“Reflection on Parallels and Continuity at the National Gallery of Jamaica” by Monique Barnett-Davidson

Camille Chedda - Built-In bsolescence (2010-2011), Acrylic on Sandwich Bags, 28 parts, each 20 x 16 cm

Camille Chedda – Built-In Obsolescence (2010-2011), Acrylic on Sandwich Bags, 28 parts, each 20 x 16 cm

Here is another in the series of reviews that were produced as part of the NGJ’s recent art writing workshop for its curatorial staff. This comparison between the self-portraits of Henry Daley from our permanent collection and Camille Chedda’s self-portraits in New Roots was written by Monique Barnett-Davidson. Monique is a Painting graduate of the Edna Manley College and is one of our two Curatorial Assistants.

As an art enthusiast, I always enjoy tracking how artists over time have extended long-referenced concepts and subject matters to discuss and explore aspects of culture and social life. As I explored the recently installed contemporary exhibition, New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists, at the NGJ, I was excited to identify parallels between that and works from the NGJ’s permanent display of older modern pieces.

Take self-portraiture for example. In Jamaican art, approaches to self-portraiture have been largely conventional. There are, however, some Jamaican artists who are exceptional and whose approaches to self-portraiture may be more aligned to figures like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo. These artists – by consistently referencing themselves in their artistic output – set new standards of openness that move beyond the older heroic depiction of the artist, to the artist as a vulnerable, fallible and questionable human being.

Henry Daley - The Artist (c1943), Oil on Hardboard, 60 x 44 cm, Collection: NGJ

Henry Daley – The Artist (c1943), Oil on Hardboard, 60 x 44 cm, Collection: NGJ

Recently, two Jamaican examples of this approach to self-portraiture have stood out for me. One work is entitled (and aptly named) The Artist (c. 1943), done by early twentieth century painter Henry Daley. The other, entitled Built-In Obsolescence (2010-2011) is executed by young contemporary artist, Camille Chedda. These two works illustrated not only a common interest in subject matter shared by these artists, but offered me a fascinating parallel between two different time periods and generations within Jamaican art and cultural history.

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New Roots: Patreece McIntosh on Ikem Smith’s 2063

The NGJ recently staged an art writing workshop for its curatorial staff, which was presented by Nicole Smythe-Johnson. Here is the first of a series of short reviews that were produced during this workshop, written by Patreece McIntosh – a response to Ikem Smith’s 2063 music animation, which is currently on view in New Roots. Patreece is a Visual Communications graduate of the Edna Manley College and works as the NGJ’s Graphic Designer.

It depicts a blood red sky, absent buildings and not a single tree in sight. Against this post-apocalyptic background a dark figure is running, we don’t yet know why. It is a minute and fifty seconds of panic and confusion, the music becomes more intense and then abruptly there is an impact. He crashes to the ground with force, a firearm flashes across the screen and we now have our answer when we least expect it.

The death of the figure in Ikem Smith’s animated music video entitled 2063, and created fifty years earlier in 2013, is still quite mysterious though it is clearly implied what has happened to him. There are so many questions that can be asked; one can ask who he was, what he was doing before, where he was going to and who he was running from. The fact that the figure is unidentified makes it easy to imagine that it could be any of us and so these questions could be answered with a little imagination.

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Last Sundays: DJ Afifa Aza – “What Silences Does Our Art Speak”

DJ Afifa Aza

DJ Afifa Aza

DJ Afifa Aza is performing at our Last Sundays event today, with a sound selection which responds to the questions raised by the New Roots exhibition. Below is the statement she submitted to accompany her performance:

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.

I began to ask each time: ‘What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?’ Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’ And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

― Audre Lorde

What silences does our art speak? A compilation of ideas desires and feelings inspired Audre Lorde, Pussy Riot and Wangari Maathai. Continue reading

Last Sundays: August 25, 2013, featuring New Roots and DJ Afifa Aza


The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for August is scheduled for Sunday, August 25, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view the Gallery’s latest exhibition, New Roots: 10 Emerging Jamaican Artists, along with selections from our permanent collections, from the Taino to the contemporary. New Roots, which opened to an enthusiastic capacity crowd on July 28, features work by 10 artists under 40 years old —  Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter, Ikem Smith, and The Girl and the Magpie  – in a variety of media, ranging from painting, photography and jewellery to video and animation. The exhibition features some of the most dynamic and innovative directions in the Jamaican art world which questions conventional understandings of art and the artist and present a compassionate and socially engaged perspective on contemporary Jamaican society.

