Provide Othello De’Souza-Hartley with a canvas and he’ll invariably paint it black. It’s the colour he paints with and stacked intense black canvases fill his London studio. He wants us to see the beauty in black, a colour that’s been historically associated with negativity.
Each work is subtly different and the materials he finds work their way into his paintings, whether that be a patch of upcycled leather, a pair of chopsticks or some pistachio shells. His large scale paintings all have a similar intensity to them but each one is unique in the shade of black and the materials incorporated into it.
A series of works by Othello reference the different shades of black skin, with some persons and thus some pieces having blue or red undertones that gently come through in his black paintings. This also ties into his wider artistic practice of film and photography where he has looked at black bodies but also at the changing face of masculinity across the UK, in both Black and White communities.
Architecture is his other obsession and on to his studio walls are tacked dozens of line drawings inspired by architecture that are a meditative process for him, and form an integral part of his practice, which then goes on to inspire his paintings.
Film, photography, drawing and architecture all feed through into his paintings as they continue to evolve. Othello refers to each painting as a study as he considers the painting process to be one of continual learning and in the best of ways his work will keep us guessing as to what comes next, though whichever route it takes it’s likely to involve a lot of black.
The colour black is associated with the void, nothingness, an absence of light. In Othello De’Souza Hartley’s hands it is inspiration, self-expression and a colour through which his creativity shines.