Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world," said Mahatma Gandhi, Indian freedom fighter, apostle of peace. In his words, the change, begins from within, ten young artists are taking the step, to break stereotype, experiment and query.
Displayed at the The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) at New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition, the artists are out to make a bold statement, jumping out the box and breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.NCJ, in a bid to support and attract new and emerging talent has organised this exhibition. "The gallery is excited to unveil a show that will surprise, challenge and hearten the arts community and broader society," said Veerle Poupeye, executive director of NGJ.
The exhibition features work by Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, The Girl and the Magpie, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter and Ikem Smith.
A walk through the exhibition transits from awe to grotesque to the subtle - encased in conventional and new media - painting in various media and on various surfaces, digital photography, video and animation, jewellery and a variety of genres and styles.
Defying tradition are pieces by artists that invite the visitors to put their inferences, to stick abstract pieces of paper or express their emotions on the gallery wall, 'graffiti' style.
No Deliberate Themes
"There are no deliberate themes in the exhibition, but the title, 'New Roots' was chosen, with some ironic intent, to signal how the works reflect the current cultural moment," Nicole Smythe-Johnson, senior curator at NGJ informed.
The artists, Symthe-Johnson informed, all are relatively new to the local art world, and are under the age of 40 years. "The exhibition is designed to identify and encourage new directions in the Jamaican art world," she said.
The directions are diverse, from life's journey of multiple amputee Joshua Brown, captured in photographs by self-taught photographer Varun Baker, a wee bit grotesque peek into dentures, jutting like stalagmite and stalactite by Gisele Gardner, to acrylic portraits on sandwich bags by Camille Chedda or Matthew McCarthy mocking the 'socialite' culture - transforming the gallery walls with larger-than-life graffiti.
"The artists are making a bold statement, and it is also a path-breaking initiative by the gallery," said Monique Barnett-Davidson, curatorial assistant at NCJ. "As the artists and their works move away from convention, it is also defining their inference of the society at large and issues facing it."
Smythe-Johnson added that the exhibition also reflects a new willingness on the part of the artists to intervene actively in the social environment. "They have done it in a way that reflects genuine social responsibility, empathy and respect for others, and a sense of humour.
"They have reflected a moment of undeniable crisis, globally and locally, in which the older, postcolonial search for cultural affirmation (and 'roots') has been replaced by a new willingness to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty and instability," elaborated Smythe-Johnson.
The 10 artists represent a generation that is working silently towards realising their goals and building a path of their life, their acumen could be aptly summarised by Apple's founder Steve Jobs: "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ... because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Photos by Amitabh Sharma