Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Perverseness, Painting and Dante's Inferno:Interview with Marvin Bartley

This was a very bold thing for yourself and Camille Chedda to enter the National Biennial while still students. What were reactions to to this?
Well the reactions were varied but the underlying issues that aroused from the reactions of friends was that we should go for it, we all had our doubts and inhibitions as to whether or not we would get in. However it was generally all good.

You started off painting images on canvas but now you use digital photography, why the switch and how was it recieved?
Let me start by saying its acceptance was not great at all because of the value systems that people around me are used to. Example your expected to paint in a painting department so anything contrary such the photographs i now produce is unacceptable, i was even advised by many to paint the images that i produced through my photomanipulated processes. The images for them never really seemed complete in their photogrphic state. The reason why i switched media was the fact that my photograps were way more developed for my ideas that my classical painting methods ever were. Also it was for me a way of callenging the value system that has been set up by the society with regards to the value of painting over that of photographs and finally to engage myself in a much newer medium than paint.

You mentioned deriving some of your imagery from classic European artistic sources such as Dante's Inferno. How did you, as a young Caribbean art student, become attached to these sources?
Thats something i myself would like to know the answer for. Just kidding. I became very interested in classical imagery and literature in 2003 after seeing works from contemporary realist painters Philip Thomas and Andre Green who were just leaving and preparing to leave the college. There works dealth in a serious way with the classical techniques. Ive always had great respect for formalism and thats why i chose to look at classical references for my inspiration being that classical art is the backbone of formalism.

How do you feel your work which is now digital, sits within the kind of academic representational painterly tradition that has been coming out of the art school in the last few years? I am referencing of course young male artists such as Khary Darby, Phillip Thomas and Andrae Green.
Well I first of all think that it sits quite fine among their works with respect to the contemperary treatment of the image however it sits alone with respect to the process and finish. Khary, Phillip and Andrae all to me challenge simillar technical and formal issues that men have struggled for centuaries with, now i questioned myself as to why i would want to do te same thing when i have new media that i can challenge to gain new ways and approaches, so for me photo-manipultion is my main stay. Rest assured i have not abandoned painting with paint.

Being the first Edna Manley college student expected to mount a final year show wholly in digital prints, how do you think you will be recieved by the major collectors of representational paintings?
I wont try to predict responces but i can say this you'll all have one big surprise when you see what i now have.



  1. This comment is on the last couple of posts. First of all, it is exciting that Camille Chedda and Marvin Bartley are in the biennial, both with very strong works. I wish them all success although I do hope that they will keep their head level, despite the early exposure and acclaim. They have a lot to live up to, already, which can be very good but sometimes also bad for young artists. Their presence in the biennial is also a tribute to the excellent work that is being done at the Edna Manley College fine arts department and a product of the innovative programming and the caliber of the current faculty. In the contentious little art world of Jamaica, such achievements are all too often overlooked and/or taken for granted.

    As for the biennial, it is indeed a spectacular, if predictably uneven exhibition. Given the current crisis at the NGJ, it is miracle that it exists at all. The curatorial and technical staff, or what is left of it, could have given up a long time ago but they keep on holding the fort, despite the demoralizing circumstances. That, too, needs to be recognized and appreciated and this should not get in the way of the critical debate that needs to surround the work of such institutions, even in times of crisis. I would hate to see it recognized when it is finally gone. In the market-driven Jamaican art world, the NGJ plays an important role in providing space for what is not supported by the local art market and those works happen to be amongst the most compelling in the exhibition. No coincidence: as I have argued before, the viability of Jamaican art as a whole depends on this kind of work. I also think it is important to include Jamaican diaspora artists, as the Gallery actively tried to do this time, since their work helps to widen the field – just think of the liberating effect Albert Chong has had on Jamaican photography. There is no reason to be star-struck by these artists, however, and their work must be held to the same standards as that of the other artists in the exhibition. Not sure that is always done. Speaking about standards: I have great difficulty with the standard of the work of some of the invited artists, a concern I have had for many years. While it is important to maintain high standards in the juried section, it is unfair if similar or higher standards are not applied to the invited ones.

    Finally, I want to say something about the limited response to this blog thus far. It may prove that art criticism and debate is indeed dead in Jamaica, as some have suggested, as a victim of the sometimes vicious and overly personal contentions that have surrounded the subject since the mid 1990s. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to accept this situation as a given because we all know that Jamaican art desperately needs a vigorously critical context. Some of us will have to take responsibility and stick out our necks. So, if you have access to this blog, speak up and help jump-start a much, much needed new dialogue on art in Jamaica, which is not dependent on the goodwill and politics of the local media houses!

    That being said, we must also be realistic and realize how few people here in Jamaica have full-time internet access or even know about the existence of such things as blogs. In the mid 1990s, a Barbadian painter complained about the existence of what he called the “fax brigade,” those socially and economically privileged artists in the Caribbean who had direct access to a fax machine (usually a home fax) and were thus able to network with the organizers of biennales and other overseas exhibitions, which resulted in their systematic inclusion. Later on, it would have been the “e-mail brigade” and now probably the “broadband brigade.” In truth, a small number of Jamaican artists have that kind of internet access and the prevalence of yahoo and hotmail addresses should not fool us: many of these are only occasionally monitored. Naturally, there is also a responsibility to be resourceful: those who do not have full-time access at home or at work can often find it elsewhere, with just a little extra effort. So spread the word and encourage others to find means of access: this blog needs and deserves a lot more response!!!!

  2. I am an artist that shares a home between Canada and Whitehouse, Jamaica. Having just found this gem of a blog I would like to commend all those in involved on bringing contempory Jamaican art to the forefront! I am in full support and am excited that there is place to dicuss Jamaican art and provide support for its artist and events!

    Keep up the good work!


    1. am doing a project on ariste and i am suppose to choose one and i choose khary darby a jamaican ariste i choose him because of how he do is paintings and so on and forth but i would like for you to tell me is it cool to be a famous artist
      do you like the paintings you do most of the times????

    2. Hello Anonymous, I think it is best to call The Mutual Gallery or The National Gallery in Jamaica and you may be able to request contact information for the artists. If this doesn't work, many Jamaican artists are on Facebook so you may try that way of getting in touch.


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