Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dividing Line

"Dividing Line" oil on canvas and board 1995

Statement ( 1997)

People deprived of their history can make up their own, and what better
job can there be for an artist shifting through the anxieties of a Post-Colonial society, where the divide between myth and actual experience often disintegrates and we find ourselves in a unique contemporary space. Over the years, I have been developing a series of self portraits, which are highly personalized and subjective attempts at analyzing the cultural climate in which I exist.

While most times we are comfortable with the female face and figure being observed through various forms of art, in this work, I am insisting that the person who has been observing her self (the subject) and the maker of the subject are the same. Because of this, I have concentrated on my own mirror image. I have gone further into this to the point that the investigations rarely shifted from my own body.

"Growth from Lillies and Roses"

As a Caribbean person, in the the light of our historical circumstances, the assertion of my own narrative and presence is important. At one of my first exhibitions, one viewer warily proclaimed "Who she feel she is to paint she self on such a big canvas?!.. She must feel she is somebody" In my work I am responding to this self consciousness; this arena of doubt.

Traditionally, we have never completely controlled or had a share in the historical constructions or the configurations of mass-media that label us and therefore we always run the risk of being misrepresented. I recall being being told, by a well respected artist, that that if I wanted to make "serious paintings," that I had to avoid using too much colour.

Needless to say, I did not buy this. I continue to challenge the notion that one has to live and work in a place covered by a grey haze to have a "real" and "serious" life. Years later I even found myself making a large black and white painting in response to this and then had fun decorating and violating it with beautiful pink and red artificial flowers.

"Balancing Act"

So, I continue to desecrate canvas with my image of myself, and, its attendant decorations while trying to figure for myself who owns them and their meaning. This brings me to another arena where I have tried to synthesize forms that have traditionally been considered "low art" For example, in my work, I am not worried by the usual association with domesticity because of the use of fabric, lace and artificial flowers as these are often some of the tools used to find a creative outlet within the confines of the domestic space.

Groups of family portraits on top of a well-crocheted centre pieces are familiar alters of adoration to us all. I take the alleged lofty art practices such as figuration in oils on canvas and use the elements found in that female dominated interior world to contaminate the canvas with my singular vision. Out of this, the space from which my work evolves is defined.

These elements of self exploration in the work have continuously manifested themselves in what I call "visual dramas" in which the chief role was acted out by the artist herself. Now, they have evolved to enlist the assistance of archetypes who begin to carry the narrative- off the wall- into real space even as they leave some of the trappings of the introspective interior world behind.

The "Queen of Grande Rivierre" appears to disrupt the flatness of the supporting wall behind. It creates facets which "face off" or mirror each portrait in which the gesture of her turning head is depicted. As your eye moves across each frame in this acordian like structure, I present her carrying her ceremonial bouquet through our life's emotional stages.
"Queen of Grande Rivierre"
"Queen of Grande Rivierre"

By enlisting models and painting on a life sized triangular shaped structure that borders on polychromed sculpture, Adam and Eve and their struggle become cast in a drama about my response to some of societies standard roles. As they are thrust into the viewers physical space, they can also enlist them as other players in my psycho drama.


Even though the work has often shifted in and out of the third dimension before, the painted surface has now become another element in relation to the object status of the work. The object asserts an occupation of real space while at the same time combines it with a rendering of space that causes the viewer to have to deal with the visual sensation as well as the physical impact.

But all along, We, in places like this, have never had a problem taking what we need to "play a mas"; the individually created persona in the theater of the street that is Carnival. Be it a "Red Indian" or a "Fancy Sailor," the representation is inevitably transformed and now we find ourselves in a circumstance where "to play yourself" is the most popular part and one that is not limited merely to two days of carnival revelry.

The original significance of the role played is reconfigured to suit one’s personal history, experiences , likes and dislikes .The creation of spectacle to rival any old Hollywood film is second nature to us in this process and the ultimate challenge for the real performer/creator has always been to assert their individual presence in space. This is why I like and I am drawn to the the idea of a "visual drama",the title of my last exhibition being 'Self Portrayals.'