Christina Leslie's Portraits

N.L.S., A New Local Space

Deborah Caroll Anzinger's artist run residency and exhibition space in Kingston


Leasho Johnson's Provocative Re-interpretation in 'Canopy Guild'

Light Sensitive

Marlon James' black and whites

Annalee Davis: ON THE MAP

Caribbean Political Documentary

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ghostly white

ARTSBAR@Rissei is an annual large exhibition of student work from art majors around the Osaka and Kyoto area of Japan. It was also an opportunity to have your works seen by future collectors and other art lovers.  It was good to see how much dedication was put into the show by the students, in fact the craftsmanship was quite high in many of the works but that is something I do notice here in Japan. There is great commitment to making something which even if it obeys its own aesthetic of simplicity or handicraft, is often technically lovely. I walked through the halls of the now abandoned Rissei Elementary school with its creaking board floors and long dark passages and thought I could see a pattern. Perhaps I was finding an aesthetic or cultural perspective or perhaps it was my outsiders reading of it. Below I have put some of the works that seemed to come together in its own theme. There were many others of note but for this purpose, being selective will illustrate more clearly.
Tomoko Tamura 田村 智子

Ashida Fuuma 芦田 風馬
Above, Hashimoto Tomonari 橋本 知成
Below, Kazusato Ooishi 大石 かずさと 

There was a aura about the works that was  repeated in the way the work was made and composed. A feeling of it being just barely there, fleeting, a thought realized for a moment and a feeling of a presence. In works such as the school desks made out of tracing paper, a school desk made out of barely perceptible wire, paper houses in old wash stands, portraits made out of melting ice, your thoughts could hover between wonder at the ease of destruction and wonder that the work had the strength to exist as is.

In other works there was a strong feeling of discomfort at being in the same space with it but also an inability to look away because of its strikingness. A gigantic and monstrous baby doll which you realise might just as easily come to life, when you think about it in the context of films like Tottoro or Spirited Away.

Artist Currently Unknown
The work indeed seemed delicate and precious but also acted as some kind of transport to a time or place or a memory. Of course uses of colour is also a main contributor to this. Colour is often kept quite limited by  utilizing only the raw materials and maybe slightly enhancing them. So the use of white and fragile or transforming materials seems to be what the future art stars in Japan lean towards.  I wonder if the art market is so fine tuned now that we can actually forecast trends for the next season like the fashion industry does?
Kimura Kento 木村 健人

Whether it is cultural aesthetic or trending there I think there may be a coming strand of contemporary art that goes beyond the coolness of minimalism. Work which is quiet and reflective but also uncanny in a way that you feel in the pit of you stomach. Work which bears an aura I refer to as being ghostly white.

Sai Jyungyoku 崔 じゅんぎょく

I am wondering what the trends or developing aesthetic in the various Caribbean islands are like now...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Does it still hurt? Should it still hurt?

Walking through a trendy artsy student area one lazy Sunday in Kyoto, I entered this famous bookstore that is a famous landmark in the area. I found many interesting things, graphic zines, rare comics, out of print journals etc. Stacked to the gills with narrow passages in the way many bookstores are here, I came to the children's book section. Glanced down and saw Chibi Kuro Sanbo staring back at me.

The title in my limited scope of Japanese can be read as Little Black Sambo. I looked at Sambo for a while and he looked at me. Not sure of what my reaction should be. I stood there thinking that I am expected to have a reaction right or is that outdated in 2010? If I am not certain about my reaction, maybe I should have none but by having none am I agreeing to Chibi Kuro Sanbo; and thereby disregarding all that forefathers passed through so that I may be able to stand in Kyoto leisurely looking at this book? By now I could spy the bookseller looking at me either curiously or nervously. 

My question is, what would you do, is it meaningless and outdated to feel something about these stereotypes seeping back into daily life. If my objection to it is not going to interrupt the importance in this culture then how do I regard it? Are our reactions programmed expectations or do we have a valid point? Can it be explained away as part of the 'kawaii' cute culture in Japan and therefore harmless? ...and in a country where in most rooms you will often be the only person of colour can we expect a reaction to be understood or even heard?

I was thinking about these things all that time. I still had not much of a real emotion so took a photo instead. 

