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Edna Manley SVA Exhibition 2015 - From the Artful to the Ordinary
The Edna Manley School of the Visual Arts recently graduated its largest, if not its most striking, cohort in a decade. The exhibition curated from the students’ final art projects opened on Saturday, June 6, 2015 and features the work of 55 artists. In her address, the evening’s guest speaker Amina Blackwood Meeks, director of the Culture in Education at the Ministry of Education, issued a call to arms to artists. It was intriguing to then view the ways in which the exhibition, lived up to or failed her entreaty.
Amina Blackwood Meeks turned her ironic wit on the insufficient support under which arts education labours as even up to 2015 the value of the arts and artists remain questioned, possibly out of wanton ignorance.
“It’s not the arts that needs elevating its everything else that needs to learn like Lamming taught us, ‘culture is not the icing on the cake, it’s the whole cake’.” Blackwood Meeks said. She went on to argue that the arts need to be elevated from the realm of the casual and contexualized as a core fabric of how we “design our lives and relationships”.
“Until the work we do here is recognized and contextualized as economic and social development and resourced accordingly the matter of students being encouraged to select subjects in the arts is not even valid,” Blackwood Meeks argued. “C’dear, who gwine teach it.”
Instead she urged that the artists take their rightful place in society.
“We need to stop begging for a place in the system and just run di place,” Blackwood Meeks urged.
More than a few of the student artists lived up to the high praise heaped on them by the school’s director, Miriam Smith.
The first set of students with an opportunity to literally strut their stuff before the audience, was six of the students in the Textile and Fibre Arts degree, specializing in fashion design: Sashell Barnes, Kaydene Dyrumple, Makedia Pryce, Kittana Smith and Julianne Walker.
Of the group, the designs by Walker, Smith and Pryce were particularly striking, suggesting they may well be future designers to watch. All three had significantly different styles. Pryce edged toward the formal classic styles producing
Pryce was the first of the designers who seemed to realize that models are more than hangers on which to drape clothing. Pryce’s designs had trains, clean lines, fitted bodices and low backs.
Kittana Smith was the only of the designers producing work solely for men. Her pieces were an Interesting departure from traditional look fusing trench coat designs and earthy prints while still conforming to contemporary dictates of slim fitted pants.
Julianne Walker’s urban contemporary pieces were arresting. All in black and white demonstrating geometric patterns, the pieces worked well for men and women.
While Camille Bryan’s sandal and handbag designs did not make it to the cat walk (for practical purposes as those platforms were not made for walking) her creation of set pieces was decidedly striking and suitable to her goals of accent pieces for photo shoots and music videos.
While many of the students demonstrated competence in their field of study but produced, refined work which nonetheless failed to engage, several others delivered installations which successfully provided social and psychological explorations of themselves and the society.
Nadine Hall’s textile installation was one such striking piece. The instillation, largely comprising a series of red balls floating and spiraling up to the sky deserved its dominant place in the Cage Gallery. The piece was created as tribute to the memories of her mother, each ball representing a vibrant red cocoon of memory and when looked as at as a whole seemed almost infinite.
Of the painting students, the installation’s by Kelley-Ann Lindo and Shanice Malcolm particularly stood out, possibly also because the complimented each other so well. Lindo’s work explored the destructive force of nature, paying attention to the lives destroyed by hurricanes and floods. Across the room is Malcolm’s treatise on how we destroy our bodies by flooding our bodies with food as nutritious as sponge.
The visual communication students dominated the exhibition, in size rather than artistry. The majority of the students produce technically sound installations that should guarantee them jobs in advertising agencies and other art departments. A few, however, attempted to go deeper with their work.
Kokab Zohoori-Dossa’s and Novia Prince produced visually arresting and socially engaging work. Interestingly, both were exploring issues of race in Jamaica. Orane Chandon’s explorations of the role of choices in the path of life was also engaging.
Of the printmaking cohort, Domanie Denniston’s self-reflection, producing an exploration of unwantedness was certainly striking, while Rodane Gordon’s examination of the role of handcarts in Jamaican life had enough quirkiness to make it notable. Orville Moore's use of stained glass patterns to examine the role of Christianity in slavery was engaging, yet one can imagine how moving these imagew would be should they ever be transferred to actual buildings.
Yet the piece that was possibly most telling of the work that goes on at the SVA was a discarded bit of card board that declared “Final year work, please do not move!”