Anything with Nothing: Dion Palmer “Sand”

Sand - small

Sand at his cook shop

Dion Palmer “Sand” is another of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work:

Palmer works out of a small cook shop near Parade and was one of the key artists to have emerged from Roktowa before its close. Often associated with the Intuitives, he does highly imaginative paintings and is the only artist in the exhibition to have previously shown his work at the National Gallery. For the exhibition he has produced five paintings whose subject matter varies from imaginary birds to a human head to a crocodile.

Sand said this about his work:

“Give thanks and praise. I and I man name Sand, that’s my artist name but my real name is Dion DaCosta Palmer you know. How did I get the name Sand – I used to carry sand from a nearby river. Artwork comes in like it grows in me because my step father used to do carving, chopping wood and things like to build sculptures, some great powerful lion. What inspires my work – pain and anger, war and judgement and fight – all of those things – my paintings show pure love and joy that come out of the Psalms. I just live art – it is dream I’m dreaming – art work comes from so far, so deep.”

Anything with Nothing: Cleaver Cunningham


Cleaver Cunningham - Donavan M. (c2010, Pembroke Hall) - photo: LeRhone Webb

Cleaver Cunningham – Donavan M. (c2010, Pembroke Hall) – photo: LeRhone Webb


Here is a feature on Cleaver Cunningham, one of the artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition:

Based in Pembroke Hall, off Washington Boulevard, Cunningham paints memorial murals largely using airbrush. The portraits often include images of status objects owned or desired by the subjects of the murals. For the exhibition he is painting a number of car bonnets, with images including Miss Lou, Ananda Dean and an elderly woman.

Cleaver Cunningham - Miss Lou (2014, in exhibition) - photo: LeRhone Webb

Cleaver Cunningham – Miss Lou (2014, in exhibition) – photo: LeRhone Webb

He had the following to say:

“…been doing murals from I understand myself – ‘bout 14 – meaning I understand wrong from right. I had an uncle who was an artist that I followed up and down – I wash out the paint brush but I never really get to touch nothing. So him fly out and gone ah foreign so I decide to try it out and it work out myself. He was a paint brush artist. I ended up follow my girlfriend one day to go to a hair salon and I see an airbrush magazine, so from there I fall in love with it. I had an aunt in America and I begged her two airbrushes but when I got the airbrushes I didn’t know it worked with a compressor. So I was youth that loved to do the little stunts on the bicycle so I asked my mother for a compressor but it was too dear so I ended up having to sell the stunt bicycle and buy the compressor…”

Anything with Nothing: Vermon “Howie” Grant

Vermon "Howie" Grant - Sleepy (Dela Vega City), photo: Charles Campbell

Vermon “Howie” Grant – Sleepy (Dela Vega City), photo: Charles Campbell

Below is a short video interview with Howie, one of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. The video was produced with the kind assistance of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank.

A young artist from Lauriston near Spanish Town, Howie paints memorial murals and paintings advertising bars, hair salons, restaurants and the like. He has also done an extensive set of murals for a music studio based in De La Vega City. Although the majority of Howie’s memorial murals have been painted out Howie continues to do memorial commissions on cloth banners. He produces very accomplished drawings and airbrush paintings. For the exhibition he has produced three large portraits of people who have died in his community and a fourth painting of dancehall musicians Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel.

Howie - Shenice (2014, in exhibition)

Howie – Shenice (2014, in exhibition)

Howie told us: “I was born an artist but develop my skills after High School – mostly self-taught … My first commission was from the first school that I attended. Starting there it created a big market for all schools in the surrounding area. I did a lot of illustration art on schools, churches and business places. Conditions apply based on the nature of the job, so if it’s someone deceased I’ll do a dead mural and if it’s a school I’ll do some heroes and something to enhance the mind of the younger generation. I get a lot of commissions for murals of the deceased because every day a man die a baby born, so in the field of dead murals in Spanish Town…it has become a great market. That market never dies… Instead of making it out in public now I do it more on a personal level – I do it on banners that are portable, so it will last long…”

“I’ve been loved by all based on my work and the person that I am behind my talent. I did not know that art was that wide – it is so surprising, so amazing, how many kids out there, how many youths out there born with the talent and there is a space for everybody in the field of art and it’s so sad they choose different ways, some die before they truly achieve what God had send them here for. So you’ve got to search yourself to know who you are and what you stand for.”

Last Sundays, June 29, 2014 – KOTE: featuring Anything With Nothing, Aisha Davis


The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for June 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, from 11 am to 4 pm, and is presented in association with Kingston on the Edge (KOTE), Jamaica’s first urban arts festival.

