Thursday, 25 August 2011

PERSONAL VISION: Under-40 Artist of the Year finalists push the boundaries of creativity

MASQUERADE: Duane Bennett's Shhh.

“The quality of the entries this year is truly amazing,” observes Mutual Gallery curator Gilou Baeur in reference to the submissions of the three selected finalists in the Super Plus Under-40 Artist of the Year competition. The riveting works, steeped in creative brilliance, are now on view at the Oxford Road-based gallery through September. “And for one,” she continues, “the idea of using bubblegum we found exciting because it was something different, something novel, and spoke to the different possibilities available for our artists.”

That particular artist in question is Duane Bennett, the noted jewelry designer, whose submission revolves around the ingenious use of chewing gum to address “the unknown, unseen and unspoken.” Also showcasing his creations fashioned from wood, plastic and soft metal, Bennett’s work takes a fascinatingly symbolic approach to the subject of Jamaicans and social behaviour.

The year’s two other finalists are O’Neil Lawrence and Cosmo Whyte, whose pieces are also uniquely captivating. Working with a range of media, Whyte offers a meditation on the concepts of “memory, ancestry and nostalgia” and the ways that one ascribes meaning to objects of importance, particularly family heirlooms. On the other hand, Lawrence (“There’s usually an element of autobiography in my work”) submitted a haunting self-portrait series, featuring handsomely photographed black-and-white images framed within a seaside setting. The series culminates in a mesmeric video presentation.

LIGHT AND DARK: Whyte's Bobo Dread.

As Baeur explains it, following a pre-selection exercise and subsequent cuts, this year’s overall pool of submissions was whittled from 10 to the final three, driven by a criteria that demands quality and soundness of the artist’s proposal.

The aim of the competition, now in its 11th year, is to promote new developments in contemporary art in Jamaica, and it is open to resident and non-resident Jamaican artists under the age of 40. The Artist of the Year is decided through a process of public vote and panel adjudication. This year’s jury is comprised of the National Gallery’s David Boxer, the School of Art’s Petrona Morrison and Prudence Lovell, avid art collector Anthony Miller and Baeur herself, who notes, “Only twice has someone won both the public vote and the jury vote.”

The artist voted by the public to have made the best submission will receive an award of $50,000. The winner of the Jury Prize, judged to have made the best overall submission, takes home $100,000 and will be offered a solo exhibition at the Mutual Gallery. The announcement of the winner(s) will be made at the gallery on Wednesday, September 7 at 7:00 pm.

AU NATUREL: Lawrence's Realisation.

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