Figurines seen in restaurant windows in Teramachi shopping district, Kyoto

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alice Yard 4 x 4 Anniversary

Alice Yard celebrates it 4th anniversary with a collection of events. 

DATE: FRIDAY 24th September – October 1st
September 2010 is Alice Yard’s fourth anniversary as an independent space for creative experiment. This year we mark the occasion with 4x4, a programme of events focusing on Alice Yard’s regional network, and our creative collaborators in four specific Caribbean locations: the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Suriname. 
What’s On in the Main Galleries (the Box, Annex and Band-room Nook):
The exploration of digital photo- and video-based work is a significant recent trend among younger Jamaican artists. Shot in Kingston assembles work by Marvin Bartley, Keisha Castello, Stefan Clarke, Marlon James, O’Neil Lawrence, Ebony Patterson, and Oneika Russell, curated by Christopher Cozier and O’Neil Lawrence. 
The Galleries are open on:
Friday 17 September (7.00 to 9.00 pm); Saturday 18 September (7.00 to 9.00 pm, when Cozier will be available for informal conversation about the works); and Wednesday 29 September (8.00 to 10.00 pm), or by special request.
Friday 24 September: Outward reach
Alice Yard’s Caribbean network includes independent contemporary art institutions in the Bahamas and Suriname. Artists 
John Cox of Popopstudios in Nassau and Marcel Pinas of the Kibii Wi Foundation in Moengo join Christopher Cozier in a conversation about regional collaborations and future possibilities. 8.00 pm
Monday 27 September: Heino Schmidt: Equilibrium
Bahamian artist 
Heino Schmidt has been living and working at Alice Yard since May 2010, supported by a Commonwealth Connections International Arts Residency. Equilibrium is a new work created during his time in Port of Spain, also presented at the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. 8.00 pm


Wednesday 29 September: O’Neil Lawrence on the Kingston scene O’Neil Lawrence is an artist and curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica. He will give an informal talk on current trends in Jamaica and the artists included in Shot in Kingston8.00 pm
Friday 1 October: Sheena Rose and Lauren Hinds
Sheena Rose was artist in residence at Alice Yard in May 2009, when she presented her animated video work Town. She recently participated in a residency and exhibition in Cape Town.Lauren Hinds is a Trinidadian artist working in the medium of the graphic novel. She recently completed a year-long programme at the Centre for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. Rose and Hinds will spend a week working together, then present their collaborative project to the public, together with recent solo works. 8.00 pm
Further details of each event will be posted at the Alice Yard website during the 4x4 programme.
Please check for times and updates.
About Alice Yard 
80 Roberts Street, Woodbrook
Alice Yard Space is a small gallery in the backyard of 80 Roberts Street--a nine-by-seven-by-ten-foot concrete and glass box designed by architect Sean Leonard, which opens in September 2007. It is just large enough to fit an artist's installation, a video work, a few drawings or paintings. Since September 2006, Alice Yard has been home to a series of weekly Friday-night "Conversations", bringing musicians, artists, writers, and audiences together for informal performances and interactions. The gallery now creates the possibility for another kind of conversation, by offering contemporary artists a space to show a carefully selected piece of recent work, or even work in progress. The concept evolved from a conversation between Sean Leonard and artist Christopher Cozier, and through a series of drawings in a sketchbook they shared over a period of six months. They conceived of a modest space where artists can experiment with ideas and works not normally feasible in a commercial gallery. They are inviting other artists to join in their sketchbook conversation, as it were, and also inviting viewers into the process. Alice Yard Space asks questions about the relationship between artists and their community, outside the conventional bounds of the art market (but not oblivious to commercial concerns). 
About  the show’s main curator and Alice Yard administrator Christopher Cozier 
Christopher Cozier is an artist and writer living and working in Trinidad. He has participated in a number of exhibitions focused upon contemporary art in the Caribbean and internationally. Since 1989 he has published a range of essays on related issues in a number of catalogues and journals.

