'Plum Line' wins Aaron Matalon Award
Erin Hansen, Gleaner Writer
The National Biennial, the premier national art exhibition for Jamaican artists, opened its fifth edition last weekend at the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) with a collection of pieces from more than 80 artists.
The NGJ asked well-established Jamaica-born artists and artists currently residing in Jamaica to submit works for this year's National Biennial.
From those submissions, a panel of judges, representative of stakeholders in the art community, chose what would finally be made a part of the Biennial.
The National Biennial also provides the opportunity to present the Aaron Matalon Award for artistic achievement and the NGJ chief curator, David Boxer, took special note of the 2008 winner, Philip Thomas, whose work 'Elegy' was on display for the exhibition.
The 2010 winner of the Aaron Matalon Award for artistic achievement went to Jamaica-born artist Laura Facey for her mixed media assemblage, 'Plumb Line'.
The work consists of large needle-shaped cedar pins aligned in a half circle, a tulip-shaped pendulum and the soothing drumming of a Rastafarian nine night over a public announcement system.
The piece is said to celebrate the symbolic and formal potential of tool forms.
Remarkable pieces reflecting current Jamaican events and culture are shown in such works as Belize-born Roktowa artist Hubert Neal Jr's 'The Hunt For Dudus', and Ebony G. Patterson's 'Christ and Co. (Gonzales Christ Revised and Extended)'.
Jamaican artist Petrona Morrison utilised video and photography for her work 'Jamaica 2010', a large-scale piece that consumes the white walls of an entire room with the blue glow of video imagery. Those images show topographical perspectives of Jamaica and the 360-degree view of what is presumably a young Jamaican man. The installation also showed video footage, newspaper clippings and photographs from the May incursion in West Kingston. One blank wall was tagged with the lyrics: "Have you seen me Clarks."
Works using a less traditional palette were created on the pages of books. The chief curator's own work, 'Predella: A Baconian Adventure in Velaquez Court', illustrated meticulous paintings over the dusty pages of an archaic illustrated book while K. Khalfani Ra used wax and acrylic over Bible pages for 'Paradise A.D. or Tasmanian Devil, the Great Taboo'.
Khalfani Ra's piece was interesting as it challenged viewers to look at the images from both up close and from a distance of 20 or more feet. The painting appeared a blur anywhere in-between.
Other pieces on display
Many other pieces were on display including works from painter JudyAnn MacMillan, film-maker Storm Saulter, mixed-media artists Caroline 'Bops' Sardine, Jasmine Thomas Girvan and Sandra L. Brown, photographers Marlon James and Cosmo Whyte and the playful diorama of David Marchand titled 'The Insistence of Permanence'.
Executive director of the National Gallery, Veerle Poupeye, noted in her opening comments for the Biennial that "it has been a turbulent two years since we last held the Biennial".
Referring particularly to Jamaica's art community, she said: "It has been two years of many passages." Tribute was also paid to the late John Maxwell who recently passed and served as the NGJ's chairman from 1977-1980.
Some young artists in attendance were eager to contribute to future Biennials after seeing the exhibition. One artist, Anthony 'Afoy' Miller, told The Gleaner that his art helped him to express the things he couldn't say and he hoped to have his pieces on the National Gallery walls some day.
The National Biennial will be open for viewing at the National Gallery of Jamaica from now until March 2011.