|so you, 44" x 65"|
GA Gardner has recently returned to more regular artistic practice in Trinidad after years living and working in the U.S and launched a public project on Facebook called GetThru which functions as an artists think tank. He has also recently opened a show in Washington D.C. His work rests on the thin line between abstraction and reality or abstracted realities and has been described as a 'cacophony of messages' and information derived from mass media. He speaks with us about this work and its link to culture identity.Art:Jamaica: The last time we spoke about your work you were making these collages which cut up source images and reformed them into figures in spaces. How have you made this transition to this newer work?
GA: This has not been a huge transition in the work; the mission and objective are the same. The pieces you are referring to were simply a more surreal approach to the same discussion and this body of work is more of an abstract approach. I have always looked at cultural identity in my work and it continues, but I wanted to speak to a larger audience - not be so specific - and I believe that abstract work has been the answer to this. I am able to discuss colors, lines, culture and contemporary materials without the limitations of figure and form. I can now approach my art in a more conceptual manner. The result is now an explosion of information that is woven together by cultural lines and tells a story about how a group of people are identified, ignored, or celebrated in the media. I continue to recycle what I and others can't make use of in our daily lives. I often take the opportunity to use this material as the foundation for my exploration of color and texture. I love to see how random images can come together and tell a story of a particular time in history and how I can manipulate them to tell my story. I am trying to find myself in the colors and content to re-purpose the materials and to find a way to discuss topics as passionately as the media publishers' materials are intent on doing.
Art:Jamaica: Your work draws these boundaries between abstraction and representation. What is your take on straddling this line? Can they both exist in the same space?
GA: Yes, they can and they often do. I went through a period where I was doing more representational work; I have not always been doing abstract. Now I am focusing on abstracts, but that does not mean that I won't do some more representational work in the future. I don't go with my feelings, I go with the message, then I decide on the medium and approach. I am passionate about color and the deconstruction of color--about lines and the complexity of patterns - and about the randomness of it all. I can accomplish this best with an abstract approach. Most of want I do is made real to viewers as it takes on familiar forms. When you see a piece like "so you" for an example, you see things that are familiar, like the weave patterns that are the basis of most woven craft, or the colors that remind you of the Caribbean. If you see this in the work, it then becomes real to you and less abstract. The randomness of the underlying media material plays second fiddle to the bold colors and geometric woven like patterns. This is when I am able to blur the lines between representation and abstraction.
|Happy Black, 42" x 55"|
Art:Jamaica: Much of the contemporary art in the Caribbean is very representation-based due to many of these artists seeking to question and investigate histories and realities. How does your work navigate these issues and this art scene?
GA: You can only appreciate a sharp image if you have seen a blurry one. If you have too many blurry images in your stories, it is no good and if you have too many sharp images, that's no good either; they complement each other. Often the sharp image will draw you closer to it but the blurry image will make you think more and open a larger dialog, even if the dialog is about whether your eyes are working well. The sharp images to me are representational art, and the blurry images are abstract art. It takes all kinds and all angles to tell our story. My work is about this investigation of culture and how some cultures are left out and struggle to be included in the mainstream media's relevant discussion. It has several components that are related directly to our Caribbean culture and our history as a people. The weaving of materials, for example, is simply a contemporary approach on what our ancestors did to make a living from what was afforded to them. We are a culture that knows how to deal with the things no one wants and make them into something that most can make use of. We did it in all areas of life, from food - using organs and other discarded animal parts for our meal - to clothing, music and many others. I am simply doing this in the arts, I take what is abundant and useless such as discarded media information and discuss a history of a people that then once again becomes appealing to an audience.
Read further about Gardner's recent exhibition below: