Jamaica Biennial 2017 – The Awards

The Jamaica Biennial is one of the big highlights of Jamaica’s cultural calendar, and also a very important one, not only for the local visual arts community but also for the art world of the broader Caribbean region. In recent years, this ambitious, high-profile exhibition has become more international in character, attracting participating artists from the region and beyond. It is fast earning a significant place on the international art world’s map of must-see events.

The Jamaica Biennial 2017 opened last weekend, to record crowds, at its three locations, starting with National Gallery West on February 24 and Devon House on February 25 and culminating with the main opening event at the National Gallery of Jamaica on the Kingston Waterfront on February 26. The Biennial presently attracts two awards, the Aaron Matalon Award and the Dawn Scott Memorial Award and both were announced and presented at the National Gallery on February 26.

The Aaron Matalon Award, which was inaugurated in 2002, is the National Gallery’s award to the artist who made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named in honour of the National Gallery’s past chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, O.J. and had, prior to 2017, been granted to Omari Ra, Renee Cox, Norma Rodney Harrack, Phillip Thomas, Laura Facey, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Ebony G. Patterson. The award is selected by a committee that consists of members of the National Gallery’s Exhibition and Acquisition Committee. The award consists of a uniquely crafted medal, designed and produced by master jeweller Carol Campbell, and a $ 100,000 cash award. The medal design is customarily based on an iconic work from the National Gallery’s collection and this year’s design was based on the famous Taino Pelican zemi in the historical galleries.

The 2017 Aaron Matalon Award was granted to Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, who had also received the award in 2012 and thus receives this award for the second time – a first in the award’s history. She received the award for her two stunning installations at Devon House: Parallel Realities, Dwelling In The Heartland of My People, in the Devon House dining room, and The Real Princess, which can be seen in the sewing room. Both works comment, with exquisite detail and visual poetry, on the epic histories of the Caribbean and its people, and resonate perfectly with the historical and social significance of the Devon House mansion. Devon House was built in 1881 by George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire, as a suburban great house, and today operates as a very popular heritage and recreational site in the city of Kingston.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award was created and presented by the New York-based art critic Edward M. Gómez and honours the legacy and enduring influence of Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010), one of Jamaica’s most original artists of the recent past, who was known for her innovative work in drawing and architectural design, as well as in the use of complex fabric-dyeing techniques to create vivid portraits and landscapes representing Jamaican life. The award is given to artists with works on view in the Jamaica Biennial whose art and ideas reflect the artistic values and principles of the late Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award comes with a cash prize in the amount of U.S.$700, funded by Mr Gomez and Dawn Scott’s daughter, Tsehai “Spoogie” Scott, a Kingston-based, film-production specialist. The inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award in 2014 was presented to Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford.

Alica Brown

Alica Brown – Exchange (2016), painting

For the 2017 award, Gómez split the award among three deserving artist winners: the Jamaican painters Greg Bailey, for his painting Colonial Legacies, and Alicia Brown, for her painting Exchange; as well as the American mixed-media artist Andrea Chung, for her mixed media installation Pure. Chung, who is of Jamaican and Trinidadian ancestry and lives in San Diego, California, USA, is one of the international artists who was invited to contribute a special project. The work of Bailey and Brown can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica, while Chung’s work can be seen at Devon House, in the adult bedroom and bathroom.

Greg Bailey - Colonial Legacies (2016), painting

Greg Bailey – Colonial Legacies (2016), painting

Gómez had the following to say about the Biennial submissions of the joint awardees: “With fine technical skill, including a strong sense of composition and superb draughtsmanship, Greg Bailey creates psychologically probing portraits of contemporary figures – usually young, urban, Jamaican men – that make us wonder: What’s on the minds of these subjects? What motivates them? When it comes to the issue of identity, just who do they think they are? By extension, Bailey’s portraits offer a reflected image of a broader society in which some of us might not always know what it is that we are – or should be – striving for, and how chasing certain kinds of goals might shape who we are or what we may become….Marked by excellent draughtsmanship and a skillful use of her materials, Alicia Brown’s Exchange, a head-on portrait of a country man, seen standing out in front of a farm field, is rich in detail. It offers an image of its subject that is as penetrating in its precision as it is compelling, poetic and empathetic in its character and aura….In Pure, Andrea Chung uses handmade, coloured soap to mould vividly accurate sculptures of the outwardly extended, beseeching, comfort-offering hands of elderly women. In fact, they are the hands of actual Jamaican midwives, whose skillful, compassionate intervention at the very start of a new life’s journey represent a first point of contact — physical and spiritual — between members of the human family.”

