I never asked Augustina about these paintings, really. Now, I'm almost astonished that I didn't; but at the time I wasn't painting myself and hadn't given painting a lot of thought, and it just didn't occur to me to. And later, when we began talking about painting in earnest, these works were in the past, there were other things to talk about.
Posting them here, I'm looking at them with new eyes, and considering them and their titles in a way I hadn't before. And feel like saying a little about them, just my speculations, given that I knew her well and if you didn't then the titles are too obscure to make much sense of. A little about her that I believe informed her work.. Augustina was Nigerian born, of Nigerian descent; lived in London from age 2 to 8, in Lagos Nigeria from 8 to 16, and London from 16 on, Hackney. As such she felt caught between two cultures, ever an outsider in any circumstance. Perhaps as a consequence she developed a very rich inner life, one that was intensely symbolic.
So, these works of hers..
I Still Miss Tupac
. Augustina had her heroes, and held them in extremely high regard looking to them for inspiration, even strength. Tupac Shakur was one. On the one hand I think this was simply an homage and genuine expression of missing. Though it is clearly mask-like; more, a mask surrounded by shields befitting a warrior.
Tradition would hold she could don the mask and adopt those qualities of Tupac's that she needed. Or missed.
My One-Day Knickerbocker Glory
A knickerbocker glory:
Augustina only came to seriously consider art practice in middle-age, and once she did she desired very much to at least modestly sustain herself through her art. I think this work was about her professional hopes, and that one day she would have her knickerbocker glory of professional success.
I suspect this because of the Kara Walker (-like) figure at the top, and Walker was another of her heroes. To mix a couple of metaphors, to descend the staircase is to follow in Walker's footsteps; starting as faceless, a Walker-like stereotype, as she descends becoming someone visible but visibly unsure and skeptical, to finally become a woman confident and poised and real.
Let Bygones Be Bygones
I may be wrong, but I believe this work refers to Klee's Senecio.
Senecio (so I've read) was (1) inspired by African masks, and (2) intended to be humorous. I think Augustina here means to indicate that, well, if this is cultural appropriation, what of it? Klee appropriates African art, she appropriates Klee's art. The two circles in the middle are not so different, differing only by the color of an eyelid or so. The circle is closed; let bygones be bygones.
Though some circles seem to have been chewed a bit.
A Bigger Sun
This one is pretty obscure to me. Guessing, my feeling when I look at it and consider the title is that of longing. I suspect that this had something to do with her conception of God and also that this world can be a cold place sometimes. And the artist imagines or half-remembers a land which has a bigger sun.
I do remember her saying that she had wanted to do a few of these.
The Mockingbird's Daughter
I'm not sure about this one either. I remember she wasn't that pleased with this, feeling it had been rushed to get it ready. The holes in the figure highlight the head, the breasts, the heart, the womb, the pelvis. Exposed and vulnerable, she bends over slightly making herself smaller, attempting to cover herself with her hands. Daughter of a mockingbird, does she have no song of her own, and awkwardly sings the songs of others in vain attempt at camouflage, at fitting in?
Or is it a reference to "To Kill a Mockingbird"? in which Tom Robinson received unwanted sexual attention and paid for it with his life? And now his daughter covers herself, fearful the same will happen to her?
Anyway, if you've read this far thanks for joining me, hope you enjoy her work. Unfortunately almost all her work, including these, had been stored very badly and is irreparably damaged.
I've never been comfortable with the expression "Rest in Peace", sounds much too static. I prefer to think of Augustina as vibrantly producing the works she only imagined before, so instead will say, "keep busy!"