Sun | May 28, 2017

Jamaica Biennial strikes a creative crescendo

Published:Sunday | February 1, 2015 | 2:00 AM
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Transporter 8', installation by Charles Campbell at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'No - Painting' by Tina Spiro and 'Philovisualizer I' by Xayvier Haughton (right) at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Wholesale Degradables' by Camillle Chedda at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma A view of Jamaica Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Watershed' by Deborah Anzinger at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Star or Star's' by David Marchand at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma A socio-economic commentary on the IMF by Phillip Thomas at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Spirit Bundle' by Omari Ra at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'Town' (a video still) and'Many Street' (right) by Barbados-based artist Sheena Rose at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Finding Black, inspired by political soundbites, by Trinidad-based artist Richard Mark Rawlins at Jamaica Biennial.
Photo by Amitabh Sharma 'World Boss' by Christopher Irons at Jamaica Biennial.
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Dreams, they say, are made of myriad emotions, splashed with hues that resonate and amplify - the Jamaica Biennial strikes that chord, only the manifestation of those dream sequences pan before one's open eyes.

From the breathtaking to the awe-inspiring, subtle and the forthright - Jamaica Biennial 2014 presents all the manifestations that dreams are likely to be made of.

"The Biennial is, by virtue of how it is organised, a very diverse and eclectic exhibition," said Veerle Poupeye, executive director of the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ).

"But," she added, "Every year, some shared themes emerge, and usually, these constitute responses to current events and circumstances, in Jamaica and globally."

There is a strong focus on the politics of representation, highlighting the racial tensions

arising from the Ferguson incidents in the United States; the continued local struggles with socio-economic inequality and crime and violence; and the global atmosphere of conflict and turmoil.

"Some works respond directly to these issues," Poupeye said. " For instance, Camille Chedda's reflection on extrajudicial killings or Phillip Thomas' satirical comments on our travails with the IMF, while others provide more general reflections that focus on the broader historical and philosophical context, such as Charles Campbell's 'Transporter 8' installation."

These responses are across the board and across media, with technology being the new kid on the block.

"There is a strong representation of digital media, namely still photography and video," the NGJ executive director said. "We have an unprecedented total of 11 video-based entries this year."

This trend, she said, is consistent with general trends in contemporary art globally.

"We are also using QR codes to give viewers access to a virtual project by Matthew McCarthy and to video footage of a performance by The Girl and the Magpie, which took place at the opening function," she informed.

Traditional media still remains the preferred elements of choice.

"There is excellent representation from more traditional media: representational and abstract painting, ceramics, wood and stone sculpture, and fibre art. The latter is particularly exciting to us, since fibre art had not been well represented in previous exhibitions and has a lot of potential for further development in the contemporary art context," Poupeye said.

This diversity of media has brought a confluence of artists and expansion of the Biennial's footprints.

"We have made a number of changes. One is to rebrand: the event is now the Jamaica Biennial, from previously the National Biennial," she informed.

"The NGJ's main collaboration is with Devon House, which is the NGJ's original home," she said. "We also collaborated with the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, who funded the production of Blue Curry's project."

A team of young artists worked with Blue Curry, to support his project on the streets of downtown Kingston. Similarly, a team of young artists worked with Ebony Patterson to produce her installations at Devon House. There were also two performances - Matthew McCarthy's Regal Zeen project and The Girl and the Magpie with the eNKompan.E dance troupe.

Poupeye said that NGJ invited six international artists to contribute special projects: Renee Cox, who is of Jamaican descent; Sheena Rose, from Barbados; Richard Mark Rawlins from Trinidad; Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque from Martinique; Blue Curry from The Bahamas and the United Kingdom; and James Cooper from Bermuda.

"This adds some strong and innovative statements to the range of artistic voices in the Biennial and also allows us to recognise and encourage the regional and international dialogues that are shaping the development of Jamaican art," she said.

One of the major transformations is that the Biennial is shown at the NGJ, with smaller satellite exhibitions at Devon House and at the National Gallery West in Montego Bay.

"Yes, I am a dreamer," once said Oscar Wilde. "For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."

As time unfolds, the executive director of NGJ said the objective is to make Jamaica Biennial to become an international calendar event, which helps to promote the development and exposure of Jamaican art more effectively.

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com