Khari Turner and the symbolism of water: inspiring, reminding, celebrating

Milwaukee-born artist Khari Turner harnesses the symbolic power of a specific matter , water, up to the production of t flamboyant works that conceal a reference to the history of his ancestors.

In fact, he mixes paints composed of about 60% water, recalling the composition of human body. He thus combines abstract and realistic renderings of black figures to emphasise the physical and spiritual relationship of his ancestors with this element. 

Khari Turner – Credits: InspirationGrid

The source chosen by the artist is not random: he uses water collected from the ocean, rivers and seas that have historically touched the black people. 

Turner’s intention, who claims to have felt a special connection  with this element from a very young age, is to approach the reality of the atrocities suffered by his people from a different perspective. 
His art does not want to reproduce the visual images that figuratively show slavery, immigration, deaths and sea. 
He does not thus reproduce the anguished agony of the victims, but he only wants to bring back to the memory the history of his own people

Khari Turner – Credits: InspirationGrid

In an interview, the artist says: “I focus on black history to celebrate my ancestors for surviving the challenges they faced, not to show their pain. I paint to bring back the stories with images that contain an elegance and chaos that come from this existence’ And what better way to honor one’s predecessors than by paying homage to them through these beautiful, sentiment-laden works?

Thus, the artist decides to open up to the future, while taking the past into account, depicting happy and joyful images: for instance, this is the case of River Steps (2022), where  the artist portrays a child playing basketball. 

Khari Turner, River Steps 2022 – Credits: Milwaukee journal sentinel

The artist’s works can also be admired until 27 November in Venice. For Biennale Arte 2022, in fact, some of Khari Turner’s works are on show in Palazzo Bembo.