for studio spaces, gallery exhibitions, and education in the arts generally. Her views stem from her own, often challenging, experiences of balancing survival in London with a thirst for the arts – but that hasn’t stopped the artist from grinding and getting on with it. As she explains “For now, I’m probably not going to have the massive studio space, or all the things I need, but you can be really creative in the meantime – it encourages you to find your own path to get there.”
Here, we speak to D’Clark about her work, where her ideas stem from, and living in the creative capital, London.
How did your upbringing encourage you to explore art?
Rayvenn D’Clark: I was raised primarily by my dad and grandmother and they knew my talent was in art – there were never questions about me doing another subject. I was that child who would draw anywhere and everywhere and they encouraged it, because they knew it was what I was good at. It was only when I got to second year (at university) and we had this very serious conversation, and my dad isn't serious at all (laughs), he said: ‘If you're going to do it, do it properly.’ It really took off from there and I started calling myself an artist. I had a really good three years of exhibiting and doing panels abroad.
Can you tell us about some of the themes your work explores?
Rayvenn D’Clark: It deals with issues surrounding body politics, which is very much a collective embodiment of bodies. I wrote my dissertation on the same themes – collectively bodies, managed together. Definitely looking at the American microcosm vs. the British microcosm and how bodies are dealt with depending on race or gender. Also just issues of blackness within everyday lived experiences. There are so many avenues I can branch out to, it’s sad that sometimes you have to be really specific in your messages, but I think it definitely allows me a very wide base. I have a lot to discuss.
“In black culture there's this idea of how your hair is your beauty. When I shaved it off, it was this whole new environment I put myself in.” – Rayvenn D'Clark
Who are some of your inspirations?
Rayvenn D’Clark: I was always in love with Grace Jones. My first crush, I unashamedly loved her. Her and Erykah Badu have a really distinct sense of style – I really admired that growing up. Their creativity and music… I remember thinking I want to have that sort of confidence.
My grandmother as well. She had a really timeless style – a lot of my clothes are actually hers. They're a few sizes too big, but I customise them. I can be quite wild with clothing and she was totally mature which I loved.
What is the most important aspect of your self-expression?
Rayvenn D’Clark: Shaving my head. It was a very big moment for my maturity into a woman. In black culture there's this idea of how your hair is your beauty. When I shaved it off, it was this whole new environment I put myself in. People wondered whether I was gay or if I was having a mental breakdown. I got comments from every end of the spectrum – it was very strange. I was used to having weaves and different dynamics of hair, so it was a whole different dimension for me.
How does living and working in London inform your creativity?
Rayvenn D’Clark: It's difficult. It's a fast-paced environment and very expensive, but having always lived here, I think it almost makes you more creative. You realise ‘for now, I'm probably not going to have the massive studio space or all the things I need, but you can be really creative in the meantime’ – it encourages you to find your own path to get there.
In what ways do you feel the current political climate is affecting young creatives, particularly artists like yourself?
Rayvenn D’Clark: From cutting art programmes and funding in schools, to the crazy university fees – it’s hard! The whole political environment doesn't really breed a space for you to be creative other than when you're feeling quite angry and there's something you want to say. There are so many influences, but art for me is like a channel. Sometimes when making art you can almost filter it out a little bit.
Why is it important for brands to cast a light on artists?
Rayvenn D’Clark: It's their audience, those are the people who will collaborate and champion the brands. Creatives especially have a unique sense of style and it lends itself to brands. They can really capitalise on collaborating and having the influence and opinion of young creatives who would be willing to put their two pence in and make sure the brands are more inclusive and diverse.
Gucci's AW18 collection is available now, you can explore Rayvenn's look here.
Director: Joe Ridout
Camera Assistant: Rory Mclean
Stylist: Ben Schofield
Grooming: Roku Roppongi
Producer: Lauren Ford