The National Gallery of Jamaica announces Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, winner of the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award

By ARC Magazine Sunday, December 30th, 2012 Categories: Biennales, Reports, Updates

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce that Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, jeweller and sculptor, has been awarded the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award. The Aaron Matalon award is presented at each biennial to the artist who in the opinion of a jury comprised of the members of the Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committee of the National Gallery of Jamaica has made the most outstanding contribution to the biennial. Jasmine Thomas-Girvan is represented by two mixed media sculptures: Dreaming Backwards, a wall-based assemblage, and Occupy (Alchemy of Promise), which is freestanding.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media – detail

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan was born 1961 in Jamaica. She attended the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she received a BFA in Jewellery and Textile Design and was awarded the Tiffany Honour Award for Excellence. She also received a Prime Minister’s Certificate of Recognition for Excellence in Jamaica, and she was the recipient of a Commonwealth Foundation Arts award in 1996. Jasmine has also made a number of public commissions, one of which was presented to the Queen of England. Jasmine’s work has been exhibited in the USA, Jamaica, Trinidad, Venezuela and Mexico, and she recently had a solo exhibition, titled Resonance, at Hi-Qo Gallery in Kingston. She currently lives and works in Trinidad.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media – detail. Photograph courtesy Alexander Girvan

While she is still best known as a jeweller, Jasmine’s recent work has moved beyond the conventional jewellery formats and she stated in a recent interview about her work in the 2012 National Biennial: “Over time my work has been expanding in scale and so one of the pieces is a wall piece 10 feet long, titled Dreaming Backwards. This piece brings together many of the recurring themes in my work, referencing our collective history/memory, and is realized in materials which are environmentally relevant [such as a palm frond, bird feathers and man-made found objects]. The second piece traverses the defined boundaries of jewellery and sculpture [and] is titled Alchemy of Promise. It is crafted in local mahogany and bronze with wearable [jewellery accents] and jumbie beads. It represents a meditation on the way forward.”

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Occupy (Alchemy of Promise), mixed media – detail. Photograph courtesy of Alexander Girvan

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Occupy (Alchemy of Promise), mixed media (detail)

Jasmine’s current work reflects poetically – and ironically – on the human condition and current events, with specific reference to the Caribbean. With its exquisite juxtaposition of found and hand-crafted objects, Jasmine’s work relies on the combined poetic resonance of image, object and material and it often exists in dialogue with literary sources: Dreaming Backwards, for instance, has inscribed the following excerpt from a poem by Octavio Paz:

We must dream backwards,
Towards the source,
We must row back up the
Centuries, beyond infancy,
Beyond the beginning,
Beyond the waters of beyond
We must break down the wall
Between man and man
And reunite what was

While the image of the man rowing against the forward-moving forces of the world may seem like a symbol of human futility, it is in effect a hopeful image of self-discovery and reconciliation.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media (bronze, wood, found objects, feathers), 365.7 x 7.6 cm

The Aaron Matalon award is named after the Chairman Emeritus of the National Gallery, the late Hon. Aaron Matalon, OJ, who along with his wife Marjorie in 1999 donated to the National Gallery two hundred and eighteen major works of art in a gesture that has been hailed as “one of the most generous acts of philanthropy in our nation’s history.” The award, a specially crafted, unique medallion, which for each biennial draws its major design elements from a notable masterwork in the National Collection, is accompanied by a modest cash prize. The medallion is handmade by master jeweller and sculptor Carol Campbell and this year’s design was inspired by Osmond Watson’s master-painting The Lawd is my Shepherd(1969).


For more information visit the National Gallery of Jamaica blog.

ARC Magazine
ARC Magazine

ARC Inc. is a non-profit print and online publication and social platform launched in 2011. It seeks to fill a certain void by offering a critical space for contemporary artists to present their work while fostering and developing critical dialogues and opportunities for crucial points of exchange. ARC is an online and social space of interaction with a developed methodology of sharing information about contemporary practices, exhibitions, partnerships, and opportunities occurring in the Caribbean region and throughout its diasporas.