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Jasmine Thomas-Girvan Cops 2012 Aaron Matalon Award

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan's 'Dreaming Backwards'

Jeweller and sculptor Jasmine Thomas-Girvan copped the prestigious 2012 Aaron Matalon Award which was announced on Sunday, December 30, 2012 at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston. Thomas-Girvan, who currently lives and works in Trinidad is more renowned for her jewellry than her sculpture. However, she is represented in the 2012 Jamaica National Biennial by two mixed-media sculpture pieces ‘Dreaming Backwards’ and ‘Occupy (Alchemy of Promise)’.

The Aaron Matalon Award is presented each Biennial to the artist whose work is considered to have made the most significant contribution to the Biennial and is therefore open to invited and juried artists. The Award comprises a  cash award of J$100,000.00 and a plaque. This year’s plaque was designed by Carol Campbell and is based on Osmond Watson’s ‘The Lawd is My Shepherd’. Thomas-Girvan’s prize was collected by her daughter Alatashe Girvan.

In a release provided by the National Gallery of Jamaica, Thomas-Girvan points out that her pieces in the Biennial reflect the expanded direction of her work.

“Over time my work has been expanding in scale,” she said. This fact is highlighted by Dreaming backwards which is a 10 foot long wall piece. “This piece brings together many of the recurring themes in my work, referencing our collective history/memory, and is realized in materials which are environmentally relevant [such as a palm frond, bird feathers and man-made found objects],” she said.

Alatashe Girvan smiles with her mother's plaque“The second piece traverses the defined boundaries of jewellery and sculpture [and] is titled Alchemy of Promise. It is crafted in local mahogany and bronze with wearable [jewellery accents] and jumbie beads. It represents a meditation on the way forward,” Thomas-Girvan said.

Executive Director of the NGJ, Dr. Veerle Poupeye, revealed that the jury, comprising members of the Acquisitions and Exhibitions Committees of the NGJ had their task cut out for them as the votes almost resulted in a tie. “It was a close race,” Poupeye said, explaining that the winner and the second ranked contestant, Ebony G. Patterson, were separated by a single point.

Poupeye therefore made particular mention of Patterson’s installation ‘The Observation (Bush Cockerel) - A Fictitious History’ as well as Duane Allen’s installation ‘Entrapment’ which received the third highest number of votes.

The impact Allen’s and Patterson’s work had on the jury underscored Poupeye’s point as to the notable impact of younger artists in the 2012 Biennial.

“What is also outstanding is the number of new comers," Poupeye said. She noted that many of them are recent graduates of the Edna Manley of the Visual and Performing Arts and are giving the more established artists a run for their money. Allen graduated from the Edna Manley College this year while Patterson graduated in 2004.

Past winners of the Aaron Matalon Award are Norma Rodney-Harrack (2002), Omari S. Ra (2004), Renee Cox (2006), Phillip Thomas (2008) and Laura Facey (2010).