Young Talent 2015: Katrina Coombs

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Here is another in our short posts on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens on August 30:

Katrina Coombs was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1986. She holds a BFA in Textiles and Fibre Arts from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in 2008 and has completed her MFA in Creative Practice at the University of Plymouth through the Transart Institute in 2013. Katrina lectures part time in the Textiles and Fibre Arts Department at the Edna Manley College.

Artist’s Statement

My work is governed and guided by my emotions as I attempt to understand and search for the woman that I am. Each artwork represents a part of me that is hidden from myself an others. They embody my hidden voice. The artworks I create depict my experiences of birth, death, love, heartbreak, corruption, entrapment, destruction, joy, happiness and freedom. In this attempt to understand the Self and these experiences, the Other becomes ever more present. Through the use of fibrous material and techniques I explore the effect of the Other on the ‘I’.

This body of work emphasizes the social implications of insecurities and turmoil that a woman faces as she struggles with her daily life attempting to satisfy herself, partner, family and friends which create an enterprise for conflict. In this situation the Other would be the motherly instincts and desires of a woman. The works mimic the nature of the womb, which becomes an Other to the woman as she attempts to conform to its demands, as well as the emotional turmoil that accompanies its actions. The ‘I’ becomes absent as the Other prevails and creates a void of neurotic divergence within.

Young Talent 2015: Alicia Brown

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Here is the second in our short posts on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens on August 30:

Alicia Brown was born in St Ann, Jamaica in 1981. She attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Kingston, Jamaica, and received a diploma in Art Education in 2003 and a BFA in Painting in 2009. Alicia also attended the New York Academy of Art in New York and obtained an MFA in Painting in 2014.

Artist’s Statement

The use of mimicry as a tool for creative invention, imitation and expression plays a vital role in formulating cultural identity. This is evident in the formation of subcultures, resulting from class distortion associated with colonialism. The desire for social acceptance and the search for missing pieces of self is the gateway to copying dominant cultures. This desire becomes a fantasy that is embraced while reality is rejected.

My work invests itself in a social critique, addressing issues of social construct, colonialism, pop culture, Western trends and their impact on Caribbean identity. I reference Dutch 16th and 17th century portraiture, where aspects of this history are appropriated and re-contextualized in their representation. I use portraiture as a tool to imitate this model, incorporating both traditional and contemporary painting languages as dialogue on identity.

Young Talent 2015: Greg Bailey

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This is the first of a series of short features on the artists in the Young Talent 2015 exhibition, which opens on August 30:

Greg Bailey was born in 1986, in Trelawny, Jamaica. He obtained a BFA in Painting from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Bailey is currently based in Kingston, Jamaica.

Artist’s Statement

Painting is the frequency through which I communicate my reactions towards the impulse of society. I am intrigued by social-constructs and the ambiguities of the reality it imposes on the human psyche. My consciousness of context and content channels my interrogations toward the provocative nature of Jamaica’s social welfare; its legacies, its atrocities and how, interestingly, its history lingers in its present. The act of painting is the process through which I go about to create an elusive atmosphere within a two-dimensional structure—an atmosphere where sensibilities are stimulated by using elements such as colour, image, symbolism and emotion.

This is the conceptual mind-set behind this current body of work. The pieces are conversations about the phenomena of a two-sided culture that are extremely different and although they exist within the very same space, they never collide. For instance, Jamaica is rated as one of the most beautiful countries in the world while at the same time it is rated as one of the most violent. In the same breath, it is declared an independent state while at the same time it has the slowest growing economy in the Caribbean; so slow that it cannot sustain itself in many sectors even though it is among the top three Caribbean countries with the greatest concentrations of minerals that are most valuable on the international market.

These opposite extremes is what has lured me into painting beautiful renditions of not so beautiful realities. Realities of deception, the cultivation of decadence, self-hate, self-glorification as well as the lack of vision to identify with and combat the reoccurrence of past atrocities.

