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I Was There V (2018)

Barbara Walker

ink and tracing paper on digital media paper

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

© Barbara Walker Courtesy Cristea Roberts Gallery, London. Photography: Chris Keenan



Ink, Tracing paper, Digital media paper

Physical Object Description:

Drawing of two African Caribbean soldiers laid over a digital print of an archive photograph of an Indian soldier.


48.9 x 38.9 (framed) cm

Accession Number:



Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 2019/20

Ownership history:

Purchased from Cristea Roberts Gallery, London by the Contemporary Art Society with support from the Friends of Bristol Museums Galleries & Archives, January 2020; presented to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, 2019/20


Black (presence)
Barbara Walker is a figurative artist who works with different media and formats, ranging from small embossed works on paper to paintings on canvas and large-scale charcoal wall drawings. Her monochrome images are often based on archive material, unearthing underrepresented histories.

The intimately scaled ink drawings I was there V (2018) and I was there IV (2018) are part of a body of work that addresses the largely untold stories of African and Caribbean servicemen and women’s contribution to the British Armed Forces. Both drawings depict Black soldiers on tracing paper, laid over digitally printed anonymous photographic images of Black, Asian and white soldiers. The red W and E are reminders that soldiers came from the Western and Eastern parts of the former British Empire. Overlaying her drawings of underrepresented Black soldiers onto the historic photographs in a kind of palimpsest is a statement of their presence, but one which doesn’t erase the soldiers over whose images the drawings are placed. For Walker the fragile and sometimes ephemeral nature of the media she uses – chalk, embossing, tracing paper – is a vehicle for highlighting the erasure of Black histories. For example her chalk drawings are washed away from the gallery walls, or, in a reversal of history, white figures are embossed and thus blanked out of reworkings of historic paintings with Black sitters. Inverting the anonymising act, Walker’s portraits reclaim an equal and independent position of the former ‘other’, establishing their own narratives as opposed to the ones put forward by the former colonial masters.

In recent years Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has been developing its international contemporary art collection with a strong postcolonial perspective. To continue in this vein, the museum is now looking at British-based art that presents a critical perspective on the world. Barbara Walker’s focus on visibility and representation continues the post-colonial critique of British history.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited. The collection that owns this artwork may have more information on their own website about permitted uses and image licensing options.

For further information, please consult our section of our copyright policy.

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