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NGJ Goes Digital: National Gallery Explores Digital Art With Latest Exhibition

Carla Moore explores Phillip Thomas' Faust

The National Gallery of Jamaica pays homage to the increasing use of digital tools in creating art with their latest exhibition Digital, which opened recently at their Downtown Kingston location. Digital is not the most exciting exhibition that the NGJ has recently staged, but it is solid and bears several striking and intriguing pieces, many of which engage in an exploration of politics, culture and technology.

Of course, a part of the challenge with appreciating the exhibition might be that it feels a little hard to swallow, not because it is unpalatable, but there is so much to consume, that the breadth and depth of some pieces are easily overlooked. Digital isn’t larger that than the NGJ’s average exhibition, but the animations, gifs, and films included, certainly makes it feel more expansive.

Veerle Poupeye, NGJ Executive Director flanked by co-curators O'Neil Lawrence and Monique Barnett-Davidson

Rather than confining itself to art from Jamaica, the exhibition features works from artists from across the region including Belize, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago. It also stretched into the Caribbean’s Diaspora emerging from the USA, Germany and China.

If nothing else, Digital underscores that Richard Nattoo is possibly one of the most exciting arts emerging on the Jamaican art scene. Indeed, Jamaica’s visual art scene is currently pregnant with several engaging and daring young voices at various stages of development. 

Nattoo’s video installation series ‘Adrift’, carries forward his signature of creating the otherworldly. The installation features four animated holograms created presented via tablets and glass prisms. 

Barbadian designer Ewan Atkinson’s 'The Neighbourhood' is also an intriguing inclusion in the exhibition. The series comprises satiric posters based on a fictitious neighbourhood which bears an all too close resemblance to our Caribbean realities. The posters, parodies of tourism posters, query the existence of paradise and are filled with ironic wit.

Richard Nattoo's art invites you to step into another realm

Phillip Thomas’ continued exploration of history and capitalism in ‘Faust’ is also one of the stand-out pieces in the exhibition. The tryptic sweeps from a headless well-dressed white man and ends with a lynched black man (the noose edited out) and so questions ideas of luxury and how they are created and maintained through acts of brutality.

Trinidadian Richard Mark Rawlins explores the creation and use of coons and buffoons through dance on American television from the 1970s through to the 1990s in the video installation ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, using clips from Sanford and Son, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Good Times among others. The short video, although far too simplistic as it clearly ignores the telling shades of grey surrounding these characters, is certainly an important part of exploring how black identity is created in mainstream media.

Chevaughn accompanied by guitarist Dario Morgan

Digital also features work by Dionne C. Walker, Rodell Warner, Prudence Lovell, Ronald Williams, Oneika Russel, Nile Saulter, Henri Tauliaut, and Olivia McGilchrist. 

Digital opened on Sunday, April 24, 2016, with a beautiful and textured performance by Chevaughn accompanied on guitar by Dario Morgan and with a guest appearance by Sherita Lewis. Chevaughn, now going solo after years of being the lead singer for C-Sharp presented a rich musical suite that filled the gallery with a mixture of his own work as well as beautiful renditions of some fan faves, suitably creating the bed from which to explore the exhibition.

Digital will close on July 4, 2016. The exhibition was curated by