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Themes/ Being human: Socially conscious artists

two people sitting in a dark room with a green light
two people sitting in a dark room with a green light
Photograph: R.I.P. Germain & Ashley Holmes, Double 6, 2019. Jules Lister @juleslisterphotography
Written by
Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin
Published date
28 June 2021

Fine art tutor and Insights grad Ocean talks about what she’s been up to since graduation and shares some artists, books and opportunities that inspire her work.

Hi I'm Ocean

I’ve selected 6 very inspirational creatives and collectives, that relate to my own practice balancing being an artist, lecturer and socially engaged practitioner. Each of them utilise their art to work with audiences and communities in live or participatory spaces.

Often responding to social or political needs, these exciting creatives use their practices to create a positive change in the world, striving towards social justice. Examples of the themes and issues they address include: combatting racism, the climate emergency, loneliness, poverty and patriarchy. Types of artworks include: public events, performative lectures, readings, interactive installations, meals, film screenings, song works, walks, talks and gatherings. Hope you enjoy!

Advisory note: some of the artist's broader body of work may feature language or themes that are adult in nature.

Abbas Zahedi

students sitting on the floor in a gallery full of paintings
Photograph: Abbas Zahedi at Tate Britain via @abbzah

Having worked with communities before entering the art world, Abbas often creates performative, participatory, socially conscious artworks that strive towards social justice.

Explore more of Abbas’ work on

Follow Abbas on Instagram: @abbzah

R.I.P Germain

two people sitting in a dark room with a green light
Photograph: R.I.P. Germain & Ashley Holmes, Double 6, 2019. Jules Lister @juleslisterphotography

A lecturer as well as an artist, R.I.P Germain creates performances to teach and inspire, drawing from multiple genres of Black experience, history and culture – personal and collective.

Explore more of R.I.P Germain’s work on

Follow R.I.P Germain on Instagram: @ripgermain


a poster displaying an image of animals walking on a road
Image: Courtesy of @gentleradical

Gentle/Radical is a project based in Cardiff run by artists, community workers, performers, faith practitioners, writers and others, advocating for art as a tool for social change. Nominated for the Turner Prize this year.

Explore more of Gentle/Radical’s work on

Follow Gentle/Radical on Instagram: @gentleradical

Project Art Works

a photograph of a group of people standing in a gallery
Project Art Works Collective, Hastings Contemporary, 2021 © Project Art Works

Project Art Works is a collective of neurodiverse artists and makers based in Hastings. They explore art through collaborative practice with, for and by neuro-minorities and disseminate their work through exhibitions, events, films and digital platforms. Also nominated for the Turner Prize this year.

Explore more of Project Art Work’s work on

Follow Project Art Works on Instagram: @projectartworks

Lecture Performa series by Rhea Dillon, Eric N. Mack

a screen shot from instagram displaying multiple images
Photograph via @lectureperforma

This classroom was built to give space to artists from across the diaspora to present themselves and work they may not have shared through their primary art medium- instead we see them through the medium of experimental lecture-performance.

Lecture Performa Season 1 was hosted by @cassandra_press in residence at @feministcenterforcreativework 

Explore more resources on

Follow Lecture Performa on Instagram: @lectureperforma #lectureperforma

Katie Paterson

A photograph of a beach with people creating mountain like rocks in the foreground
First There is a Mountain 2019 Image © Rosie Lonsdale. First There is a Mountain is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and Arts Council England.

A multidisciplinary artist, Katie Paterson often combines science and art, but in a recent project, ‘First There is a Mountain’, she worked with local communities, creating ‘sand-mountains’ in the shape of actual miniature mountain moulds.

Explore more of Katie’s work on

Follow Katie on Instagram: @katiempaterson

Explore further:

A selection of books, online reading and theoretical spaces that address creativity and socio-political concerns:

Hoax Publication

White Pube Texts

Women of Colour Index Reading Group

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970

Kimi Hanauer, Lu Zhang, Toolkit for Cooperative, Collective, & Collaborative Cultural Work, 2020

ORGANISING; collective, collaborative organising in Southern Africa

A selection of creative opportunities and boards that are useful for young and emerging artists:

Gallery Youth Collectives – South London Gallery Art Assassins

Roundhouse Youth Collectives

ACAVA’s weekly opportunities

Black Artist Grant

Creative Opportunities (UAL jobs board)

Curator Space

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