A treasure trove of art in ‘The Attic’
Driving into the hills for recreational purposes is one of my favorite past-times. So much so that I was excited when I received an invitation to attend a Kingston On The Edge (KOTE) exhibition at ‘The Attic’ in Stony Hill.
My excitement faded a bit when we turned unto Gibson Road on the hilly terrain looking down the meandering precipice hundreds of feet below. However, with nature at its best on sides of the road, accompanied by lush green vegetation and clear blue skies amid several stops trying to find our way, we arrived at our destination.
An ‘Attic’ indeed! The quaint wooden and stone structure, atop a neatly coordinated staircase presented an inviting and rustic atmosphere for us … the weary travellers.
Mbala, poet and drummer was the consummate host as he shared his creative space with fellow visual artist Judith Salmon. Mbala presented seven pieces using portraits that he blended using masks and mixed media including paper mache combined with wood, stone, wire, and metal.
“Sometimes you find objects that suggest the things you can do with them. Basically, the object dictates what the piece will morph into,” Mbala said.
Mbala’s artistic journey began with the Spanish Town-based Self Theatrical Movement. It continued at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, and in drama groups such as Sistren Theater Collective, where he was a set designer, costume designer, graphic designer, and musician.
He is a member of Akwaaba de Drummers, the acoustic quartet Naseberry Jazz and, with flautist/saxophonist Hugh ‘Papi’ Pape, The Papiumba Big Band which, despite its name, is a duet. Mbala’s work has been published in several anthologies including Focus 83, Wheel And Come Again: An Anthology Of Reggae Poetry, and Voiceprint.
The accomplished vice-president of The Poetry Society of Jamaica said he also incorporated his love for the art form into his work. This was evident as most of the pieces were creatively draped with the use of words and objects.
“As a poet, I have tried to blend poetry with the visual arts. I write on my work,” Mbala said.
Salmon’s assemblages’ and mixed-print paintings created the perfect twining to Mbala’s works. Although not a significant body of her work, Salmon showcased a few pieces using different approaches including sewing, printing, and collages, a combination of clay masks and even brown paper bags.
As an artist who has drawn deeply from the diasporic experience, Salmon’s work and subject matter sits comfortably across these themes. “I used common everyday objects uplifting them to a higher status as we strive to encourage persons to appreciate the fine arts. I usually work in a series using things that people throw away,” Salmon said.
Salmon, who studied painting and printmaking at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in Chicago, Illinois, had her first solo exhibition at the Olympia International Art Centre in Kingston in 1977. Over the years, she has received several awards for painting from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
When we began the descent from the hills, we were quite pleased that we had remained focused on our journey and had found this quaint little place nestled in Stony Hill. It was indeed an evening well spent.