Artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum reimagines a colonial outpost in first major solo UK exhibition

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum in her studio, 2024. Photograph: Lotte van Uitterst

Netherlands-based artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum will take people on a tour of a 20th-century colonial outpost in her first major solo exhibition in the UK.

Sunstrum, who is known for narrative world-building and creating characters through which her art speaks, is set to take over the Barbican’s Curve gallery from September.

It Will End in Tears will feature drawings, paintings and illustration that tell the story of a brand new alter-ego in Sunstrum’s ever-growing cast.

One of Sunstrum’s works in progress. Photograph: courtesy the artist / Goodman Gallery / Lotte van Uitterst

The display has been uniquely designed for the cornerless Curve venue, and will draw visitors into rural life in an imagined township based loosely on the home of Sunstrum’s grandmother in Botswana.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum said: “I learned that the Curve originally served as a sound barrier: a buffer to contain all manner of performative noise emanating from the adjacent Barbican concert Hall.

“I became fascinated by this liminal zone: a space that encases not only the spectacle, but also the secrets of the spectacle’s tricks and devices.

“I have always been a bit obsessed by such liminal spaces— the in-between, the not-quite-one-or-the-other.

“For me, liminality offers a powerful symbol and speaks to cycles of survival tactics, longing, desire, and the pursuit of home and wholeness – that even when squeezed between two barriers, history still persists.”

The exhibition will turn the space into a series of interconnected film sets, home to scenes of domesticity and bureaucracy, through which visitors will be able to piece together a story.

Sunstrum’s intention is to immerse visitors in the world and blur the boundaries between spectatorship and participation.

The artworks are inspired by crime fiction and genres such as film noir, challenging the femme fatale archetype that has often been used reductively to represent women in various forms of media.

The artist also draws heavily on her experiences of living in Africa, South Asia and North Americato examine notions of home, hybrid identities and wholeness.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum: It Will End in Tears runs from 18 September 2024 until 5 January 2025 at the Barbican Centre’s Curve gallery.

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