Priscilla (she/her) is a Brussels-based artist who started painting last year. Her goal is to create images that reflect black joy and allow black people to feel seen. Although Belgium has a large African population, it’s difficult for them to find success and gain recognition for their work, so Priscilla is proud to be in a community of young creatives that are celebrating blackness for themselves. In addition to painting, Priscilla has started to explore photography and videography as she expands her creative pursuits. She reminds us that it’s ok for artists to reevaluate their directions, and that creation happens on its own timeline.
Acrylic on paper
What medium(s) do you work in?
Acrylic on paper but I plan to start painting on canvas. I’ve also been working on photography and videography.
What are the main themes you wish to explore?
Painting black people and painting black joy. I’m more focused on painting black women in particular because I want to paint something that relates to myself. I always start with the idea of a self-portrait, but it always ends up being someone else. It will make me so happy if black people can say they recognize themselves in my work and see something they can relate to— that’s my main goal.
“Many black people in Belgium don’t have “big” titles or privileges, so the young, black artists in Belgium need to celebrate blackness for themselves. I feel proud that we have to do this and that we’re taking these things into our control.“
How long have you been painting and how did you get started?
I’ve been really creative since I was little, but I never went to art school for lessons. I’m now 23-years-old and decided to start taking classes last year because I don’t know a lot of technique. I’m not always proud the first time I finish a painting, but I promised myself to keep all of my work even if I hate it. I can evaluate it later and look at my evolution.
Acrylic on paper
Where are you based and how do you feel about the creative scene there?
I used to live in Antwerp but now I live in Brussels. When I lived in Antwerp I didn’t think people in Brussels were so into the arts, but there are many underground artists here. I’ve lived in Saint-Gilles for nine months and I’ve made many friends in the creative scene. Because most of the scene is underground, you really have to be social and come out of your comfort zone to become someone and meet the right people.
What inspires your practice?
I don’t put any limits on my inspiration. I just love that I’m inspired by everyone and everything. For instance, I may walk down the street and see a little black girl holding a flower, and imagine that as a possible painting.
This March you were given the opportunity to showcase your work at a “Black History Month Belgium” event in Ghent. What was that experience like and how is blackness celebrated in Belgium?
My friend Emilia created the event. We were mutuals for two years but never met, so the day of the event was our first time meeting. It was really fun and the experience taught me a lot, plus it was nice to meet all of these black people with similar interests as mine and to have the support of my friends. It made me feel powerful, like I could be and do anything. It was a small, local event, but it opened my eyes and allowed me to gain lots of feedback on my work.
Blackness is not celebrated much in Belgium because there’s still a lot of racism here, and there aren’t many opportunities for black people. Many black people in Belgium don’t have “big” titles or privileges, so the young, black artists in Belgium need to celebrate blackness for themselves. I feel proud that we have to do this and that we’re taking these things into our control. This is just the beginning of these kinds of events.
“Don’t limit yourself or your inspiration. I was only focused on painting, and now I’m working on photography and videography. Look everywhere and be interested in everything.”
What support systems do you wish were in place for black artists?
It would be a good idea to have a space where we can work for free. Ateliers cost a lot of money, so having some kind of free workspace will help those who can’t afford it.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Solange, Tony Gum, Oroma Elewa, Kerry James Marshall, Nemi, and Deborah Roberts.
Untitled (Self Portrait) (2019),Acrylic on wood & Untitled (2019),Acrylic on paper
The last time we spoke, you were in your first year of art school. How has your experience changed since then?
In my first year, I was so motivated and always creating new things, but now I’m not as interested in painting as I was last year. I’m kind of disappointed in myself, but I try to tell myself that whether I paint or not, I’m still good at it. I just wish that I were more motivated.
Instead of painting, I want to work more on photography and videography. I’ve been taking pictures of my friends, and I also shot a film with them. Even though I’m doing this, painting is still the only medium that gives me true happiness and relief.
Have you encountered any obstacles as an artist?
To be honest I don’t feel like doing anything artistic, but in my head it’s the only thing I think about. Right now I’m looking at some unfinished paintings and I’m telling myself that I want to destroy all of them. In the meanwhile, I’ve been writing down all of my ideas and saving them for when I have the motivation to start painting again.
Provide a few tips that may be helpful for young artists
When you make something, make it for yourself.
If someone makes a negative critique on your work just listen and don’t take it to heart.
Don’t limit yourself or your inspiration. I was only focused on painting, and now I’m working on photography and videography. Look everywhere and be interested in everything!
Don’t be hard on yourself and remember that you are much more than your art.