The focus of the programme will be the Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica exhibition, which will close on July 11, but the permanent exhibitions will also be open for viewing. Anything with Nothing features the work of ten street artists from the Corporate area and Spanish Town, with work specially created for the exhibition and photo-documentation of their street art, namely: Kemar Black, Anthony Brown, Cleaver Cunningham. Vermon “Howie” Grant, Ricardo “Ricky Culture” Lawrence, Donavon “Danny Coxon: McLeod, Dion “Sand” Palmer, Michael Robinson, Andrew “Designer Ice: Thomas, and T. Earl Witter. In-depth guided tours of the exhibition, presented by members of the National Gallery curatorial staff, will be offered at 12 noon, 1 pm, and 3 pm and interested persons should meet at the National Gallery front desk at those times.

Aisha Davis

Aisha Davis

The featured performance, scheduled to start at 2 pm, is by Aisha Davis. A singer, song writer, dancer and actress, Aisha has toured internationally and has had the opportunity to share the stage with acts such as Kymani Marley, Cocoa Tea, Alborosie, Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, and Shaba Ranks, exciting fans with her soulful vocals and dance moves.When not on the road touring the world, she spend her time in the studio working with some of Jamaica’s finest producers such as Tony Kelly, Bobby Digital, Donovan Germaine, Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, Kirk ‘Kirkle dove’ Bennett, Ward 21 music, just to name a few, and she has recently collaborated on songs with Anthony B and Grammy award winner Bounty killer.

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Anything With Nothing: Kemar Black

Kemar Black at work on The Creation

Kemar Black at work on The Creation

Kingston-based Fashion designer, musician and street artist is one of 10 artists presently featured in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Anything with Nothing exhibition. Below is a short interview with him, produced with much-appreciated assistance from the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank.

An artist and entrepreneur from “up-town and down-town”, Black was associated with Roktowa, an arts initiative based in the old Red Stripe Brewery on West Street. He designs dancehall fashion and writes music and poetry. For the exhibition he has painted four large scale versions of his dancehall fashion drawings entitled The Creation.

Kemar had the following to say: “…Doing artwork from the day my mother shove me out the womb – from me born me ah artist – from day one. Am mostly self-taught but my father is an artist, Winston Black, for years I always see my father draw and I just soaked it up. Most of my work is abstract ’cause I like to create what nobody else see. In my view the greatest artist in the world, God, I get my mediation from. So most of the time I think about the creation of the universe… to me everything is art – ’cause everything get created – you would have to be an artist to really create something…whether you are a person that writes poetry, paint, sculpt, draw or you are a doctor and create prosthetic limbs or you design cars… because even now they use certain artists like Basquiat to do the interior for certain cars like the Aston Martin… So because of those things there it always shows that without art life is not the same because life is art and art imitate life. I design clothes. I have a fashion line, I do music, poetry, I make beats…”

Kemar Black (2)

Kemar Black – Untitled (c2012, Luke Lane, Kingston) – Photo: LeRhone Webb



Anything with Nothing – Curatorial Introduction, Monique Barnett-Davidson

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The following is the curatorial introduction presented by NGJ Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson at the opening of the Anything with Nothing exhibition on May 25. Monique co-curated the exhibition.

I am here primarily to say a few words about my introduction, interest and love for Jamaican street art but in order for you to get a sense of how I view and admire these works, I must give a quick back story.

My home community is Whitehall Avenue. As a child I was taught to love the visual arts and soon discovered I had a talent for it. My first artists were not the ones of national repute but were the anonymous authors who decorated walls and shop fronts of Whitehall or ‘Gun Mouth’ as it was sometimes called. Whether I was going to school or going to buy banana chips or ‘suck-suck’, these would stand out to me. The one I admired the most was a large painted family portrait of a mother, father and child dressed and blinged in eighties hip-hop fashion. The words above it read “100% Black”

As a young adult attending art school, my fascination continued and though I had never tagged a wall, I greatly admired those that did, almost living vicariously through their exploits and supporting them where I could. Street art wasn’t a great part of my education as a Jamaican art student and in the environment that was School of Art, it didn’t seem to fit anyway. I theorized that it was another side of my artistic development and appreciation that seemed to function with more sincerity outside of an academic sphere.

In 2010, I finally got the opportunity to test that theory. I asked myself these questions: Why is the interrogation of Jamaican street art no more than a few sentences in the national canon when there are so many examples of its process and evolution evident? Can a museum or a gallery help to bring this to the fore in a realistic and meaningful way? Was that even a necessary action? By researching it, I challenged myself beyond my admiration of it, probing it as an established cultural phenomenon. Today, I am happy to see that ten of these artists and their supporters here today. As a member of NGJ’s curatorial team, I want to thank them for their contribution to Jamaican cultural identity and encourage on their various missions towards self-awareness and development as Jamaican artists.