Robyn Miller, Sunday Gleaner Writer
That praises were heaped on O'Neil Lawrence from every quarter last Thursday evening did not entirely come as a surprise.
That they came from the likes of the prolific artist, Veerle Poupeye, executive director of the National Gallery, in words such as "brilliant artist", is worth mentioning.
And a stellar performance it was, from the young and promising artist at the Mutual Gallery and Art Centre on Oxford Road in St Andrew.
His first solo effort, and the 'Son of A Champion' did not disappoint the huge turnout of sponsors, lecturers, former classmates and other art faithfuls who, according to Wayne Chen whose Super Plus Food Stores are part sponsors of the event, "is as a result of O'Neil's terrific work".
Of his 15-piece black-and-white digital photo print and pigment on rag paper compilation, the graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts described the autobiographical work as a "progression".
in the shadow of greatness
It is a progression that ensues in a relationship between father and son, beginning with the overpowering image of his chiselled bodybuilder father in 'Son of a Champion 1'.
"Most men who grow up with their father have this spiritual relationship with them," Lawrence explained to the The Sunday Gleaner, "they'll have questions, do I want that? Is this really who I want to be?"
Glancing back at his father's towering figure, Lawrence, kneeling, continues that progression in what bears semblance to a child in adoration of his father, in his rendition of 'Son of a Champion 2', the medium here being pigment on rag paper.
As the artist's life story unfolds, the equally strikingly toned Lawrence comes face to face with the enormity of his larger-than-life father, Mr Bodybuilder 1966, who he tries at every turn to emulate.
Imitating his every move, he finally confronts him.
That confrontation and eventual self-actualisation materialises in a beautifully executed video presentation in the form of 'Son of a Champion 9'.
Here, a pensive Lawrence, sitting on the shores, rises, flexes his muscles, then peels off his boxers and strolls into the calm of the ocean, but not before mimicking his father's moves one final time as the older Lawrence's image appears to mock him.
Snippets of the artist's life in the video create nostalgia and builds up nicely on the progression which the artist sets out to achieve, until acceptance is gained to the very end with 'Son of a Champion 15'.
Lawrence's body of work is fraught with complexities, the kind that every child encounters as he struggles to achieve his own identity.
A pleased curator at Mutual Galleries, Gilou Bauer, summed up the importance of the exhibition.
"It's a very important exhibition insofar as giving introspection to the different aspects of his life (Lawrence's) with his father. There are so many different things that can happen between a father and son, especially when you have a father like he had."
The talented Lawrence was the winner of the Jury Prize in the Super Plus Under-40 Artist of the Year Competition in 2011.
His 'Son of a Champion' exhibition will be open to the public until July 20.