He is on the editorial collective of 
Small Axe, A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, published and distributed by Duke University Press. He is the editor of sxspace a blog platform about the visual on the small axe website. The artist has been an editorial adviser to BOMB magazine for their Americas issues (Winter, 2003, 2004 & 2005). The artist is a Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of The University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) and was Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College during the Fall of 2007 .  
He co-curatored the exhibition Paramaribo Span , Suriname 2010 , recently showed his work Tropical Night in AFRO MODERN at the Tate, Liverpool, 2010, Sound System II at the recently concluded Rockstone and Bootheel: Rockstone and Bootheel: Contemporary West Indian Art in Hartford , Conneticut and is the 2010 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival commissioned artist. His work “NOW SHOWING” is the 2010 festival image. 

-Info and Photo supplied by Richard Rawlins

What to do if you are an artist.

So you're an artist and there are many things they didn't teach you in art school. Many things you have to figure out for yourself. The thing is that if you happen to be living in a world capital this isn't as much a problem as the art world may be bigger and more accessible or at least there is more of it. What if you don't live in an art capital or what if figuring it out is a steep learning curve ....

Emma Taylor on has compiled a stellar list of videos from TED which discuss Art. TEDtalks drew my attention on YouTube over a year ago. Suddenly ideas and knowledge that wasn't always easy to find or understand was compiled into manageable videos online. They take the form of the expert presenting their research or field of study in engaging ways. These experts are from many fields e.g. social sciences, media, design, arts, biological research and the list goes on. There have been a number of art world professionals and top dogs making presentations and sharing insider knowledge. So now thanks to Emma you have this info at your finger tips.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Duppy Art: stories in clay

Ah the wonders of social networking. I wanted to find out if there were any persons in or connected to the Caribbean making animations or comics trying to develop some cultural identity through their work. I got a response from one person: Scally Ranks. Clicking the links to his videos was a surprise because if I expected animation, I didn't really expect clay animation. Why, because I associate it mainly with UK's Aardman Studios. 'Wallace and Gromit' and such. When a group becomes associated with a particular material or method, the aesthetics go with it too. in my mind claymation was for a certain style of representation brought to focus by Aardman. Of course at anytime your generalizations can be proven wrong and thats always a nice surprise. I asked Scally to tell me about his work so far. I wanted to understand where he saw his platform for his works, in a gallery, in a cinema, online, none or all.

' I created 'Dancehall Claymation' to both promote and share dancehall music to a wider audience,before i began filming i was sculpturing using wax,some of my early work icluded 3 life size rasta heads made from solid wax,also i was painting with wax,during this time my interest with dancehall and reggae was growing and i found my self making dancehall singers out of wax,i was also just about to teach myself video production and editing,one day the idea came to add my art with dancehall music and put them in a film,because wax was not moveable i changed materials and started sculpting from plasticine and my developement in claymation began.
I found that even using basic Claymation techniques i could produce a video good enought to be watched,i made the term ''Freestyle Dancehall Claymation'' as most of my work is unplanned.

In the early days of Duppy Art my models were more basic,often only having the top half of the bodies,the rest hidden out of shot,a 3 min vid would take me almost a month,taking one picture at a time and then putting them together,sometimes a hundred or more,my motivation was my love for the music i was working with and also my enjoyment at learning about jamaica,the people and culture,learning 'patwah' was essensial,being english i wanted to understand what was being said in the songs and educating myself was the only way.
I was able to use basic editing software to arrange the shots and overlay a soundtrack,once it was complete i would post them on youtube,this was really just a place to store them as my computer was always low on memory,but i noticed the videos gettin views and comments, i realise i had something special and unique.
I began to make the films to look like they were part of a bigger film,this was so i could go back an make more to either the start or the end,soon after i started i was being approached by people inside the reggae and dancehall community and i started to get promotion of many websites,as i dont own a dot com website i rely on youtube and facebook to host my work,as a problem in most artist's life is having a place to display there work i figued if it was online it would be available to a wider veiwing audience.

I have high hopes for my work,both in the commercial sector and the underground,i have been the first to put Dancehall dj's in Claymation and also King haile Selassie,the model of the king was soon sold to a reggae collector as im finding now my models are becoming alot better and filming with them often spoils them so i also do commisions for just models.
Duppy Art is on a number of websites around the world and was featured at the Reggae Film festival in jamaica in 2008 and has been shown on tv.

