The Jamaica Cultural Development's (JCDC) annual Visual Arts Exhibition is now open for public viewing at The Jamaica Conference Centre, Downtown. It runs until December 22 and opens from 10am to 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays. While there, I had the chance to catch up with Sana Rose, JCDC's Visual Arts Specialist at the exhibition last week. We spoke about many things related to The Arts in Jamaica and how the Visual Arts Exhibition fits within that scope. With the unfortunate closing of The Mutual Gallery earlier this year in an art system as small as ours is in Jamaica, each organization serves a specific and vital role.
I asked her how she felt the exhibition fit within the scope of the current art scene. She explained that in her years spent working on the annual exhibition, she has come to understand that there are different pathways for visual artists in Jamaica and the JCDC presents one such option. The JCDC's Visual Arts Exhibition doesn't seek to achieve what The Mutual Gallery did with its contemporary edge geared towards collectors; or what The National Gallery does with its expansive shows designed to reflect the current climate and document and highlight past moments. The JCDC provides access and encouragement for both trained and untrained artists in the early stages of a career or who operate outside Jamaica's more established and sometimes more elite art system. We spoke about a realization that The JCDC'S Visual Arts Exhibition reflected also a different Art model within the cultural landscape and that the artists in the show benefit by embracing it as a show which frames creative output in another way.
As a former JCDC Merit awardee myself, while first studying at art college, I can agree that The JCDC's role at the time for me was to provide an outlet to showcase ideas I was not sure had worth and to build the esteem of a young artist trying to work things out what Art was. The show this year was presented in a way that did not highlight the clear differences between so called amateur art and career artists. This was interesting as you could see the legacy that artists of older generations had on these artists who ranged from age 6 to adulthood.
Antwain Clarke's narrative conceptual drawing, 'Fermentation' shows connections to artists who have shown regularly at The National Gallery such as Roberta Stoddart, Khary Darby and Phillip Thomas. The drawings framing of its small figures shown frozen in the midst of activities in an imagined world, while the environment holds the keys to the mystical story. Stephan Shedrowitz's assemblaged sculpture, 'Mama Maria: Protector of Lost Souls' reminds me of a tiny African deity scaled up to human size. The sculpture also reveals various entry points for viewers to begin thinking about its story. On the other side of the Sculpture/ Assemblage category is Jermaine Morgan's on trend platform heel shoes but the twist is that it is made completely of mackerel tins. Dwight Larmond's Ruins of War, evoke American artist, Leon Golub's work while documenting the politically-charged current events in Jamaica. The painting's use of a stlye similar to the look of documentary photojournalism hints at the role of the media in such problematic events.Morgan's 'Tin Boom: Hot & Spicy' does make us think harder about how much raw material the creation of art uses and how artists can better think about better environmental efficiency. Michelle Lee Lambert's paper work shows another side to the creativity that is currently happening in Jamaica. Her work 'On the Pond', uses layers of washes of thin paint on textured paper surface to create a soft impression of the natural occurrence of light reflecting on water's surface. Lambert's work finds familiarity with noted artists Monet, Rothko and also local artist Tricia Gordon's work. It is also good to see that there is still interest in Painting.
There is so much to look at with this exhibition that it is so difficult to discuss it all here. What showed however was that the Art that those in the youth category had the facility to make these days has become much more expansive. It is also interesting to see how photography has taken off as a way for people to express and document this culture. The show in general has an overtone of humour towards life, awareness and curiosity about creative activity in various forms and pride in documenting local life and environments. There is also outside the exhibition space, an ongoing painting which the public can participate in to add to the general air of the encouragement of creativity. Have you seen the exhibition? What did you think? What other kinds of organizations does the creative industry in Jamaica need?