At Softbox gallery in Port of Spain, the work by Kwynn Johnson reels in a large crowd. They are here to purchase, observed and speculate over an exhibition titled Red, appropriated, Art Exhibition. By the title alone set a red flag in motion as it had much to do with theoretical concepts backed by POP ART decal craft. Ms. Johnson is working toward her University of the West Indies Masters in Cultural Studies and the exhibition is part of her thesis surrounding the issue of popular (local) sayings, drawn if you like in red embroidery. This had a canny resemblance to Adele Todd's embroidery work whose pallet is thread and like Johnson, she focuses on the subject of the meaning and puns of Trinidad and Tobago's culture. Johnson however is not as sophisticated as in exploring the tactile texture of the material, yet with this show she was capable of outredding Steve Ouditt's weak doctorate thesis based exhibition at Alice Yard in 2008.
Adele Todd's embroidery from 2001
Ms. Johnson also included a series of compact water graphic colour washes of quirky iconographies that look like sutures and too Christopher Cozier-ish with fishing wire integrated in each piece to give it some sort of motif in its meaning. She also created decals of commercial logos, TTT, the Trinidad and Tobago copper cent and so forth, but they are too crude in their executing and not as slick as Richard Rawlins' iron on decals used in his Jeans Art, 2007. This is no Andy Warhol work here, but rather a frugal attempt to be in the know of a art trend nearly half a century ago. Kwynn Johnson's trickery was her machine made embroidered block letter script which entailed quotes on the appropriated redness of one's skin, her own. If embroidery is her voice, she has to be careful where and who she is influenced by, imitations just do not work.
Regurgitate the fallacy of language, PHDs and
other Academia may not apply
The following paragraph is the introduction to Kwynn Johnson's thesis by Paula Morgan. Head, Liberal Arts, Crauduate Programme published as a catalogue with noted corrections to a poorly written document.
We are here to serve as witnesses ? to the benefits of this initiative. Too much of the excellent research produced by our graduate students remains locked up in libraries, within the medium of print, ?? to be accessed by a select few. This project invites the
general public to participate in (an) ongoing dialogue of how we construct to see ourselves as individuals, as ethnicities and as a nation (Nation). The story of red (Red) speaks reams to us questions this, and Kwynn (Jonson's) exhibition, with its interactive component ?? excites urges us and tugs into a , to search deeper more intense process of definition and (into the process of self discovery, produced through the practice of art which Kwynn explores)
Johnson's Thesis with notes:
.....While investigations into colour and its meanings is not a new project ? in art history
scholarship ( give dates), my work here is grounded in (aimed specific, within a discourse pertaining to the Trinbagonian populous and of their persevered notion to what it means, oversimplified by my overlapping of the red thread which implies generations of inbreed belief......) This look at red does not claim to be definitive, but rather it is a retracing of some of the facets and configurations that arise from literal and figurative notions of redness. Moreover, it highlights its many intersections whereby it represents ways in which we have and continue to negotiate it.
(This focus on the redness of one's pigment is not restricted by the gradation of the skin's tone but rather it marries....and so forth)