'Currently i'm working on re-building my studio after moving house,but coming up for Duppy Art will be more dancehall and reggae films,i have sold most of the models from my old vids to reggae collectors so im also having to make new models to use.

 - Edited interview with Scally Ranks

Friday, July 16, 2010


Around Facebook and Flickr Michael Thompson's designs, images, politics by beauty drifted into my consciousness. Again the connection emerged with design and beauty being used for political expression. Is this this a new route? Will design effectively replace the political voice of Painting in Jamaica? Is the accessability of Design replacing the often high-browness of Fine Art? I asked Michael a few questions and he gave me his thoughts.

Can you give me some insight into your background as a designer/artist and relationship to Jamaica.

I am a Jamaican living in the United States. I attended Calabar High School in Kingston, Jamaica and graduated in 1976. After leaving Calabar I studied commercial art at the Jamaica School of Art as a part time student. My first design job was an apprentice position at the Daily News art department. Shortly after, I joined Paisley, Kelly Keynon & Eckhardt Advertising Agency(PKK&E) as a layout artist and illustrator. After a long stint at PKK&E I took up an offer as Art Director, at Mike Jarrett Communications, a public relations firm. It was my last gig in Jamaica before I migrated to the United States in 1989. In 1978 I designed a poster that got me a place on the Jamaican delegation to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana Cuba. This was an amazing cultural experience that has influenced my design aesthetics. I was very inspired by the beauty and power of the poster arts produced by the Cuban agencies of ICAIC (the Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry) Editoria Political, and OSPAAL (the Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.) The artistic energy from that festival in Cuba and the international art that I was exposed to still influence my creativity today. The International festival definitely opened a lot of doors both internationally and locally once I return to Jamaica. I had my first major art show in Jamaica which included paintings, poster art and drawings. This exhibition was a two artist show held at the Bank of Jamaica with myself and Clinton Hutton a fellow progressive artist at the time, this was around 1979.

Looking at your portfolio I am seeing at least two approaches to design emerging. One seems more meant for traditional commercial work where the designer could be anyone from anywhere. In the other kind I am seeing a designer asserting a voice about nation and place and culture through the design and imagery. How are you balancing and approaching the two differently?

It is important to separate my commercially designed work from what I call my Activist/Awareness designs. On one side of the scale the commercial design process is born out of some kind of consensus; the clients input and direction coupled with my creative conceptual ideas. This struggle can often become an hinderance to creativity depending on the kind of relationship and freedom I have with the client. It is always a struggle to break through the corporate briefs and restraints. On the other side of the scale my Activist/Awareness designs are expressed through "freeform creativity" layered on a forward thinking design platform. They are not restrained by any briefs or directions to corrupt the creative process. This is my voice and conceptual ideas expressed undiluted. It is my passion and conviction all wrapped up around an array of issues, ideas and causes. What you see in these designs are a commitment to freedom in the creative process. I try to separate and balance the two by approaching the creative processes differently. The Activist/Awareness designs are my personal work which is very important to me as a means to explore new techniques and ideas in a freestyle way.

What visions do you have for the role of your more activist work and how has it being delivered to its audience and used by them?

The delivery formula for my Activist Art Project can be summed up in five words “communication by any means necessary.” FLICKR plays a big role in introducing my poster art to a broad international audience. It is where this present episode of my activism started and already my work has attracted thousands of viewers since I started posting my art on FLICKR a year and half ago. The web has been a wonderful way to achieve exposure and to get my message out. However, it is not the only way my work is delivered. I make digital 18”x24” poster prints and have shown locally in traditional gallery settings. For example , I exhibited at a gallery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a group of underground Zine publishers. This was a new type of audience of young rebel writers and graffiti enthusiasts. I am also working on other collaborations with publications and archives like the Palestinian Poster Project and the Canter for the Study of Political Graphics in an efforts to expand the audience. I am also planning a collaboration with a local skateboard company to do a show in their retail outlet later this year. I hope to do more of this type of delivery.

