Last Sundays on January 28, 2018 to feature the EarthKry band

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for the month of January will feature a special musical performance by the EarthKry band. Visitors will also be able to view editions V and VI in our Explorations exhibition series, Portraits in Dialogue and Engaging Abstraction. January 28 will also mark the reopening of the Kapo Galleries.

The EarthKry band, featuring keyboard player Phillip Mcfarlane, drummer Kieron Cunningham, bass guitarist Kamardo Blake and vocalist/guitarist Aldayne Haughton, continues their mission to voice the grievances of the downtrodden through their music. Drawing their inspiration from Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Beatles, John Holt, Black Uhuru and Steel Pulse, the group offers a genre-spanning fresh and universal sound. After the release of their debut album Survival at the end of June in 2017, the group embarked on a successful tour of North America and Europe spreading their message of authentic roots and culture. We welcome back to the National Gallery the EarthKry band as they embark on their Survival Winter Tour 2018.

“We are excited to go back on the road. Recording music for prosperity is important, but to play live is a different feeling and a must. Especially for us as musician, that connection that we feel with those that come to see us, is unparalleled. Each touch of our instruments carries the roots rock and reggae through vibrations directly to them. We are conscious that our music connects with people as worldwide we all go through financial hardships, personal struggles, health issues, war crisis, abuse.” – EarthKry

The EarthKry Band

Portraits in Dialogue offers an open-ended survey of the oftentimes conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present. Issues explored include representations of surrounding race, class, and gender, as well as the perspectives of the artist. The second exhibition, Engaging Abstraction, examines abstraction as a modern and contemporary image-making approach that deviates from the more literal and popularized representational choices practiced by artists from Jamaica, the Caribbean and its Diaspora. The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaican and Caribbean art can be seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted.

This Last Sundays will also see the reopening of the Kapo Galleries, which celebrate the work of Jamaica’s foremost Intuitive artist Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds. The newly reinstalled gallery features both sculptures and paintings from three of our collections: the Larry Wirth Collection, The John Pringle Collection and the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection. The works showcase the life, interests and spiritual beliefs of this Zion Revivalist leader.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds – Revivalists (1969), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

As is now customary for our Sunday programmes, the doors will be open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm and EarthKry’s performance starts at 1:30 pm. Admission and guided tours will be free. The gift and coffee shop will also be open for business and and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the Explorations exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming.



Saturday Art-Time, the National Gallery of Jamaica’s premier child art programme resumed its second term, on Saturday, January 13, 2018 and will run until March 24, 2018.

Coordinated for youngsters from ages 8 to 15 years old, Saturday Art-Time is a weekly series of art-making workshops. It seeks to provide an opportunity for its young participants to immerse themselves into the world of art and art-making, within the environment of the National Gallery of Jamaica, the largest public art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean. The programme has been highly subscribed by its participants and their families, as well as by school groups from a variety of social backgrounds.

Staple art-making offerings for this term will include drawing, painting, assemblage, collage and animation. The workshops are being offered free of charge and will be held every Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the National Gallery. The Saturday Art-Time programme is funded by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education fund (CHASE). Registration forms are available at the National Gallery. For more information, contact the National Gallery’s Education Department at 922-1561 / 3 (Lime landline) or 618-0654 / 5 (Digicel fixed line) or via e-mail at

In Memoriam: Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose (1934-2018)

Barrington Watson – Portrait of Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose (1962) Collection: Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing renowned painter, sculptor and art educator Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose on Tuesday January 9, 2018. Born in Glasgow Scotland in 1934, she attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1953 to 1957 and later the Jordanhill Teacher Training College also in Glasgow.  In 1980, she received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from the American University. In 2012 she was conferred with a honourary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) Degree by the University of the West Indies.

