During the course of the Jamaica Biennial 2014, which is on view until March 15, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Devon House, National Gallery West and, for Blue Curry’s project, on the streets of Downtown Kingston, we will be posting short features on projects, works and artists in the exhibition. Here is the first, on Matthew McCarthy and his Regal Zeen project, which was launched as a performance at the Biennial’s main opening reception on December 14.
Matthew McCarthy was born in Kingston in 1992. He is a Jamaica-based illustrator and mural painter who has spent the last five years indulging his obsession with Jamaican street signs, old school dancehall illustrations and global street art movements through an art practice that engages and challenges the traditional art institution. Since his graduation from the Edna Manley College of Visual Art in 2013, McCarthy has exhibited at the NGJ in the New Roots (2013) exhibition of ten emerging artists, and been a key figure in the development of street art in Jamaica, via first the Paint Jamaica project and later the Paint Jamaica initiative. His work looks at issues of identity and politics, articulating hope for the expansion of political and artistic horizons.
Matthew McCarthy’s Regal Zeen is the start of a new project, a print and online “zeen” that will make regular interventions into Jamaica’s social and artistic environment. McCarthy says: “Regal manifested out of the need to establish a sustainable and artistic lifestyle archive among young like-minded creative individuals, with the greater intention of inspiring a productive change in our environment. These images represent a shift in the very being of our nation’s people towards an expedition of consciousness.” For the December 14 performance, McCarthy and a group of fellow artists “invaded” the National Gallery wearing African masks. They were accompanied by a mobile sound man, who played conscious music the team had selected, and handed out prints of the Regal Zeen preview to patrons at the function. An e-version of the Regal Zeen preview has been posted to the Draconian Switch magazine website and can be reached by scanning the QR Code at the top of this post.
(Photos courtesy of Nicole Smythe-Johnson)