Michael Robinson, Gleaner Writer
'Active Memory I-III' by Khepera Hatsheptwa. - Photo by Michael Robinson
Mutual Gallery's 'Young Generation' show is an exhibition of artists 'young' in the professional practice of their respective discplines. While their actual ages vary widely, the eleven artists on display have all been dabbling in the professional arena of Jamaican art for a decade or less.
'Young Generation 2008', the latest instalment of the annual event, opened last Thursday and features mostly Edna Manley College (EMC) alumni, with the exception of self-taught painter Deryck Campbell. Campbell is no stranger to exhibiting and has participated in solo and group shows both locally and in the United States.
In a gallery full of bas-relief and high-relief mixed media pieces, Campbell's work is decidedly two-dimensional. His colours are soft and harmonious. His use of line gives his portraits of life a quiet charm like 'Musical Granny'. Another piece, 'Ms Popular', is a whimsical take on the club scene and the universal attraction of a big-bottomed woman.
In contrast to Campbell's small-scale works, on the other side of the room Ebony Patterson's work takes up all kinds of cubic footage. A pile of '220 Red Clitorises' sit atop a two-foot high pedestal. Next to that are two large 'Appendages' stitched together from sanitary napkins and other materials. Add to that a sequinned breast resting on a five-foot high pedestal and Patterson's corner reads like a cross between gothic pop art and a forensics scene. The work is arresting and thought provoking.
Conceptual depth is apparent in all the pieces in the show. Clearly, none of these artists chose the traditional representational route. What is represented here, however, are the internal states of the creators and their perspectives.
Khepera Hatsheptwa has chosen triumph over challenges by using items recovered from her razed home to create the three-part series 'Active Memory'. The items, she reveals in her statement, "are used to create a new language by their burnt, altered condition, having transcended their former purpose". The sentiment represents her own transcendence to a point of power over what, for some, could be considered a tragedy.
One of the few non-painters in the show, Oneil Lawrence, has two photographs on display, 'Awakening' and 'Recriminations'. Lawrence delves into issues of race, identity and culture with these compositions. Three figures of different races and sexes hold various poses at the base of a corroded shipwreck. According to the EMC-trained graphic artist and photographer, they represent different emotional states resulting from cultural duality and the impact of slavery and the Middle Passage - alluded to by the deteriorating ship.
Food for thought
The collages of Nicole Risden also tackle similar issues. Her 'We Are Foreigner' depicts a black girl with a noticeably absent parent figure substituted by an empty chair. In the background, a mother and child seem to be bonding as they journey through time. The piece is punctuated by the ace-of-spades symbol in the top right corner. The spade recalls a derogatory term for black folks that was more widely used in America a scant few decades ago. But the ace of spades is also a trump card, commonly denoted as the highest card in the deck. Risden has left viewers with some food for thought.
Many of the pieces seem to plumb personal depths as the artists deal with issues directly affecting them. By working it out on canvas (or paper, or hardboard) they are showing us there are other ways to address frustration or loneliness or insecurities, or any of the diseases of the human condition.
'Door of Phenomenon II' is a series by Robert Joyette. The former EMC painting graduate sent his work from St Vincent where he currently resides. The door, he says, is a portal to life and all the challenges it brings. Being a cycle, we are always on that path of choices and consequences. For Joyette, it is an exhilarating, all-encompassing journey which, he admits, is sometimes intimidating.
Keisha's Castello's journey into self has seen her work exhibited all over the globe, including Mexico and the United Kingdom. 'Garrison Hole - Who Dead, Two Fish Head' consists of fifteen panels made to stand as individual pieces or as a unit. The panels are made up of what appear to be bits and pieces of tubes and have an organic feel that is reminiscent of internal organs. The white lends a sterility to the piece that belies the complication implied by the oozing tubes.
Mutual Gallery has established a tradition of annually showcasing the latest offerings of the 'Young Generation'. The show is important because, while nothing can accurately determine the course of art, particularly among the young professionals, it is a good dipstick indication of where this aspect of contemporary Jamaican art stands. It also gives air to the ideas and creations of a tented segment of our art scene that is usually underexposed.
Other artists in the exhibition are Michelle Bright Chin-See, Sheldon Blake, Oliver Myrie and Michaela Lee.
The exhibition runs until April 5, 2008.