Saturday, January 14, 2006

2005 A year in Art - Trinidad and Tobago

In December, Adele Todd at gallery Soft Box

Right off the bat it is important to note that by no means did any of us go to all the shows in the last year. So to some it may seem unfair to do a summing up. Yet in many respects one can sum up the year without going to everything, simply because so many shows are a great deal alike. The reason to sum up the year has to do with trying to pin down what artists in Trinidad and Tobago are saying in their work today and what they may be saying for the future. One of the controversial moments of 2005 came when the artist Willie Chen wrote about Harold Herminez. He was so incensed by what he saw that that warranted a trip to San Fernando.

Harold Herminez - a bullet for

Artists off the beaten track like Wendy Nanan and Tessa Alexander did work based on India. Wendy Nanan focused on meditation and Tessa Alexander had visited India and her works focus was on her experiences. Some old stalwarts like LeRoy Clarke, Neal Massy and Karen Sylvester did not disappoint their public with much of the same sort of fair that has marked their long careers. However in the instance of Massy and Sylvester it seemed clear to me that they were trying to push past some of their tried, tested and proven techniques.

Art in Trinidad and Tobago is largely one of safe, traditional buying styles, featuring such works as pastoral scenes, flowers and birds, market, mountain and river scenes. Occasionally we will also see a venture into painting the national instrument. But 2005 had some interesting moments worthy of noting, like the exhibition of five jewellers works, Barbra Jardine, Rachel Ross, Jasmine Girvan, Janice Derrick and Sarah May Marshall, something that has rarely been seen and very long overdue.

Ananci”, Pendant Ornament. sterling silver, 18carat gold, snail shell, carved bone, pink tourmaline, garnet
Fire & Flux Exhibition at the National Museum

There was also work seen at a new place called Soft Box. Soft Box focuses on alternative work and that is very important. There are many modes of expression and everyone should be able to see many types of works. The visual spectrum must be expanded and more and more artists need to be able to explore a range of works. It is not enough to do work that the public expects, but work that they not only do not expect, work that can engage them.

Trinidad and Tobago has lost its idyllic innocence and artists have a great responsibility to themselves and their space and without some sort of assessment of what is going on in art, we are relegated to constant re-invention.

Adele Todd



sikora said...

LOVE the Anansi piece. The head reminds me of elephant tusks attached to the Oba heads from Benin.

sikora said...

"The visual spectrum must be expanded and more and more artists need to be able to explore a range of works"

Regardng the above statement, I fully agree with it. I often peruse the pages of the Trinidad Art society and while I admire the skill of many of the painters, I am saddened by the fact that many of the artists limit their subject matter to typical Caribbean themes. Coconut trees, beach scenes etc.

Anonymous said...

One must understand the sensibility of what "art" means to the Trinidadian viewer and the Caribbean artists. Art and art education has not been taught and represented in any dynamic way that moves the scope larger than the limits of the environment and culture of the people. But what is art if not the representation of a people and their culture, through the artist personal life experiences and journey? what do you want to see that goes beyong the realm of "Trinidadian environment and festive scenes" There are a lot of Trinidadian/Caribbean artist who have gotten "out of the box" do some research. If you study the history of art you find that most artist usually represent their culture and environmet. So do you have any ideas for those artists who limit their subject matter?


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