Young Talent 2015 to Open on August 30

Youn Talent Invitation (update)-01

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present Young Talent 2015, an exhibition which features ten artists living in and from Jamaica and under forty years old, namely: Greg Bailey, Alicia Brown, Katrina Coombs, Di-Andre Caprice Davis, Monique Gilpin, Domanie Hong, Howard Myrie, Richard Nattoo, Avagay Osborne, and Cosmo Whyte. The exhibition will open on Sunday, August 30, 2015 and will be on view at the National Gallery until November 14, 2015.

The first Young Talent exhibition was held in 1985, as part of JAMFEST 85, when Jamaica hosted the International Youth Conference. Young Talent 85 featured eleven young artists, including Basil Watson, Omari Ra, Khalfani Ra, and Petrine Archer-Straw. As part of the National Gallery’s strategies to uncover and support new developments of Jamaican art, Young Talent exhibitions have been organized intermittently since then, in 1989, 1995, 2002, and most recently in 2010, and many well-known contemporary Jamaican artists had their first major exhibition as part of the Young Talent series. Young Talent V in 2010 was particularly ground-breaking and launched a new generation of artists who have since revolutionized the Jamaican art landscape, such as Ebony G. Patterson, Phillip Thomas, Leasho Johnson and Oneika Russell. The National Gallery has also staged the New Roots exhibition in 2013, which was treated as a spin-off from the Young Talent series and featured artists such as Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Camille Chedda, and Deborah Anzinger.

To support what is presently an exceptionally energetic and innovative contemporary art scene in Jamaica, the National Gallery now intends to present Young Talent exhibitions every two years, in the years alternating with the Jamaica Biennial. For the present exhibition, Young Talent 2015, the National Gallery opened the selection process with a call for submissions and entries were received from thirty-five artists, from which ten were selected. While most of the selected artists already have an exhibition record, Howard Myrie, Avagay Osborne, and Domanie Hong have just graduated from the Edna Manley College, which continues to be the main engine for development and innovation in Jamaican art.

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Young Talent 2015 includes a healthy range of artistic media and practices, including new and more traditional media, including GIF collages, fibre-based work and representational painting, which coexist productively as part of Jamaica’s emerging contemporary art language. While some of it is also deeply personal, most of the work selected for Young Talent 2015 is explicitly or implicitly political—tackling challenging subjects such as gender violence, social dysfunction, power and marginalization, the politics of the body, and displacement and forced migration—and reflects the complex and unsettling cultural and political events and debates that shape the “post-postcolonial” world. One striking feature of the exhibition is the artists’ engagement with the materiality of their work, which is mined judiciously for its visual poetry and political implications. The result is a compelling and though-provoking exhibition, which should produce healthy debate about current artistic and cultural trends and about the broader social and political questions raised.

The August 30 opening function of Young Talent 2015 is presented as part of the National Gallery’s Last Sundays programme, with doors open from 11 am to 4 pm and the opening function at 1:30 pm. There will be no guest speaker and instead we will be screening a short video documentary on the participating artists. This will be followed by a musical performance by Jah9. As is customary, the event is free and open to the public but donations are welcomed, as these play an important role in funding projects such as Last Sundays and exhibitions such as Young Talent 2015.

Art and the Tropical Climate – Part 2

Works of art from the National Gallery in London in storagte at the Manod Quarry in Wales during World War II

Works of art from the National Gallery in London in storagte at the Manod Quarry in Wales during World War II

Here is part two of the article on tropical art conservation by Joelle Salkey. The final section of the article includes tips for private collectors on how to safeguard their collections.