The National Gallery of Jamaica congratulates and salutes the winners of the 2017 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial awards, and extends its commendations to all artists who are participating in the Jamaica Biennial 2017, which is a very competitive exhibition with many strong and unique submissions. The Biennial continues at all three locations until May 28.

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Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Bulletin 6: The Awards

Ebony G. Patterson was the winner of the 2014 Aaron Matalon Award. Here is one of her two works in that Biennial, Lillies, Carnations and Rozebuds (from Dead Treez), installation view at Devon House

Artists who participate in the Jamaica Biennial qualify for two awards. One is the National Gallery of Jamaica’s own Aaron Matalon Award; the other is the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which is the private initiative of the New York-based art critic Edward M. Gómez. Both awards will be announced at the main opening function of the Biennial, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, on Sunday, February 26. This opening function starts at 1:30 pm. Edward Gómez will be in attendance to present the Dawn Scott Memorial award.

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, O.J. Awardees receive a unique medal, hand-crafted by the noted Jamaican jeweller Carol Campbell, and a monetary award of $ 100,000. Artists who have won the Aaron Matalon Award in the past are: Omari Ra, Renee Cox, Norma Rodney Harrack, Phillip Thomas, Laura Facey, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and, most recently, Ebony G. Patterson.

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The Hon. Aaron Matalon O.J. and Marjorie Matalon at the NGJ in the company of the Rt. Hon. P.L Patterson, the then Prime Minister of Jamaica, in 1999.

Aaron Matalon, an impassioned philanthropist and supporter of the arts, was not only the National Gallery’s Chairman for many years, but also one of its most generous donors. In 1999, Aaron Matalon and his wife Marjorie presented the National Gallery with its largest and arguably its most significant donation thus far. This gift consisted of 218 items, ranging from rare early maps of Jamaica and the Caribbean, early prints and photographs, and a wide, carefully selected group of modern Jamaican art works that filled many gaps in the National Gallery’s collection. This collection is now known as the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection and is extensively used in the National Gallery’s temporary and permanent exhibitions.

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Dawn Scott and Edward Gomez in 2006

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award is granted to an artist whose work in the Biennial reflects the inquisitive and innovative spirit, fine craftsmanship and independent thinking that characterised the late Dawn Scott’s approach to art-making. Edward Gómez created the Dawn Scott Memorial Award in 2014 and personally selects the recipient(s). The first award in 2014 was shared between two young artists, Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford. A monetary prize of US$ 500 is attached to the award.

Kimani - Beckford - B.i.B.

Co-winner of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award, Kimani Beckford – B.i.B. (2014)

The multifaceted body of work of the influential Jamaican artist, teacher and environmental activist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010) encompassed drawing, painting, sculpture, architectural design and sophisticated batik fabric-dyeing techniques. Scott’s art often evoked timely, even controversial social-cultural and political themes. Her ground-breaking mixed-media installation, A Cultural Object (1985), which is now in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s permanent collection, is made from found materials from the street, calling attention to issues of class, race, cultural history and everyday economics with a sense of drama and psychological intensity that challenged a viewer’s sense of reality. It remains an urgent, powerful work of art today. Edward Gómez lived and worked in Jamaica as a cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston in the 1980s and became a close friend of Dawn Scott at that time. Since then, he has maintained close ties to Jamaica and its arts community. He has published numerous articles and essays about Jamaican artists, including the legendary Intuitives, which helped introduce their achievements to broad, international audiences.

Co-winner of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award, Camille Chedda - Wholesale Degradables (2014)

Co-winner of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award, Camille Chedda – Wholesale Degradables (2014)

The 2014 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial Awards Are Announced

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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. Continue reading