The featured performance on Sunday, August 25 will be by DJ Afifa Aza, who will present a music selection inspired by the New Roots exhibition. Sound artist Afifa, who is a regular collaborator with visual and new media artists, is co-founder of SO((U))L, a creative experiment in the development of alternative community spaces that promote discovery and exploration of music, art, culture, social justice, equality and self-reliance. The SO((U))L community has a physical home at the “HQ” in Stony Hill, St Andrew and a strong online presence on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

As is now customary, admission to the NGJ will be free on Sunday, August 25 and free guided tours and gallery-based children’s activities will be offered. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the New Roots exhibition and our Last Sunday programmes.

New Roots: Some Thoughts on The Artist as Author

New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists opened at the NGJ on July 28 and continues until September 30. Here is the first of a series of reflections on the exhibition contributed by Senior Curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson.
Deborah Anzinger - detail of installation

Deborah Anzinger – detail of installation

Art is a game between all people of all periods.

-Marcel Duchamp

Generally, society has quite fixed notions of who an artist is and what the process of making art is like. We imagine the solitary artist, blessed with super-human talent, spends his/her time engrossed in existential angst and strange pre-occupations, only to bring forth a manifestation of virtuosic mastery- a small slice of beauty, or truth, or “what it means to be human”. We talk about the “artistic temperament”, “artistic license” and “the starving artist”. Yet, any one who is paying attention to developments in local and international fine art circles must admit that these concepts are being challenged.

We live in a world where Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1268, currently on display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo New York, was executed three years after the artist’s death in 2007. The notoriously well-paid Jeff Koons has a veritable factory of over 130 assistants. Painter Angela de la Cruz, who suffered a debilitating stroke, relies entirely on assistants to execute her works but that didn’t stop her from being nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2011. Even younger artists are utilising assistants. Emerging artist Alexander Gorlizki, whose work has been displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, has his $10,000 USD paintings done by seven artists in Jaipur, India. According to Gorlizki, this form of artistic practice is liberating, freeing him from the requirement of “technical proficiency”[1]. Continue reading

New Roots: Introduction

Matthew McCarty - I Took the Liberty of Designing One (2013)

Matthew McCarty – I Took the Liberty of Designing One (2013)

Instead of asking what are people’s roots, we ought to think about what are their routes, the different points by which they have come to be now they are, in a sense, the sum of those differences. That, I think, is a different way of speaking than talking about multiple personalities or multiple identities as if they don’t have any relation to one another or that they are purely intentional. These routes hold us in places, but what they don’t do is hold us in the same place. We need to try to make sense of the connections with where we think we were then as compared to where we are now. That is what biography or the unfolding sense of the self or the stories we tell ourselves or the autobiographies we write are meant to do, to convince ourselves that these are not a series of leaps in the dark that we took, but they did have some logic, though it’s not the logic of time or cause or sequence. But there is a logic of connected meaning.

Stuart Hall

The New Roots exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter, Ikem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by our curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and myself, from our initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active here. We specifically looked for artists who had started exhibiting only recently, at least in Jamaica, and who had not previously been represented in National Gallery of Jamaica exhibitions of a similar nature, such as our Young Talent series. Final selections were made based on obvious practical considerations, such as the availability of work and feasibility of project proposals, but most of all we looked for work that suggested viable new directions in local contemporary art practice. And we found a lot that interested us: a strong focus on photographic reportage; provocative autobiographic reflections and social interventions; new interrogations of gender and the body; an at times unsparing realism but also a capacity for imaginative visual poetry; experimentation with video projection, animation and interactivity; and a growing disregard for conventional notions about the “art object” and the traditional, segregated artistic disciplines.

The Girl and the Magpie - Sponge (necklace, collection Fragile Jamaica) (2013) - work in progress

The Girl and the Magpie – Sponge (necklace, collection Fragile Jamaica) (2013) – work in progress

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