In Defense of the Beautiful & Reflections : Mother and Son at Speightstown Branch of Gallery of C’bean Art

Susan: Contemporary Art is moved through a world-wide schedule of art fairs and biennales highly constructed by an establishment that designates its stars, who are rewarded by high price tags on works of questionable expression. These products may or may not stand the test of time when price and value would come into equilibrium.

The artists of the English-speaking Caribbean islands are largely ignored in the rarefied air of this art activity. Few of these artists have been able to step on to the stage of international recognition, to have their works seen or sold at these events. There are a host of reasons for this, but partially responsible is the very strong connection to and representation of the natural environment.

When a curator from North America or Europe looks at a landscape depicting the beauty of our islands, usually the work is dismissed as ?kitsch? or art made as a souvenir for quick tourist sales. True, there is much that is sold that is not really art, but repetitive, stylized representation of easily identifiable icons ? the palm trees, market ladies or beach scenes. However, for contemporary Caribbean artists to divorce themselves from the natural environment in favour of northern urban subjects, pallets and light is bowing to an establishment that resembles the colonial imperialism of our not too distant past.

High colour and contrast saturate our vision every moment that we look outside. While we live in relative peace, our human issues, our politics, our hopes and aspirations also are strong in contrast and dimension. The ?identity search? that purportedly identifies Caribbean contemporary artist is perhaps an imposed ideology.

We know who we are. We are a rich island civilization framed by a synthesis of many peoples and cultures. We are those who have to dig deep into our personal reserve of inner resources to deal with living in a part of the world where making art isn?t easy or convenient. Creativity springs from this inconvenience. We are not recognized within our own cultural milieu as being important contributors, yet we document our diverse and dynamic society within its achingly beautiful natural environment. And we are a people who faithfully rebuild after that same beauty turns on us in a violent hurricane or earthquake and destroys the work of a lifetime.

So when a Caribbean collector purchases a work of art from ?home? he is not just buying something to decorate his walls. He is proclaiming with his dollars that this art work has great value. He is defying the deeply entrenched notion that whatever comes from ?away? is intrinsically better than what is produced locally. He is casting his vote of confidence to the further building of this West Indian civilization that in terms of human development is a shining example to the rest of the world.

Therefore, I present this body of work of the beautiful Caribbean, with no apology.

Asher: When approaching the Caribbean experience the sea of content is vast and deep. In this body of work I have chosen to approach the composition of the Caribbean through portraiture. To look at a portrait is to reflect on an instant of self. In someone else?s eyes you see your own. When you perceive a moment in time through the painting, you are then transported to your own instance in time. A familiar smell, sound or feeling — the image provokes you to your own moment. In this moment there exists a reflection of self. There is introspection; an examination of who you are in relation to the image you are viewing. With a history in the Caribbean of colonial self-negation, to be able to examine, understand, and promote selfhood is a triumph.

Some of the paintings in this body have the appearance of being incomplete. In this I am playing with the idea of how we perceive things through memory or how we may view something in fragments. The drummer drums, and the only thing you remember about it is how the hands looked in the middle of the beat. The whole fades and surrenders to a look or glance.

Icons and images from Bob Marley to La Diablesse have influenced me as an artist. Overarching in this body is the idea that as an artist I am giving you my eyes as lenses with which to look through. To see the portrait is to see the artist rather than the subject. To reflect on the painting is to reflect on your self through the lenses of the artist.
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