She made Jamaica her home in 1959 and taught at several schools including Jamaica College, Wolmer’s Girls School and The Priory School. At Wolmer’s Girls School in particular, she is remembered as an inspiring teacher who motivated a generation of young women to pursue art as a career rather than a mere pastime.  Bloomfield-Ambrose also taught anatomy, life-drawing and painting at the Jamaica School of Art from 1970 – 1979 where she nurtured and honed the skills of many of Jamaica’s renowned artists, such as Hope Brooks, Carol Crichton and Philip Supersad, among others.  She also lectured at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and Baltimore’s Maryland Institute.

Mrs Bloomfield-Ambrose played an active role in the burgeoning Post-Independence performing arts movement in Jamaica. She was an actress, appearing in numerous productions in the 1960s and 1970s and had acted opposite well-known actors such as Lloyd Reckord and also served as a set designer for many stage productions. It was in the 1960s however, that she began focusing on her own artistic career.  She initially shared a studio with Ruth Cohn and Moira Small with whom she had her first Jamaican exhibition in 1964. She later shared a studio with painter Graham Davis in 1971 and went on to represent Jamaica in the International Women’s Year Exhibition in 1975.

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – Portrait  (1969-1971) Collection: NGJ

Though a classically trained painter and sculptor, her work was never considered to be traditional and she established herself with an unmistakable sense of realism and ability to capture likenesses. Her use of pastel tones to capture the unique light of the Caribbean was noted as having embodied the energy of the artistic milieu of the 1970s. Her talents made her one of Jamaica’s most popular portraitists.

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – Portrait of John Maxwell (1972) Collection: NGJ

Known for her quiet intimate portraits that captured the relatability of her subjects, some of her most endearing paintings were the portraits she did of friends Barrington Watson, Kofi Kayiga and John Maxwell.  Mrs Bloomfield –Ambrose also painted the portraits  of Prime Minister Michael Manley, University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Vice-chancellors A. Z. Preston, Sir Alister McIntyre, the Honorable Rex Nettleford and Professor E. Nigel Harris. She also created the iconic sculpture of UWI founder Sir Phillip Sherlock.

In 1975, art critic Ignacy Eker (aka Andrew Hope) described his experience of sitting with her, “She caught me to the life: it was a penetrating and realistic study, yet also a sympathetic and well-balanced one … The reason for her success is that she approaches her task very conscientiously and without preconceived ideas, each sitter is an individual and there are no ready-made formulas to turn the job into a boringly automatic procedure.”

She completed portraits of Governors General Sir Florizel Glasspole and Sir Kenneth Hall. In recounting his experience of having his portrait done by her Sir Kenneth Hall recalled “… I was at first reluctant. However, within a very short time after meeting with Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose, I was put at ease. It became evident that she is an artist of extraordinary competence.”

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – April  (1999) Collection: NGJ

Her work has been widely exhibited locally as well as internationally in Cuba, Mexico the United States and was the subject of a 2013 retrospective held by the Arts Council of Martin County in Florida. Several examples of her work are included in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Even after her eventual migration to the United States, Bloomfield-Ambrose maintained her connection with her adopted home of Jamaica. Visiting, exhibiting her work and executing commissions.

The Board, Management and staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their condolences to the family and friends of Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose.

Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction

George Rodney – Drifter (1985), Collection: NGJ

Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction is on view from December 19, 2017 to February 25, 2018, and consists of a selection of portraits from our collection. The exhibition was curated by Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson. The Explorations series examines big themes and issues in Jamaican art.

Engaging Abstraction examines the role of abstraction in modern and contemporary art from Jamaica and also makes reference to abstraction from the Caribbean and its Diaspora. Our collection includes several hundreds of works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted. While abstraction has been a consistent preoccupation in the local art scene since the 1960s, the visual rhetoric of abstract art nevertheless continues to challenge many Jamaican viewers, who crave art that is more literal and presents a clear narrative, often dismissing abstraction as alien to Jamaican and Caribbean culture. This exhibition therefore, seeks to add to the conversation about abstraction in the Jamaican and Caribbean context, as well as to explore its inherent contentions.

