The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to partner with the Edna Manley College’s 2013 Rex Nettleford Arts Conference by presenting a panel discussion on the critical issues arising from its current New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition. This panel discussion will take place at the National Gallery on Friday, October 18 from 11 am to 12:30 pm and the panel will consist of Matthew McCarthy, one of the artists in the exhibition, Petrona Morrison, the Director of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Arts, and the exhibition curators Veerle Poupeye, O’Neil Lawrence, and Nicole Smythe-Johnson.
New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists, which was recently extended to November 2, 2013, 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 who are all under 40 years old and new or relatively new to the Jamaican art world. New Roots was designed to identify and encourage new directions in the Jamaican art world, in keeping with the National Gallery’s mandate to support artistic development and to provide opportunities for young artists. It features are in conventional and new media – painting in various media and on various surfaces, digital photography, video and animation, and jewellery – and a variety of genres and styles, from the documentary to the fantastic. The exhibition reflects marked shifts in artistic and curatorial practice that respond to the current global and local cultural moment, especially with regards to the changing relationship between art work, artist and audience, and it presents new perspectives on art’s potential to foster social transformation in a time of crisis.
Detail of Matthew McCarthy’s interactive Put Dis on Page 2 installation
Admission to the NGJ will be free on October 18 and free guided tours of the New Roots exhibition will be offered before and after the panel discussion. Conference registration is not required to attend this panel discussion. For more on the Rex Nettleford Arts Conference, please click here.
Matthew McCarty – I Took the Liberty of Designing One (2013)
We are pleased to present the opening remarks delivered by Petrona at the opening of New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists on July 28, 2013.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to share some observations on what is an exciting and challenging exhibition. This exhibition is significant in a number of ways. The National Gallery has had a long history of providing opportunities for artists to show work which challenge prevailing ideas and reflect new thinking, as seen in the Young Talent exhibitions. This exhibition, however, is groundbreaking in that it presents bodies of work which do not have the curatorial framing based on chronology, and presents the body of work on its own terms. This is the realisation of the concept of the “project space” which allows artists to present proposals for recent work, and allows us to focus on their ideas in a given space.
Varun Baker – Journey (2012), digital photograph
The exhibition reveals some interesting developments taking place in contemporary Jamaican Art. Taken as a whole, there is a prevailing denial of traditional notions of the “art object”. The space in which we are now located cannot be bought, collected or sold. The site-specific work of Matthew McCarthy and the New Jamaica collective is defiant in its emphasis on collective engagement, and forces the audience to re-evaluate their ideas about “art” in the museum space. What we see in this exhibition are investigations with a diverse range of media which challenge the hierarchies of the singular precious “object”, and do not privilege one form or media over another. The site-specific installations, video installation, photo-based work and animation sit beside painting and collage, each presented on its own terms. Continue reading
Peter Johnson – Want Freedom (2012), alabaster
The NGJ regrets the passing of the sculptor Peter Ralph Johnson. He was born on April 4, 1960 and most recently lived at 17 James Street, in downtown Kingston, where he operated his sculpture workshop.
Johnson was essentially self-taught as an artist, although he attended some leisure classes at the Edna Manley College. He also worked in the studio of artists such as Fitz Harrack and Judith Salmon. He collaborated with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for many years, mounting exhibitions and doing set, costume design and restoring antiques. He also worked with Mutual Gallery, Gallery Pegasus and Grosvenor, mainly assisting with the mounting of exhibitions. He was a regular participant in the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition and was awarded bronze medals in 1982 1993 and 1996 and he had also exhibited at the NGJ in 2012 National Biennial. Johnson exhibited at various other galleries, including the Grosvenor Gallery and Gallery Pegasus. Most recently he was collaborating with the children’s workshops organized by OAaSIS International in downtown Kingston. Continue reading
The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for September is scheduled for Sunday, September 29, 2013, from 11 am to 4 pm.
