The living artwork that is Quilla Constance – aka Jennifer Allen – tells us about her groundbreaking show at Oxford's Old Fire Station

Transcending The Signified is my exhibition of paintings, costumes, live cello and non-linguistic vocal performances.

This body of work explores possibilities for performing and existing beyond learned actions, languages, familiar aesthetics, and socio-cultural boundaries.

Through this exhibition I intend for my painting-installations to employ a synergy between props, sculptures, architectural structures and performative surfaces. At the OFS I’ve staged canvases both at odds with, and situated as part of the architecture within the gallery.

Fitted around the lift and steel pillar within the space, these works are set up to oscillate between sculptural and painterly interventions; whilst two large scale paintings echo negative spaces of the 3.5metre high recessed alcoves from The Museum of Contemporary Art London where this exhibition first opened in June.

Painting for me is a fraught and layered process, executed through performative acts, transformative states of mind, and employing varied textures and styles. The surfaces have no overt focal point, but invite the viewer to scan decorative ‘exotic’ patterns, varied brush strokes, illusionistic realism and abstract glimpses of my costumes. These pieces have been executed in oil, acrylic, acrylic ink and spray paint; a combination through which I intend to create tense and frenzied movement – in order to destabilise and interrupt familiar aesthetics, perceptions and experiences for the viewer.

Through my paintings and performances I’m interested to challenge familiar aesthetics, languages, ideas and injurious stereotypes to re-program these learned modes of communication in a bid to reveal the performative nature of identity and power as mere façade, and although this may sound somewhat idealistic, I hope my work will go some way to locating human subjects on a level playing field – perhaps, albeit momentarily when people experience my paintings and performances.

I began the show with a performance in front of my work. By performing in front of the paintings, I intend for my sculptural costumes to conflate with these surfaces through a merging of colours and textures… blurring the line between reality and illusion.

Through my interdisciplinary practice I intend to question notions of cultural authenticity, challenge disciplinary boundaries, and in turn, offer a raw and fresh frame through which to examine the construction and negotiation of minority and black female identities within contemporary British society and high art.

Through Transcending The Signified I intend to invite the viewer into a dialogue through which the notion of cultural authenticity and the production of meaning is visibly and audibly contested.

Transcending The Signified: Quilla Constance aka Jennifer Allen, OFS.

Until Saturday, September 2