I do get many request for the use of my work as fundraising or promotional material to support a variety of causes that are represented by the designs. One of which is the design in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza strip. The image of the “Gaza Child” has gotten the biggest request and admiration to date. Posters and T-shirts were made by The Gaza Freedom March organizers and distributed at the march in Egypt and other cities around the world during the International solidarity march in January, 2010. International requests for the “Gaza Child” design are still coming in from as far away as South Africa and Australia. The Gaza Freedom March and The Haiti Poster Project are two campaigns that have helped publicized my designs and messages on an impressive scale and have also raised money for two very important causes.

I am working on more collaborations and hope to create a dedicated website featuring only my activist works in the near future. My Haiti poster designs will be featured on TV Cultura on a program called Almanaque. TV Cultura is a public television channel in Brazil. The program will use my Haiti designs as an example on how others especially the youths can use the internet to help Haiti. I have to thank many of my FLICKR friends and other supporters who have helped to spread the messages and my work to new audiences via blogs, online galleries and Facebook postings.

Do you think art can change the world?

Yes, to a point. Art can play an important and supportive role in changing the world. Art by itself cannot change the world. However, it can communicate ideas and messages in a powerful and effective way; elevating awareness in people that might not o

therwise turn to action. It can provide a powerful visual queue for those in the struggle to help motivate others to participate in the process of change. All branches of the arts can play a relevant role effectively. As artists we can ask questions about the many problems around us and present them in creative ways to foster dialogue and discussion. Activism is still the best way to achieve change, people have to stand up and go out there to "make a difference." I think more artists need to point to the problems and find the best solutions to stimulate activism. I would like to see more art in workshop settings, where people are no longer passively sitting and consuming the art. Instead, they are creating together, feeling empowered and focusing on solutions, community and communication. I am upbeat that this activism among young artist world-wide have begun to find roots. I admire artists like Shep

ard Fairey of OBEY, Dignidad Rebelde and Taller Tupac Amaru Collective who are doing amazing works in highlighting a number of political and social issues. I would love to see more visual artist in Jamaica standing up and speaking out through their art on issues of injustice, human rights and environmental concerns affecting Jamaica and the wider world. We can find examples of Jamaican musicians who have successfully used beautiful music to raise consciousness and to fight injustice; Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Burning Spear, Michael Smith to name a few. I think the Jamaican visual artists can find inspiration from the history of activism in our music.

It is clear that beauty is important and iconic imagery is the support for your strong ideas. Can you explain the process of how you locate an issue for use and then create an appealing image.

You do not have to look very far to find issues to support. It can be local or international, the media and the web are filled with stories of war, injustice, brutality, environmental concerns and exploitation, you name it is there. Lets look closer to home, the violence that occurred in Tivoli Gardens Jamaica on Labour day (May 24, 2010) and its aftermath was terrible. It was not hard to see that the stories that were presented by some local and international media had ignored the physical and emotional trauma that the majority of citizens were facing in that community. Hundreds of police and military personnel attacked a community inhabited by innocent women, children, and men, killing over 70 in the process. An unnecessary war unleashed on a civilian population. The stories that were coming from the residents totally contradicted the official reports. The residents spoke of summary executions and brutality by the security forces.

One of the poster design that I created in solidarity with the residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town depicted the iconic face of a crying woman. I started out with the illustration because I wanted it to set the tone of the design. I am pretty much entirely Adobe illustrator-based as far as software is concerned. The entire design and illustration is created from start to finish in Adobe Illustrator; no sketches or scans. I usually prefer to work this way. The expression on her face captured the frightful experience they had endured. I read some of the statements given by members of the community and have seen the images and videos of the women weeping for their loved ones that were either killed or missing. It was clear to me that a very large number of the people living in Tivoli Gardens were woman and children. The face on the poster represents the weeping mothers of Tivoli Gardens. Everyone with a heart can relate to the humanity in the narrative. I then added a bold and powerful statement that reminded the government and other Jamaicans that the residents of Tivoli are citizens of Jamaica not enemies and they deserve justice. I wanted a beautifully designed image, colorful, and strong enough to grab the attention the first time someone looked at it.

What do you think about Michael's work and what he is doing as a designer of political imagery?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The far reach of William Kentridge

Last year I saw this film made by one of the recent graduates of Edna Manley College, Dwayne Scott.