Rex Dixon – Burning Cage (1987), Collection: NGJ

The Tate Gallery offers the following definition of abstract art: “The term can be applied to art that is based on an object, figure or landscape, where forms have been simplified or schematised. It is also applied to art that uses forms, such as geometric shapes or gestural marks, which have no source at all in an external visual reality.” This definition highlights that abstract art – or abstraction, as it is more appropriately called – involves a wide spectrum of approaches, from stylized representations to pure abstraction which is concerned with form rather than content. While it is often assumed that abstraction is exclusive to Western modernism, various other cultures have produced art that can be defined as abstract. Religious Islamic art, which is characterized by prohibitions on representation, is an example. The pioneers of Western abstraction found inspiration in the stylizations of traditional African and Oceanic art. The indigenous imagery of the pre-Columbian peoples of South and Central America and the Caribbean have also been referenced by a number of our own regional artists.

Edna Manley – Beadseller (1922, Collection: NGJ)

While modernist abstraction was well-established in the European, North American–and for that matter Latin-American art by the early twentieth century—it took much longer for it to become common practice in the Jamaican art world. The thematic content of early modern art in the Caribbean region had a strong nationalistic ethos, with anti-colonial art dominating the second quarter of twentieth century in Jamaica and in most other parts of the region. This called for a figurative modernism that conveyed its political content clearly, although there were elements of abstraction in examples such as Edna Manley’s Beadseller (1922).

Aubrey Williams (Guyana/UK) – God of Corn and Plenty (1973), Collection: NGJ)

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Last Sundays – December 31, 2017, ft. Nexus

Ocean Boulevard, which is the normal access road to drive to the NGJ on Orange Street, will be closed on Sunday, December 31, in preparation for the New Year’s fireworks that night. UDC has kindly made complimentary parking arrangements for visitors to our Last Sundays programme in the parking garage across from the NGJ main entrance, with the understanding that those who park there will leave by 4 pm (or moved to paid parking for those who are staying for the fireworks). To access the NGJ, please proceed on Port Royal Street (or Harbour Street, if coming from the West) and turn on Orange Street, where there will be crowd control barriers. Please indicate to the security guard on duty that you are a guest of the NGJ Last Sundays programme and you will be directed to the parking garage. Feel free to call us at 922-1561 or -3 if you need any assistance.


The National Gallery’s final Last Sundays event for 2017 will take place on New Year’s Eve, Sunday, December 31 from 11 am to 4 pm, with the featured performance starting at 1:30 am. Visitors will have the opportunity to view the National Gallery’s current exhibitions, Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction. The featured performance will be by the Nexus Performing Arts Company.

The Explorations exhibition series, which was launched in 2013, explores big themes and issues in Jamaican art and features mainly works from the National Gallery Collection, which are reinterpreted in these thematic contexts. Explorations V: Portraits in Conversation examines the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait. Its counterpart, Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, examines the at times contentious role of abstraction in modern and contemporary art from Jamaica and the Caribbean. Abstraction became an established part of the local art practice in the 1960s but is often dismissed as alien to Caribbean culture, which has a strong focus on content and iconic local subject matter. More recently, abstraction has also found new life in the age of time-based, digital media. A special feature in the Explorations VI exhibition is the Kingston staging of David Gumbs’ Xing Wang interactive video installation, which was originally shown as part of the 2017 Jamaica Biennial at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. David Gumbs is an artist from St Martin who lives and works in Martinique.

In what is now an established Holiday Season tradition at the National Gallery, the featured performance on Sunday, December 31 will be by the award-winning Nexus Performing Arts Company. The Nexus Performing Arts Company was formed in 2001 by Hugh Douse, Artistic Director, voice tutor, singer, actor, conductor, songwriter, and a former Director of Culture in Education. The group has a broad musical repertoire that draws on Gospel, Negro Spirituals, Semi-classical, Popular music including Reggae and show tunes, African and Classical music of the European and African traditions. The performance by Nexus will take place in the exhibition galleries, presented as a musical tour, with selections inspired by the Portraits in Conversation and Engaging Abstraction exhibitions.

Admission on Sunday, December 31 will be free and free guided tours will also 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 Explorations exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming.