Oneika Russell was born in 1980, in Kingston, Jamaica. She was educated at Goldsmith’s College, University College of London, Centre for Cultural Studies (MA in Interactive Arts) and at the Edna Manley College, where she studied Painting. She was a Commonwealth Foundation Arts & Crafts Awardee in 2007, which was conducted at the Post-Museum in Singapore. She currently resides in Kyoto, Japan, where she is conducting postgraduate research at the Kyoto Seika University, Film, Video and Media Arts Department. Oneika also edits Art:Jamaica, a blog on contemporary art from the perspective of a young Jamaican artist.
My current work consists of drawings, objects, digital animations and video. Characters and stories are the basis of my work. Many of the stories are my own inventions, reworked from the romanticized memories of images and tales of literary sources and mass media. My images are sequential and often episodic as I use reoccurring figures to suggest stories witch are in the Western psyche but filtered through my experience as a part of the Jamaican culture. The work is often done as animations, mixed media on paper or as digital images intended for book publication or print. I seek to create a new narrative from old stories, which say something about my cultural experience and continued understanding of my self through the media.
Previous bodies of work used stylized political imagery. My work also draws on literary and art historical characters such as Ophelia, Manet’s Olympia, Pre-Raphaelite heroines, Fashion magazines and other like sources also provide me with much content for my figures. Location or environments in which these characters construct their narratives is equally important and is often taken from locations with idealized associations such as botanical gardens, parks and the the seaside. My characters are often hand-drawn translations from other sources placed using a collage aesthetic on top of photographic environments. It is this meeting between the imagined and the real world and its subsequent creation of a new version that most drives my creative practice.
Currently I am making an experimental animation in collaboration with screenwriter, Tanya Davies. The work titled Drift is an episodic reimagining of how classic literary stories and stereotypes might be developed in a real location. It is my first moving image work longer than 4 minutes which adheres to a more narrative plot. This video is based on a body of work called The Sea, which I began in 2006 with large drawings and watercolours and more recently manipulated photographs and a video installation. It is a sea journey set in Kingston Harbour involving several characters taken from current events and popular literature.
— Oneika Russell