I thought immediately that this artist has been influenced by William Kentridge.
Its hard not to be I suppose when Kentride's aesthetic and method is ideal for the artist without very much access to hi-tech equipment and lets face it very few media artists working in third world nations have that kind of access. It is also ideal for the artist who is just that, an artist linked to the traditions of drawing and painting. This method of working produces that much dreamed about in-between ideal: drawing/ painting in motion. Drawings in motion are the other reference for Animation of course but somehow the phrase 'drawings in motion' or 'animation' seems associated with cartoons and comic character style animation. Kentridge's and subsequently Scott's motion drawings are located on a whole other branch of animation. That branch which pursued process, play and low-tech inventiveness. A branch where strength of content and meaning in the work is very personal as well as socially and politically impactive. (Read more about Dwayne Scott's work on Facebook )

I recently found myself traveling 14 hours roundtrip by bus to view the Kentridge blockbuster travelling show in Japan: 'What We See & What We Know'. Though the show was in lovely Hiroshima, I only had time and energy for one activity and the activity I chose was to see the Kentridge show. Why would I make that choice?
Well it was the first time I would have had the opportunity to view his works in person and as far back as 5 years ago, it was being recommended that I see his work.

How was it?
Well what I learned was to become more confident in my own way of making images and to truly not feel restricted by my own perceived lack of resources or industry-standard technique. One of my favourite things was seeing a drawing for 'Felix in Exile' where a slit was cut in the paper to slide a cut out-doll figure through the larger drawing. This was to create the illusion of Felix on the ramp entering a CAT scan machine. Something like that brings a smile to my face when it can often seem that in order to start work a high tech video editing and compositing suite is required.

On another note the process of bringing a still image into the appearance of motion was much documented in that show and many of the residues and tools utilized were exhibited as well. In that I found that the magician was leaving a door open to view the illusion. It made me enjoy the trickery even more. I only wish that artists truly aligned with this working method might have more access to viewing these works in this age of video sharing facilities. Perhaps that means rethinking the place and approach to film and animation made for fine art audiences.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

People are still painting (Part 1).

Painting by Yukiyo Miyake

We travelled way into the quiet suburbs of Kyoto. Found our way into the large concrete buildings which housed the graduation show at Kyoto City University of Arts. Slowly worked our way from the ground floor to the top while peaking into doors to discover what art there was. The first room was found only by the accident of going into the wrong building. In a set of connected rooms by the way, we discovered that people were still painting. This was the ‘INTERIM SHOW’. Meaning that these were the students who were only halfway through their MA programme. The canvases were large, still pungent and wet and with great image, colour and aesthetic. Of those approximately 7-8 students I want to look at 2 artists for the contrasts in the kind of imagery being made in Japan now. Yukiko Miyake’s paintings seemed to spring from elements of the country’s manga and anime aesthetic but interestingly she mentioned hardly reading or viewing these media. Miyake’s images reminded us of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away in its large oblong-eyed characters with wispy auras. Perhaps this aesthetic that we attributed solely to anime and manga is more rooted in Japan’s traditional cultures. This must be true as ‘ART’ doesn’t spring fully formed from nowhere.

Still from Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke

This brings me to a question constantly on my mind whenever it comes to art-making: How can the process and aesthetic of making an image reflect essences of a culture. Miyake’s approach shows me that perhaps it should not be constructed or forced but intuitively tapped into so that the resulting images seem to be effortless reflections of culture and context. What would an effortless reflection of Jamaican culture in a painting look like? From the walls of our national art institutions to our commercial galleries, is there work that has succeeded in doing this?

Work by Sekiguchi

In order to get to Miyake’s room however, we had to pass what looked like the scene of a crime. What crime that might be I am not sure but there was a sense that an expressionist painting had exploded and was being contained in this area. The artist, Sekiguchi, brought us into his process. The work indicated a conceptual engagement with the fundamentals of Painting. As strips of colour dangled from the ceiling, landed on canvases and came to rest on the floor. Many paintings were indistinguishable from the walls and floors and then the paintings only became apart of the total space. The room was equally as important as the canvases and the canvases were clearly only arrived at from the work that took place in this space. In local painting exhibitions how do you feel about seeing a space that ‘makes’ the paintings and not vice-versa?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Remembering Kumina

