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Stabroek News

Art power unleashed
published: Sunday | June 10, 2007


Nevine Salmon's 'Global Breach' (stoneware, coiled and pinched form) complemented her immaculate works including mixed-media wall hangings and functional pieces. - Photo by Anthea McGibbon

Anthea McGibbon, Gleaner Writer

THE EDNA Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has stepped up a notch, at least through the presentation of the work of its visual arts final-year students.

Last Saturday, 31 emerging artists opened an exhibition to 'Exhale the Arts', and instead created an atmosphere ofdynamics for visitors in preparation to take Jamaica into new international arenas of contemporary art.

And so it came to pass that anxious patrons, who long before 6:00 p.m. turned out for the preliminaries, which included the humbling speech of Spanish Ambassador Jesús Silva, were not disappointed when they invaded rooms with the displayed art.

After years of inconsistencies in quality, this year's showing, which reflected collective strength in creativity, design, display, and message by the various departments, was well received.

Overall, the works which reflect strong influence of the tutors, particularly in the painting and textile departments, demonstrate the independent minds of the catalogued young artists who went beyond merely reproducing their lessons.

The result? Bold, creative memoirs in all areas. However, the Jewellery and Ceramics departments created the most impact. Ironically, these departments produced only one graduate.

Explorations of jewellery

Jewellery master and instructor Garth Sanguinetti exhaled excellence through his student, Kima Francis. Francis brought together more than kinetic forces in her explorations of jewellery - creating them as an art form that she fully understands - instead of mere body adornments. In her pieces, she travels to India and back with techniques such as filigree, anodising, etching, and even macramé.

The favourites were the brooches (BOX 1), the geometric shapes (BOX2) and tennis bracelet (BOX3) and were the result of Francis' patience with brass, copper, aluminium and silver. In the outside display box, two clean cut cufflinks, a tie slide and a buckle convinced us of her professional worth, surpassing requirements of an average jewellery store. Indeed, Francis is ready for larger jewellery challenges in theatre decor.

Nevine Salmon displays the strength of the collective exhibition - the interactive relationship between departments - making good use of other disciplines of art.

Salmon, whose immaculately finished pieces were morean investigation of her worth in a changing world, explores wider issues such as post-colonialism and how it affected her African family. The outcome: a memorable clay biography. Each piece, varying in design and style, particularly 'Soliloquy', 'Pleasures of Exile', and "Persistent states of Inertia" are worth collecting.

In the textiles department, where students focus on weaving tapestry, and surface decoration through printing techniques, graduating student Hamilton, Shantal Smith and Collen Bartley mimic patterns from nature and represent cultures in their fashionable fabrics converted to curtains, clothing, and bed sets.

Painting department

In the painting department, creative energy was undoubtedly unleashed in the form of blatant, but radical criticisms of life - tensions between male and female, the treatment of women, hypocrisies of humankind, the intimidations and fears of the artists themselves by society.

Camille Chedda and Ainsworth Case are radically dominant in their testimonies. While Chedda relives the abuse of the transatlantic slave trade, auction block and subsequent colonialism, Case attacks the 'fresh meat' syndrome viciously spreading the dancehall culture of Jamaican society. Female body parts are offered - slabbed, hooked - as bold as his brush strokes, provoking introspection. In 'Waiting', a body dissected at the knees is positioned to satisfy the sexual needs of a man. The treatment of the chopped knees, with no indication of blood, depicts how numb women have become to the abuse as they make sacrifices to please their men. Brenton Campbell further questions why the white woman with all her faults is still more glorified above even the most attractive black woman. He also offers this as a reason why more black men are being played by cultural women.

The weakness of the painting department is tha they convinced of their talent, there is evident lack of some realities, such as creating balance between self-expression, self-gratification and ultimate client sensitivities. Perhaps next year the college can introduce a course to teach students business sense that will enable them to survive in a professional environment, especially after facing the financial challenges of final year.

Visual Communications Department

The Visual Communications Department excelled at this, spending time to promote their products.

Nonetheless, the students collectively showed innovation and skills, two important planks to survival in the business world. This was evidenced by the well-thought-out logos of a few, impacting in both black and white and colour versions, such as 'The Visual Ideas Studio'.

Similarly, the photographers and printmakers delivered, and in good time. Of the stronger booths, the more effective sellers were the Christian entertainment company of Brandon Gunning, the visual ideas studio of Floyd Brown, and Danielle McGregor's restaurant. Again, the raw experience of Carlian Smith demonstrating the common thread of experimental manipulations across varying disciplines of the arts gave more than a thrill. As much thrill as the electrical relief light boxes of Keshena Scott, in her focus of powerful women worldwide.

In his earlier address to the packed music auditorium, Ambassador Silva, from the homeland of world-renowned prolific artist Pablo Picasso, expressed his objective to push a strong social intellectual space for the arts. As such, the trained lawyer already is negotiating cultural and business exchanges aimed at redeeming the economic state of Jamaica, restoring heritage, and maintaining balance between the Spanish and Jamaican communities.

A far cry from the early '90s and beyond when Jamaica's corporate and artistic leaders flocked the show for hiring talent, the presence of potential employees was sadly lacking. Nonetheless, there was good support for the dynamism of the 2007 graduates who collectively are a refreshing angle to the existing shape of established artists.

Anthea McGibbon, a graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, has over 10 years' experience in the fields of journalism and the arts. Contact her at islandartattack@yahoo.co.uk or anthea.mcgibbon@gleanerjm.com.

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