As fatalistic as this article has made tropical RH concerns out to be, with proper risk management and good housekeeping most crises can be avoided. However, in cases where the heritage object is delicate or fragile, good housekeeping may not be sufficient to ensure the object’s preservation. In such cases specific knowledge of the materials and techniques is required to aid its preservation. Tropical collections differ greatly from other collections around the world in that objects in such collections tend to consist of more organic materials, and a greater majority is classified as ethnographic objects. Problems can occur when the specific characteristics of the objects and their materials, as well as the conditions under which they are kept, are ignored.

In January 2014 American curator Cash Brown blogged about her experience at the National Museum in Myanmar[1]. Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate. Despite a fairly well maintained exterior of the museum, Brown noticed severe damages to most of the works from the collection which were not endemic to the region. She noted that works of photography, works on paper and oil paintings showed signs of degradation ranging from mild to severe, while the musical instruments, lacquer ware, wooden, stone and ceramic artefacts fared better. The museum objects that were made from locally found materials are chemically acclimatized to the conditions found in Myanmar. Those that were not native to the climate were ravaged by high humidity, and fluctuating temperatures made possible by the lack of proper climate control and supervision.

The National Museum in Myanmar

The National Museum in Myanmar

This phenomenon of acclimatization was first documented in London, when in preparation for WWII the National Gallery in England decided to secure their collections in limestone quarries in Wales. After the war, the collections were inspected and all found to be in good condition. They were removed from the temperature and humidity-controlled quarries and then re- introduced into the museum environment[2]. This relocation was observed to have a disastrous effect on the condition of the collection, as various artworks began to rapidly exhibit various forms of distress and deterioration after relocation. After some investigation it was concluded that the works of the collection had acclimatized to the constant environment presented in the quarries, which differed greatly from the inconsistent museum climate. It is important to note that the museum’s exterior environment plays an equal role in the stability of the interior environment and also has to be factored into preventive conservation and risk management controls.

Severe disasters pose a serious threat to the conservation of artefacts as they are often unpredictable or unpreventable. In the case of earthquakes, measures can be taken only after the catastrophic event has already occurred, although proper mounting and storage practices can help to prevent damage. Hurricanes and tropical cyclones form over tropical waters, in areas of high humidity, light winds and warm sea surface temperatures (26.5 degrees celsius and greater)[3]. There has been a very pronounced increase in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic since the late-1980s. This trend has been identified by scientists as a side-effect of greenhouse warming.[4]

Flood damage at a Chelsea gallery after hurricane Sandy

Flood damage at a Chelsea gallery after hurricane Sandy

The most common types of damage caused by storms and hurricanes involve flooding, and structural damage caused by the increased wind pressure. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Damage-Potential Scale[5] is used to determine the potential destruction caused by a storm in accordance with its assessed strength, and has become a very useful tool for risk management of tropical collections. According to the scale, if a storm is classified as Category 1, some minor physical damage to shrubbery and property can be expected. If risk management is applied accordingly, a collection can be protected against the increased rainfall, ensuring all leaks and structural infractions are corrected and secured.

As the severity of the storm increases, the risk management plan must become more specific to the types of collections, whether wood, metal or composite collections. For example, when faced with a Category 4 system, it can be expected that the risk of flooding will increase, as city runoffs are unable to contain the volume of water caused by heavy rainfall and storm surges. This then indicates that the potential damage to the collection by water damage is potentially higher than that of earthquake damage. All measures should be taken to elevate the collection or move them to a higher and more secure location. Hydroscopic objects should be given priority above non-hydroscopic works. They should be kept in conditions as close as possible to their accustomed climate in the museum environment. The instinct to cover all objects in plastic should be avoided as this could create localized climates within the plastic, and encourage mold growth.

Once risk management procedures are put into place and followed accurately the potential longevity of a collection should be ensured. The challenge is now to distinguish what environmental conditions and risk management procedures work with the tropical environment to protect tropical collections. This calls for a greater understanding of the risks posed to the region and the creation of effective disaster plans for the works found in the tropical collection.

