This video installation highlights the violence and wasteful deaths of many young Caribbean men by telling the story of a boy called Ashes.

Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen first met Ashes in 2002 when he visited the island of Grenada. During this visit McQueen directed Super 8 film of Ashes as he sat on the prow of a boat moving through the sea. The footage, which shows the smiling, carefree young man wearing only shorts, was not used in any of McQueen’s work at the time.

In 2013 McQueen returned to Grenada and discovered that Ashes had been shot dead by drug dealers. The artist then decided to record the story of his death. A second film, shot in 16mm, shows Ashes’s tomb being constructed and the etching of a memorial plaque for his grave. The soundtrack features two local men telling the story of how Ashes discovered a stash of drugs, stole them and was then hunted down and killed by a gang of dealers.
In the final installation, titled Ashes, McQueen’s two films are shown back-to-back on a single screen, the vibrant life depicted in one countered by the tragic tale of death in the other.

The Whitworth is renowned for its collection of British landscape art, including Thomas Hearne’s two 18th-century watercolours of the Caribbean islands. Ashes now stands in striking contrast to these works as a post-colonial image of the Caribbean in all its beauty and often tragic complexity.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


From the artist through Thomas Dane Gallery

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