Its funny, though I am a visual artist, I cannot remember going to museums or galleries as a child. The dress-up occasion for my family was going to see the new Pantomime in December and attending the National Dance Theatre Company’s (NDTC) Season of Dance. Though I drifted out of touch with it during my high school and college years my memory was renewed in 2008. Now 17 months in Japan, one of the last cultural events I attended in Jamaica was the NDTC Season of Dance. The performance was more vivid and emotive than I had remembered as a child. I am not sure if it was because I was now better able to appreciate the sounds, the movements, the posture and colours or if it has been refined into a fine art over all these years. I am sure it must be both reasons. In particular I am thinking of the performance of ‘Kumina’.

I only saw Rex Nettleford perform ‘Kumina’ once and then after that each year of seeing the performance I would be reminded by my family that the new dancers were doing ‘Rex’s choreography’. For me that was how the myth of Rex Nettleford began. That 2008 performance was revisiting for me one of the most powerful dance performances I have ever seen. I remembered in those minutes why I began engaging in cultural activity. I have to say that the dancers performing 'Kumina' now, contribute much to the power of that piece. I cannot remember specifically what Nettleford’s performance was like as at that young age as just seeing dance was overwhelming enough but I felt something of an aura still present there in the frenzied drumming, whirling skirts and strong faces. I remember asking during my NDTC attending days how do the dancers know how to do 'Kumina' perfectly each year. As a family of dance outsiders, I never got what I thought was an adequate answer. Perhaps it is just a sign of the strength of the NDTC that I can still wonder this today.

Photos by Peter Ramsey


University of the West Indies Flickr Archive



Friday, January 29, 2010


To borrow from America’s Next Top Model, recently I went on gallery 'go-sees' in Kyoto. With my travel-size portfolio in hand and some long-overdue courage, I set out to find a gallery. The courage was needed as this experience was not one I ever really had to do before in Kingston. In Kingston, the art world is interconnected and every one knows or knows of somebody and their work. Gallery owners or curators are not too far away or out of your reach. This may sometimes be a benefit to the art scene or cause its own set of problems however the gallery portfolio visit was something I managed to avoid. Japan with its specific hierarchical systems and stress on good manner was an interesting start. An artist could be in the process of being rejected and never even know it or better yet, walk away feeling good about their rejection.

Once again this feeling was slightly unfamiliar as my image of portfolio-showing gallery visits was for a long time tied up with memories of the many miserable critiques of art school. Its as though once escaping that system I subconsciously decided never to experience anything similar to that again. I did seem to forget though that they were a necessary part of learning about artistic life. Just as the ‘gallery go-see’ is an important step in introducing yourself to the art community though I only fully realized, this way after school ended. The gallery go-see can be seen in the same way that aspiring models stomp concrete to find their next opportunity and to network. As the world becomes smaller it is equally important in smaller more connected art communities, as in larger metropolises in order to become an art world debutant.

The process of organizing one’s work into coherent story, writing a statement or at least being able to vocalize it clearly is as important as the studio work itself. Yet somehow I allowed myself to slink away from it. Thankfully I decided years ago to channel my energy into entering group shows and applying for grants and awards, and these certainly do their share of developing the administrative muscle. The part that is daunting however is having to constantly face the question of the value placed on your own very personal work. Once you are honest about it however and take a well-considered objective look at the kind of work in the top celebrity gallery’s of New York, London, Tokyo etc. and compare your work, it should prove less intimidating. You may possibly realize that there is some element which needs more work or you will realize that your work is no different or perhaps better on certain levels. The most that will happen is you will gain inspiration to ‘develop your craft’ or gain confidence to go forward.

I will add that before my face to face go-see, I mustered up the courage to send my portfolio out to a few carefully selected galleries in various parts of the world. Interestingly enough, I received kinder responses from New York and London galleries than some other contacts close to home. The perception of what it means to be a curator, dealer, artist may sometime be tied up in the spirit of elitism but that perhaps is an issue for another post. Nevertheless there is no better time to start than now.

