Avatar for Gordon Shadrach

Gordon Shadrach


(b.1966, Ontario)








Since childhood, I have had a lifelong fascination with the semiotics of clothing and its impact on culture. In particular, my interest lies in the intersection and codification of race and fashion. These codes impact the way we navigate through spaces and influence how people associate with one another. Statements like “dress for success” and “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” reinforce the notion that clothing reflects the character and value of a human being. This concept is steeped in colonial expectations which have systematically worked to develop prejudicial values that impact marginalized communities. These prejudices and stereotypes have impacted me personally which is why I mostly paint Black men. My portraits of these men utilize fashion—contemporary or historical dress, or a combination of both—in order to create narratives and explore allegories which pull viewers in to explore the biases embedded in North American culture. In creating backgrounds, I choose to use a selective palette that demonstrates that dark colours elevate the presence of my sitters rather than diminish them. Many of my paintings are framed in damaged antique and vintage frames. The frames’ patina and wear lend historic weight and insert the portraits into a period when Black people were rarely depicted in Western portraiture. I seek to disrupt the colonial constrictions of portraiture by inviting viewers to reflect upon the depiction of Black people in art and culture. In addition to my portraits, I include textile installations to my exhibitions to extend the ways that my messages as an artist can be expressed. These installations often involve the usage of vintage farming sacks to underpin the convergence of historical oppression, systemic racism, and contemporary sports.

Gallery Representation

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