“With resonance I mean the power of the displayed object to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex, dynamic, cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which it may be taken by a viewer to stand.”
– Stephen Greenblatt
This exhibition represents a selection from the recently closed 2019 Final Year Exhibition at the School of Visual Arts, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. It features work by six young artists: Trishaunna Henry (BFA Sculpture), Joni P. Gordon (BFA Photography), Leanne Mair (BFA Painting), Yulanah Mullings (BFA Painting) ,Mark Robinson (BFA Painting), and Keisha Walters (BFA Painting). The exhibition is curated by Dr Veerle Poupeye, art historian and independent curator, and a lecturer at the Edna Manley College.
Instead of sampling the entire exhibition, the focus of the selection is on artists from the fine arts departments who have produced work that reflects related interests, on a conceptual, thematic and formal level. The exhibition is titled “Resonances,” after Stephen Greenblatt’s famous essay “Resonance and Wonder” (1991), which is a classic in the literature on museums and curating. Each of the six artists indeed makes use of the potential of the object and image to speak about more than itself and to invoke poignant and complex stories by drawing on the poetic power of association. This “resonance” is used to speak about matters of social, cultural and historical significance, in Jamaica and globally, and the themes explored by the artists in this exhibition range from the experience, visual ambiance and historical roots of the Jamaican urban environment and the car culture; the personal traumas of racism, migrant work, and childhood sexual abuse; the moral dilemmas of genetic engineering; to the historical and contemporary cultural significance of shoes (with a witty reference to the Jamaican DJ Vybz Kartel’s notorious “mi want mi shoes” in the work of Keisha Walters.)
What the six artists also have in common is a concern with the materiality of their work, and a willingness to go beyond the conventional disciplinary boundaries in the fine arts, defying conventional definitions of painting, sculpture and photography. Only the sculptor in the group – Trishaunna Henry – works in sculptural media; the others work experimentally in media that depart from the traditional focus in their departments, ranging from aluminium to wood, paper and cardboard constructions, to paper and textiles. They also experiment with scale, enlarging normally small objects to large size or, conversely, reducing normally large objects or images to miniature scale. Despite their muted colours and ephemeral material qualities, the resulting objects and images have a strong physical presence invite the viewer to engage deeply, driving home their socio-political content in powerful ways.
The use of the 132 Harbour Street, a beautiful early 20th century warehouse space which is under renovation, as a pop-up exhibition venue for this project also illustrates the potential of such buildings in Downtown Kingston to serve as galleries and other cultural spaces, as the dream of the Downtown Kingston Art District is beginning to take shape.