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SVA Unveils Diverse Works in Final Year Exhibition 2013

New Jamaica questions through music and street art

At the opening of the 2012 National Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Veerle Poupeye pointed to the breadth of strong entries from young artists, many of whom were recent graduates of the School of Visual Arts, Edna Manley College. The 2013 final year exhibition of the SVA suggested that this wave of young vibrant artists with something to say and the tools to say it, has no intention of ebbing anytime soon.

Spread throughout the SVA and including the CAGE Gallery, the exhibition included pieces from the various disciplines including Visual Communication, Ceramics, Printmaking, Sculpture and Painting, and Textile and Fibre Arts.

During the opening ceremony, Petrona Morrison, Director of the SVA warned those who had come to see “the paintings” that they were unlikely to find the traditional. “You may not see the paintings that you expect on the walls,” she said, “but I want you to open your minds to the range of possibilities.” Morrison noted that the exhibition holds a representation of the contemporary art landscape which is often multi-disciplinary.

The gospel according to twitter from Jonoi MessamIt was a warning, or maybe a promise, that should be headed.

The words ‘New Jamaica’ are graffitied onto the outside walls of Matthew McCarthy’s installation which interrogates music, economics and the wider society. The experience begins from the outside, as the music start the commentary, then navigating the treacherous flats leading into the studio is another level at which it speaks. Inside, the walls are dominated by posters, and street art style graffiti on a zinc fence, music and video.

McCarthy explained that the installation began as a street art campaign and some of it has ended up on the streets, other pieces are plastered around the school.

“It started by talking to people in bars and taxi cabs,” he explained, “I decided it would be good to put a face to some of these ideas. You know everybody’s always talking about Jamaica this and Jamaica that, so I decided to illustrate it.”

A few doors down, Jonoi Messam explored technology as the new god with his installation ‘Religion 2.0’. The display fits into a narrow space which imitates a bus, and the walls are lined with sketches of people, either blue or white, on a bus. To the back are the commandments according to social media resting behind a pulpit. Messam was going for a multimedia effect that would make the audience not merely participate but culpable as with  the help of Layar, a US based company, he attempted to create a related app.

Shaneka Harris explores violence against womenFor Shaneka Harris, it was violence against women that grabbed her attention and expression. Harris provides a visceral representation of violence against women that is as disturbing as it is gripping. The mixed media pieces show beautiful pencil sketches that are disrupted by huge red gouges.

Harris explains that the pieces are meant to disturb and shake the viewer out of complacency. "When you see beautiful women, or anybody for that matter, you don't know what's going on,” she says. She notes that she used the tradition sketches and style in part because of its simplicity which helps to draw you in. She hopes that the pieces will allow the view to question why the women are smiling despite their wounds, including those in the face.

Environmental issues were not to be left of the agenda and was brought to the fore by Orville Bascoe who uses disturbing graphic images of a dystopian world decimated by the absence of fresh water. He promotes a desalination device as the hope to save the world from this fate. His installation therefore also includes the specs for the device as well as a rustic prototype, which he says works. Bascoe explains that, although illustration was his chosen path, he is actually interested in creating the device.

Donna McFarlane, Director and Curator of Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey, had laid a fertile ground upon which the exhibition could be viewed. In her presentation as guest speaker during the official opening ceremony, she noted that despite the over exposure tools promoting a state of amnesia and ignorance the diversity of questions raised was by the students was commendable.

Donna McFarlane Director and Curator of Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey“You . . . are obviously concerned with deconstructing history and with bringing into focus the realities of the 21st century, exploring and engaging with Jamaica/Caribbean today,” she said.

“Your work questions nomality, power, political, social and economic issues and brings us face to face with the mobile, remote, technological age we are in,” Dr. McFarlane said, “and questions whether we are truly benefiting or is it being used to slowly damage us and render us as pawns in a killing game.”

The exhibition closes on June 15 and is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10 am to 7 pm at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Arthur Wint Drive, Kingston.