‘Inna Visual Stylee’ serves tasty stew of dance, movement, colour and Cliff
Art enthusiasts were given a treat on Saturday (October 7), at the opening of a two-day exhibition by one of Jamaica’s pre-eminent artists, Joshua Higgins, focused on the musical genres of reggae, dancehall and rock steady and centred on the essential spirit of reggae icon Jimmy Cliff as well as a range of Jamaica dance forms such as Mento, Dinkimini, Kumina and more modern popular Afro-Jamaican expressions at the AC Hotel by Marriott on Lady Musgrave Road.
Jamaica’s music and dance are phenomenal expressions of the country’s aesthetic spirit, renowned globally as reflecting the relentless energy, rhythm, movement, and emotional range of Jamaican life. Higgins’ exhibition, replete with music, ecstatic drumming and libations to the ancestors, did justice to the theme, primarily composed of works in the hands of private collectors and his latest masterpiece, “Spirit of Cliff” a montage of the singer in various iterations
Guest speaker at the opening Dr Brian Morgan, a renowned art collector, recounted Higgins life in art, first coming to public attention as a precocious talent when he won the Kaiser (Bauxite Company) Exhibition in St Ann in 1978, adjudicated by the great Barrington Watson, who would go on to be a major influence on Higgins at the then Jamaica School of Art. Morgan was later praised by Higgins for his role as benefactor of the arts, avidly purchasing the works of young artists.
“I took a chance on these artists. Every Friday, Joshua and others would come with their works, and I would purchase the best of them. Of course, Joshua’s was the best,” .Morgan said, while bemoaning the mass migration of Jamaican artists who have limited outlets for their work at home.
MOTHER INSPIRED HIM
In his comments at the opening, Higgins gave credit for his pursuing art to his late mother, Lillian Higgins, who supported his schooling and inspired him to her last breath to become an artist. “She is why I am able to stand before you this evening presenting my work,” Higgins noted. He called for more support to be given to artists, noting that art had an intrinsic value to “civilising society”. “If as they say ‘music soothes the savage beast’ within us, then I firmly believe art provides balm to the soul. It is good medicine for what ails our country at this time,” Higgins noted, positing that the arts were fundamental to advancing a truly developed society.
“I made the effort to display the pieces you see here in a professional setting comparable to what you see in developed countries that appreciate art. I don’t subscribe to the ben down bazar type of art display as it depreciates the value of art. There is a role for that kind of display, but there must also be other forms,” Higgins said. Giving some insight to his own success as an artist, Higgins, whose works are displayed in museums, corporate offices, universities, and among discriminating private collectors, noted that he did not sell a lot of original works, preferring to make prints that were more affordable and offered a business model, which he recommended to existing and aspiring artists. He has also recently branched off into a kind of “wearable art” with clothing for men and women based on some of his works.
A large turnout of art lovers was on hand, including members of the diplomatic community, academia, business, and students. The room was transformed into a vibrant gallery throbbing to the sounds of master drummers Calvin Mitchell and Philip Supersad and a selection of great Jamaican music.