Protecting Works of Art in the Home

In the home, disaster and risk management plans are just as effective as in the museum setting. While the average art owner or collector might not have access to sophisticated environmental monitoring equipment or HVAC controlled environments, he or she can assess the damage potential to any work of art and make provisions to ensure its safety. There are several agents of deterioration common in any household setting that should be given attention. As mentioned extensively in this article, temperature and RH are considered agents of deterioration, however in a home setting there are often other agents that take priority over fluctuations in climate.

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Art and the Tropical Climate – Part 1

Osmond Watson - City Life (1968, Collection: NGJ). This oil painting on canvas suffered from significant flaking and paint loss

Osmond Watson – City Life (1968, Collection: NGJ). This oil painting on canvas suffered from significant flaking and paint loss

In the early years of its operations, the NGJ has employed conservators, Trevor Burrowes and Stanley Barnes, and more recently the NGJ has benefited from various short-term conservation projects. We are now developing a long-term, in-house conservation programme, as part of our dcollections management. Here is the first section of a two-part article on tropical conservation by Joelle Salkey, a Jamaican art conservator who has recently joined our staff.

When defined in the scope of art and heritage conservation, the tropical climate presents a major source of problems for the display and storage of material collections. While tourists flock to the warm balmy climate, conservators scramble to find cost effective climate controls to maintain lower temperatures and reduced humidities. This is due to the fact that the unchecked tropical climate falls drastically outside of the conventional climate control specifications, of 21 degrees Celsius with 55% Relative Humidity (RH), established by twentieth century conservation professionals.

The obsession with identifying the ideal environment for artwork and museum objects assumes that the farther you stray from the ideal target the greater the damage posed to collections.[1] However tropical climates typically register temperatures averaging 24-27 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity of 65-70%. Following this, tropical temperatures are conducive to increasing the rate of decay in museum objects, with the rate of chemical and biological activity doubling for every increase in temperature of 10 degrees Celsius[2].

To make matters worse, tropical regions are disaster prone, suffering from more occurrences of hurricanes and earthquakes than other climate regions. Natural disasters are unpredictable and although they cannot be prevented, risk management offers a line of defence for a tropical collection. The concept of risk management is appearing ever more frequently in conservation literature[3], indicating that the old adage “prevention is better than cure” is very important in preserving the longevity of a collection.

Osmond Watson - City Life (1968, Collection: NGJ), afer its restoration at the Western Centre for Arts Conservation, Denver, Colorado, in 2010. This conservation project was funded by the US Ambassadors' Fund.

Osmond Watson – City Life (1968, Collection: NGJ), afer its restoration at the Western Centre for Arts Conservation, Denver, Colorado, in 2010. This conservation project was funded by the US Ambassadors’ Fund.

A risk assessment – whether formal or informal, extensive or conducted on just a small section of a collection, is a useful tool used in museums and other cultural institutions to prioritize the execution of preventive conservation methods. The goal is to hopefully prevent damage or, at least, to limit the extent of the damage. By estimating and calculating risks, museums and conservators can create measures to counteract hazards and to the best of their ability protect objects of cultural heritage.

The creation of risk assessments leads to a better understanding of the museum objects and how they respond in their various environments. Relative humidity and temperature are two of the most dangerous risks to an object’s permanence. Hence through risk assessment in conservation the museum or cultural institution can better evaluate suitable ranges of temperature and humidity to store and display objects.

With regards to the museum environment, museums and collectors face the challenge of finding a balance between the ideal climate and financial feasibility. This challenge is easier to accomplish if the objects being stored or displayed are of a similar makeup. For example, if a wooden sculpture is placed (as it should be) in storage with similar wooden objects, it is easier to follow the recommended storage temperature of 12-18 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 50-60%[4]. However, complex or composite objects consisting of more than one material in their makeup, are a bit more difficult to correctly store at their ideal temperature. A broader range is given to composite objects, designating 16-18 degrees Celsius in temperature and a 40-55% humidity range.

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