Considered one of the founders of the Jamaican intuitive movement, Albert Artwell is known for his distinctive flat-painted and illustrative style. Artwell typically uses humour in his depiction of well-known scenes from the Bible, introducing moments of situational comedy that are often absent from biblical descriptions. His work has often been attributed to the art brut movement, a tendency that can overlook the artist’s eye for social criticism. An untitled painting by Artwell, often referred to as Black Star Liner, shows a black ship preparing to set sail, presumably back to Africa. The passengers sit in comical seriousness in readiness for their ‘return’ trip, a cheeky visual reference to the infamous early twentieth-century Back to Africa campaign aimed at African Americans initiated by Jamaican Black nationalist Marcus Garvey. The campaign was a failure because Garvey ignored the agency of his constituents, most of whom had no interest to travel to a distant and unfamiliar promised land but were rather invested in establishing free societies where they were.

Works in the exhibition: Judgement Day (1979), painting, oil on hardboard, 60 × 116 cm. Courtesy of the David Boxer/Onyx Foundation; Untitled (Red, Green and Gold Boat) (n.d.), painting, acrylic on hardboard, 62 × 62 cm. Courtesy of Herman Van Aesbroek; Untitled (Black Star Liner) (n.d.), painting, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 64 cm. Courtesy of Josef Forstmayr