Visitors will have the opportunity to view New Roots: 10 Emerging Jamaican Artists and the permanent galleries will also be open. New Roots features work in a variety of new and conventional media by 10 artists under 40 years old, namely Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter, Ikem Smith, and The Girl and the Magpie. The exhibition samples some of the most dynamic and innovative directions in the Jamaican art world, by artists who are questioning conventional understandings of art and the artist while presenting a socially engaged perspective on contemporary Jamaican society.
The featured performance on Sunday, September 29 will be by Shady Squad. The brothers Matthew and Conroy Richards, who are the Shady Squad leads, will be performing a duet, dancehall style, and their performance will start at 1:30 pm. The internationally acclaimed Shady Squad has won several major dance competitions, including the 2010 and 2011 World Reggae Dance award and they placed second in the inaugural season of Dancin’ Dynamites in 2006.
As is now customary, admission to the NGJ will be free on Sunday, September 29 and free guided tours and gallery-based children’s activities will be offered. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the New Roots exhibition and our Last Sundays programming.
The Girl and the Magpie – installation view
We at the NGJ are committed to fostering critical dialogue and our exhibitions are designed to do just that. The current New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists exhibition is a perfect example and it has already elicited a variety of responses, informal and in writing – we welcome both. This morning we received the following comment from a George Blackwell to one of our posts on the exhibition:
The New Roots Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica is interesting to take note of for several reasons. Firstly, ‘New Roots’, as the title suggests, betrays a desperate bid to get away from any serious discourse that foregrounds the black as the essential constituent in local identity matters. Therefore, the exhibition is insipidly curated to avoid this discussion.
Secondly, new routes are not really new. Videos, installations, animations and graffiti art have had enduring presence in Jamaican art. Nor are the directions and messages of the respective artists new. What is new, however, is the irrational extent to which the curators have gone to scrape the barrel to find people who have no skills or claims to the art making process regardless of the media or medium they choose to work with.
The short film by Saulter suffers from a lack of interesting camera angles and a powerful metaphor has been sacrificed to a gruffly overdone gabble posing as narrative. The other videos are for the most part jejune, the entertainment value and cultural schmaltz become part of the naked technological seduction, while artistic endeavor is absent.
Nile Saulter – Pillowman (2013), video still
Nor is the graffiti display new. What is new about it is that though most graffiti works display a competent level of intellectual finesse in their political charge and their artistic ambitions, in McCarthy’s case, one would have to dig deep into the dense layer of clichés to find any smidgen of such. This he compensated for by his PR teamwork and media savvy.
Camille Chedda – Built-In Obsolescence (2010-2011), Acrylic on Sandwich Bags, 28 parts, each 20 x 16 cm
Here is another in the series of reviews that were produced as part of the NGJ’s recent art writing workshop for its curatorial staff. This comparison between the self-portraits of Henry Daley from our permanent collection and Camille Chedda’s self-portraits in New Roots was written by Monique Barnett-Davidson. Monique is a Painting graduate of the Edna Manley College and is one of our two Curatorial Assistants.
As an art enthusiast, I always enjoy tracking how artists over time have extended long-referenced concepts and subject matters to discuss and explore aspects of culture and social life. As I explored the recently installed contemporary exhibition, New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists, at the NGJ, I was excited to identify parallels between that and works from the NGJ’s permanent display of older modern pieces.
Take self-portraiture for example. In Jamaican art, approaches to self-portraiture have been largely conventional. There are, however, some Jamaican artists who are exceptional and whose approaches to self-portraiture may be more aligned to figures like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo. These artists – by consistently referencing themselves in their artistic output – set new standards of openness that move beyond the older heroic depiction of the artist, to the artist as a vulnerable, fallible and questionable human being.
Henry Daley – The Artist (c1943), Oil on Hardboard, 60 x 44 cm, Collection: NGJ
Recently, two Jamaican examples of this approach to self-portraiture have stood out for me. One work is entitled (and aptly named) The Artist (c. 1943), done by early twentieth century painter Henry Daley. The other, entitled Built-In Obsolescence (2010-2011) is executed by young contemporary artist, Camille Chedda. These two works illustrated not only a common interest in subject matter shared by these artists, but offered me a fascinating parallel between two different time periods and generations within Jamaican art and cultural history.