Suggested Tools for a gallery go-see:

  1. Copies of your Artists Statement
  2. A portable portfolio with between 12-20 images of a coherent developed recent body of work
  3. A clear idea of what you want to achieve from the go-see (this will help in asking certain questions etc.)
  4. Copies of your artists cv
  5. Business cards (it could be a good idea to use the front of your business card as a space to show an example of your work)

Note: You may choose to go to galleries impromptu and leaving copies of your portfolio and business card or if you would like to speak specifically with the gallerist then an appointment may be appreciated.

Images are stills from Vernissage TV's coverage of Art Basel Miami Beach 2009. In your experience is this an accurate reflection of the artworld?. Watch the whole video here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sheena Rose's Town

What is Town about and how did it get its name?

“Town” is an animation that is about a female figure depicted by myself who decides to go to Bridgetown. She is surrounded by some silhouettes and in them are words, outlining personal problems, thoughts and issues we face in our daily lives. The more I look into the culture of Bridgetown and the behaviour of some Barbadians it could also be said that the words could even represent some forms of gossip. In the end of the animation, I turn into a silhouette to show that I am just like anyone else.

The animation gets it name from when we Barbadians shorten the original name of “Bridgetown”. In Barbados, when we are asking a question pertaining to Bridgetown for example “Where are you going?” to a friend or any person, they would usually answer “I am going to Town.” So I thought it was interesting to just call the animation “Town.”

How did you decide on animation as a medium?

It all started when I was at Barbados Community College. I was studying Contemporary African Art and I studied William Kentridge. I loved his charcoal and the erasing technique. So I wanted to try out animation. I had this idea of treating each frame of the animation as an art piece; each frame is hand drawn and painted. I added newspaper clippings, comic strips, transfers; anything that would make the composition more interesting. I taught myself animation and I am still learning the media

What has the response been like and where have you shown/ exhibited the work?

I have been receiving great responses from many persons such as artists, curators, critics, gallery owners and viewers. Many people told me that the work is an inspiration and it causes them to realise that each person is equal in terms of their own personal problems. I believe they are impressed with how the animation is very playful but still carries a serious message.

“Town” was first shown in the Black Diaspora Symposium Visual Arts early in the year 2009. It was organised by David A. Bailey and the National Art Gallery Committee. It was shown in public in a Pharmacy show window in Bridgetown and it was interesting to see that the animation was actually sited in Bridgetown itself making it almost seem to be part of the surroundings.

After the symposium, Christopher Cozier and Sean Leonard invited me to show “Town” in Alice Yard, Trinidad. It’s a small place that is not a traditional art space but an area where artists, performers, writers and musicians come together to show and discuss art. Most recently, Real Art Ways, in Hartford Connecticut. Now that was really exciting for me because that was my first time participating in anything in the States. I discovered that the exhibition ‘Rockstone & Bootheel” was exhibiting international Caribbean artists, so

this was a very big deal for me.

You spoke about treating the drawings that you use in the animation as independent art works. Tell us some more about that works in terms of exhibiting and selling.

I want persons to see the animations as an art piece; just the same way you look at a painting but in this instance it is moving. In terms of selling the animation that’s a Yes. I would create it as DVDs and I am planning to sell the frame or stills of the animation. Again as I mentioned before each frame is hand drawn and, therefore, they are drawings.

You are now recruiting participants for your new work via Facebook; What will this new work be about and how will you be using these persons?

I used myself in “Town” but I am working on some animations with the same concept so I need more people. I am talking about persons’ problems so therefore I would need other people going through Bridgetown such as young, old, male, female, etc. However, these other animations wouldn’t be exactly like the original. I know these others would be very difficult but I am looking forward to the challenge.

Who are your favourite contemporary artists and how do you want to develop your work?

My favourite contemporary artists are William Kentridge, Robert Rauschenberg, Kara Walker, Christopher Cozier and Ewan Atkinson.

I really like William Kentridge’s work because, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in animations but it’s the way how he treats his animation. The charcoal drawings are fantastic.

I am working on a solo show exhibiting it in Barbados Community College’s gallery for 2010. I am planning to submit the animations in more exhibitions, residencies and film festivals. I am really happy how the process is going so far in term of ideas for the animations and of course the responses from persons. This motivate me to work harder, and exhibiting more of “Town”