Expressions of mysticism
'Be the change that you wish to see in the world', Mahatma Gandhi's quote resonated in the air as an eclectic mix of cultural identities and spirituality took the centrestage at Consciousness Rising Jamaica.
The exhibition, an amalgamation of the scenes from the journeys of artist Valerie Beaumont, who goes by the name of Roark, inspired by the people and their practices around the world.
"This is my life's journey," says Roark, walking through her exhibition. A journey that began after she got married, which took her from Bangkok to Peshawar and places in between.
She attributes her creations to a higher level of mysticism and consciousness - hence the name for the exhibition.
"We were in Thailand," she recalled. "Buddhism is a major religion there and the monks who used to pray and meditate every day left a lasting impression in my mind."
Consciousness Rising spans regions and decades, charting Roark's work from 1989 to the present.
The works include Aids Tango, painted in 1989, which she says is a depiction of the world of casual sex in the 1980s when AIDS was not considered a threat to the immediacy of pleasure.
The focus on women and their transition in different cultures are highlighted in Saturday Night in Hat Yai (2002) and Patpong Circus (2002).
The works, she said, are a byproduct of the coming together of the physical and the metaphysical being, having experienced different world cultures.
Roark, a graduate of the Jamaica School of Art (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts), who went to do her post graduate studies at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico, returned home to Jamaica and it is here, she informed, that she had a spiritual awakening.
This inspired her to paint Morning Meditation in 2002, and also opened her mind to spiritual practice.
The confluence with the mystical reverberated in her subsequent works, when she started practicing Reiki, a Japanese therapy for healing that employs touch. Back in Jamaica from her travels, she painted Mystic Vibration (2009) and Reiki Angel (2010),
"These themes continue to interest me as I continued to seek the wider transcendental experience through its aspects of light, serenity and peace," Roark said, pointing to her 2013 piece Illumined.
Roark, through the exhibition, is also seeking a discussion through her 'I am changing Jamaica by Changing Myself' campaign. The tagline is 'Ask Me How?'. This is not a magical weight-reduction formula, but according to Roark, it is a question that every Jamaican needs to ask himself or herself.
"I drive around with the 'Change Myself' branding and people ask me what this all about," the artist said, adding that she hopes to make a difference one day.
For Beaumont, the two dimensions of the canvas are not the end points of the painting; it goes beyond, to be viewed from the heart.
"To create art simply makes my heart sing," she says. "It is to create realities that lie behind the faÁade of the everyday world.
"All we need to do is to look with different eyes, and open hearts."
As her works touch upon spirituality, Roark also emphasises good values and belief in self to rise above troubled waters. This change in perception and values is critical.
"What we need in Jamaica is a change in consciousness," says Roark. "Many of our problems are largely self-created and we need to stop blaming the Government for everything, and look within, at our own behaviour for solutions."
Change, at end of the day, is the only constant.