The National Gallery of Jamaica extends heartiest congratulations to Ebony G. Patterson, the winner of the 2014 Aaron Matalon Award, and Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award. Both awards are attached to the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which opened with a week of events from December 7 to 14 and continues until March 15, 2015 at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Devon House in Kingston and at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. The awards were announced at the Biennial’s main opening reception at the National Gallery on Sunday, December 14.
The Aaron Matalon Award is granted to the artist who, in the opinion of the combined Exhibitions and Acquisitions committees of the National Gallery made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named after the National Gallery’s late Chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, OJ. Awardees receive a unique medal, hand-crafted by the noted jeweller Carol Campbell, and a monetary award. Previous awardees include Phillip Thomas, Norma Rodney Harrack, Renee Cox, Omari Ra and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.
The 2014 Aaron Matalon Awardee Ebony G. Patterson is a graduate of the Edna Manley College (BFA) and the Sam Fox College of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St Louis (MFA). She is presently an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts department of the University of Kentucky. Patterson is one of the most outstanding and internationally acclaimed artists to emerge in Jamaica in the last decade and she has received several awards, including the 2011 Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies and the 2012 Bronze Musgrave Medal. Ebony G. Patterson’s is a uniquely Caribbean aesthetic that melds elements of “high” and “low” art and draws from carnival costuming, Haitian sequined flags, and above all the “bling” of Jamaican Dancehall fashion. Her recent work explores the politics of visibility and invisibility, with regards to the cultural and social implications of violence and death in Jamaican society. Her Biennial projects are exhibited at Devon House and consist of two floor-based tapestry installations from the Dead Treez series, titled Lillies, Carnations and Rozebuds and Trunk Stump and Dominoes, that are embellished with needlework, crochet, glitter, and various objects, including clothing, shoes and children’s toys.
The new Dawn Scott Memorial Award was initiated by the internationally renowned art critic Edward M. Gomez in honour of his late friend, the Jamaican artist Allison Dawn Scott. Dawn Scott is best known for her ground-breaking and highly influential mixed media installation A Cultural Object (1985, Collection: National Gallery) but she also produced figurative batik paintings that depict Jamaican life and people with a unique blend of poetry and realism. She also worked as an interior designer who produced innovative, culturally grounded shop designs and architectural detailing. The awardee is personally selected by Mr Gomez and is a granted to an emerging artist in the Biennial who represents the artistically innovative, socially committed spirit of Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award also involves a monetary grant. Given the very competitive nature of 2014 Biennial, it comes as no surprise that the Dawn Scott Memorial Award was tied between two artists, Kimani Beckford and Camille Chedda, and Edward Gomez consequently decided to split the award between the two.
Camille Chedda is a graduate of the Edna Manley College (BFA) and more recently completed her MFA at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. She was one of the artists featured in the National Gallery’s 2013 New Roots and 2014 In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibitions. Chedda experiments with painting on various materials, such as shopping and garbage bags, which speak symbolically to the frailty and temporality of the human body. Her work in the 2014 Biennial, Wholesale Degradables, in particular, gives visibility to the victims of extra-judicial killings in Jamaica. Gomez told Chedda in his citation: “With its inventive transformation of the most humble, everyday materials, your partly painterly, partly sculptural work gives new form and meaning to the portraiture genre. Your sincere and urgent evocation of the dignity of the individual in the face of spirit-crushing contemporary conditions, both social and political, is at once subtle and eloquent. It expresses empathy and compassion in a manner and with a voice that are fresh, compelling and of their time.”
Kimani Beckford, too, is a graduate of the Edna Manley College, where he obtained a BFA in 2011. A painter who uses more tradition painting techniques, Beckford’s work explores concepts of beauty and love of self in relation to the Black race. Beckford’s large portrait painting B.i.B. in the 2014 Biennial represents a young black woman with a large afro that also serves as a halo and, set against a gold background, the work takes on the quality of a religious icon. Edward Gomez had the following to say about the work: “Your enigmatic picture of a lone woman displays a skillful command of the painter’s art and a keen understanding of the power of portraiture. In its ambiguous atmosphere lies its poetry, and in its mysterious image can be found strong allusions to the theme of identity, both individual and collective, which has long been an enduring and deeply meaningful one in Jamaican art.”
The awarded works by Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford can both be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica.