DENZIL FORRESTER, one of the most prominent figures of the contemporary British art scene, has been awarded a Morley Fellowship in recognition of his service of over 30 years as a painting and drawing tutor at the college.
The fellowship was awarded at a special event held in Morley’s historic Emma Cons Hall on Tuesday, November 26, where Forrester was presented with a plaque by principal Dr Andrew Gower and chair of governors Dr Stuart Edwards. Also in attendance was Ela Piotrowska, who was principal of Morley during Forrester’s time as a tutor at the college, and professor Julian Henriques from the department of media, communications and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of London; Julian presented his film, Denzil’s Dance, about Forrester’s practice and inspiration during a visit to the dance halls of Jamaica, as part of the fellowship event.
“In terms of the cultural life of the college, painting and drawing is in the DNA of Morley, as Emma Cons, the founding force of the college, was a trained artist herself,” said Gower in his welcome address. “So throughout the history of Morley, painting and drawing have been a very large part of what we do. So one of the great delights of this evening is to recognise a very long-established and influential colleague, in the form of Denzil Forrester. He has given to our students through his skill, his expertise, his generosity, and his interest in learning. So we’re really pleased to have this opportunity to recognise Denzil’s contribution.”
Speaking to Morley staff and his former students at the event, Forrester said: “It’s great being back, and I’d like to just say thank you to everyone who works at Morley – cleaners, management, head of Morley, all the tutors, and of course you – all the students, which is most of you here.
“The main person I would like to thank is John Flemons, who saw my Royal College MA show over 40 years ago in 1983. And he really liked my work, so that’s why he gave me the job at Morley. So thank you to John Flemons, thank you to Morley, and thank you to London for providing me my backdrop for my paintings.”
Particularly known for his paintings depicting black British culture from the late 1970s onwards, Forrester taught painting and drawing at Morley for 30 years before finally retiring in 2016.
Today, Forrester’s painting Boys in the Hood features as part of the Morley Art Collection at the college. He has most recently been honoured with the installation of a mural, Brixton Blue, which was commissioned by Art on the Underground and can be seen now at Brixton Underground station. The awarding of the Morley Fellowship acknowledges Forrester’s long service of outstanding teaching at Morley and continued close engagement with the college since his retirement.
Edwards said: “In making these awards, we look at a person’s contribution to the Morley mission of empowering individuals and strengthening communities through adult education in arts, culture and applied sciences. Denzil was a highly respected tutor at the College for over 30 years before retiring in 2016. I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to recognise the contribution that Denzil has made to Morley College and to confer on him one of our first Morley Fellowships.”