Exhibitions at the Old Parcels Office ArtSpace

people creating artwork

Soul of Fire – Jade de Montserrat

27 May – 11 June 2023

Soul of Fire comprises a film trilogy that centres the materiality and politics of charcoal. The films explore the connection between theory and practice, particularly thinking through Montserrat’s drawing and performance work with charcoal as a vehicle for considering the intersections of race, climate change, landscapes, and history.

Jade de Montserrat was the recipient of the Stuart Hall Foundation Scholarship supporting her PhD (via MPhil) at IBAR, UCLan, and the development of her work from her Black diasporic perspective in the North of England. Jade works through performance, drawing, painting, film, installation, sculpture, print and text.


Saturday 27th May – Sunday 11th June 2023
Private View: Saturday 27th May 2-4pm
Gallery Open: Thur – Sun 11am-4pm
Admission Free
Videos contain nudity

The Old Parcels Office Artspace presents Soul Of Fire, an exhibition of new works by Scarborough based artist Jade de Montserrat.

At the centre of the exhibition is a trilogy of new videos that focus on charcoal as a vehicle for considering the intersections of race, climate catastrophe, and history. Alongside the videos will be a series of charcoal drawings on cloth.

Each of the videos is an edited documentation of a performance by de Montserrat. Untitled (the Wretched of the Earth, after Frantz Fanon), shows de Montserrat’s labour creating a charcoal wall drawing installation at ICA, Philadelphia in 2018. The Soul of Fire documents a five-day process at Hospitalfield, Arbroath in 2021, which included an earth burn constructed in collaboration with Green Aspirations, Scotland; a charcoal drawing workshop; and a performance to camera by de Montserrat. The third video in the trilogy, Black (re) turn, records de Montserrat’s recent performance to camera blackening the interior of a stone barn at Art Licks, Cow Syke Farm, Bransdale.

Charcoal has an important place in human histories. It has allowed people to transport fire, smelt iron, cook without smoke, purify water, create drawings, and heal sicknesses. According to authors John Uhlmann and Peggy Heimlich, charcoal was one of the fuels that powered industrial expansion in Europe, led to the deforestation of large parts of the continent, including across England, and consequently contributed to the drive to colonise the forests of the Americas. Today charcoal continues to be a vital resource for heat and cooking in many places, but unsustainable and unregulated production of charcoal, including for export to the UK, is a cause of continuing forest degradation globally.

De Montserrat’s work with charcoal is informed by the principles of Environmental Justice established by the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. The first principle states: “Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.” Speaking of her practice, de Montserrat states: “I often use drawing as a means to reflect on personal and historical events, as well as to define and occupy space. In these performances, I reframe questions around the representation of Black women in terms of care, protection and preservation.”

This exhibition also marks the launch of Soul of Fire Artists’ Charcoal, a collaboration between de Montserrat and Paul Cookson and Jo Edwards of Green Aspirations, Scotland. This social business endeavour is intimately connected with de Montserrat’s art practice. She notes: “My work considers community and communality as a material axis for belonging and imagining, within and beyond the frame of artmaking and art discourse.” Describing the endeavour, the collaborators write: “We’ve set up Soul of Fire as a social business, reflecting our beliefs that natural materials should and can be accessible to all. The profits we make from selling the charcoal to galleries, shops, and art schools will be used to support our social mission – of making this wonderful material more readily available to schools and communities and sharing the story of how it is made. By doing this, we hope to be able to replace some of the less sustainable but more accessible drawing materials and to introduce people to the joys of a more natural and connected way to making art.”

Dr. Jade de Montserrat was the recipient of the Stuart Hall Foundation Scholarship supporting her PhD and the development of her work from her Black diasporic perspective in the North of England. She is a tutor at Oxford University, Ruskin School of Art and an Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

The exhibition at the Old Parcels Office Artspace has been made possible with support from Big Ideas By The Sea and Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District.