UWI Visual Arts Programme celebrates 25th Anniversary with Group Show

By Marsha Pearce Thursday, December 13th, 2012 Categories: Features, Reviews, Updates

The Visual Arts unit of the Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA) at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad, opened a group show on December 9, 2012. The exhibition is part of the unit’s 25th anniversary celebrations and features artworks from past and current students and faculty. Over a hundred pieces are on display. The presentation is a wide array of imaginative approaches to the deployment of media, the execution of techniques and the engagement with various subject matter. Creative expression takes such diverse forms as painting, drawing, sculpture, computer-aided illustration, photography, installation, pottery, jewellery and video.

Roy Cape by Sherlann Peters and Life by Jason Lai King. All photographs by Marsha Pearce

Man of Courage – Wisdom by Sarah Joseph Harewood and Within the Horizon by Dan Eastman.

Patterned Vases by Virginia D’Ornellas and Nylon by Usha Pollocksingh.

Student works offer a visual medley. Pieces like “Intent” and “Marley” by John Farfan and Esther Griffith, respectively, demonstrate the correspondence and differences in the ways in which the art of portraiture can be articulated.  Gerrel Saunders’ “Skull Girls” also add dimension to the rendering of the face by compelling the viewer to look beneath the epidermis and confront the inner framework of his subjects. Seon Thompson manipulates positive and negative space, using the device of subtraction, to offer us a look at a number of mighty icons in Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural landscape. Sarah Knights’ “Girl in Striped Dress,” Kern Pierre’s “Eve on Side” and Marisa Ramdeen’s “Looking Away” are strong examples of personal responses to the human figure.

Intent by John Farfan and Marley by Esther Griffith.

Skull Girl by Gerrel Saunders and Art Icons by Seon Thompson.

Girl in Striped Dress by Sarah Knights, Eve on Side by Kern Pierre and Looking Away by Marisa Ramdeen.

In “Slave Ship” Darron Small literally puts a face to the many unknown enslaved Africans whose trauma continues to feed into our Caribbean present. In contrast to his richly detailed faces, he describes the bodies primarily in outline, allowing the limbs of repeated hunched figures to overlap and interlock like chain links. The body is interpreted as a corporeal manacle. The heads in the piece are also representative of the Yoruba idea of Orí, the inner head or destiny. Small visually incorporates the Orí or heads as sources of strength for the Middle Passage journey and rebirth in the New World. His work is a powerful image of the binding of freedom and the subjugation of physicality but it also speaks about endurance and the capacity for the triumph of the spirit. Small’s visual conversation is, in some ways, extended by Alex Kelly who presents an energy of resistance in his piece “Instrument of Defiance.” He dissects his canvas into a flash of prismatic light, which emanates from a steelpan at the centre. He points the viewer to the potency of an inherent creativity and an emancipatory brilliance that glows within the people of the Caribbean region.

Slave Ship by Darron Small and Instrument of Defiance by Alex Kelly.

In a vivid, towering piece Avind Ganesh beckons the viewer to take a journey towards liberation or Moksha. Moksha is a philosophy of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is a relinquishing of the ego and a release from the cycle of death and rebirth – or what is called samsara – in an effort to arrive at a higher state of consciousness or enlightenment. Gillian Creese’s “Innertiming” conveys a biological clock and Rajendra Ramkallawan uses collage to create a fantasy-scape in his “City of Dreams.” Other students/alumni showing work include: Sherlann Peters, Tracey Chan, Luis Vasquez La Roche, Alicia Milne, Kwynn Johnson, Arnaldo James, Robert Young, Clydeen McDonald, Kenderson Noray, Nigel Eastman, Melanie Kim, Tara Bhajan, Raymond Alexander, Marsha Trepte, Jeneile McCarthy-Sinanan, Nickolai Salcedo, Wasia Ward, Adeola Gibbons-Dewis, Genieve Ramrattan, Marsha Morrain, Jason Lai King and Vibert Medford.


Moksha – A Journey towards Liberation by Avind Ganesh and Innertiming by Gillian Creese.

The works of lecturers also reflect a range of ideas and a spectrum of enunciated visual languages. Lesley-Ann Noel, Coordinator of the visual arts unit, investigates patterns in her presentation of aerial landscapes. She plays with and builds on –using sewn designs – Google images of such places in Trinidad as Piarco, Caroni and Lady Chancellor. Elsa Gabrielle Carrington Clarke interrogates issues of memory and identity in her ancestor series of paintings. She also experiments with layered experiences, addressing body, mind and spirit as well as senses of sight and smell in her piece entitled “Prayer” which sets three structures within a bed of saffron powder. Roger McCollin exposes the viewer to interpretative possibilities and a decoding exercise with his selection of works, which are based on asemic writing – a form of writing with no specific semantic content. McCollin combines old, new and invented symbols and asks the question: Does a group of symbols, some recognisable, some unknown, constitute language? The viewer is invited to inject his or her own meanings, taking into consideration the relationships of the various symbols and their context. Other lecturers/staff members (past and present) participating in the exhibit are Che Lovelace, Kenwyn Crichlow, Camille King, Adele Todd, Donald Jackie Hinkson, Sarah Beckett, Shalini Singh, Virginia D’Ornellas, Dan Eastman, Sarah Joseph Harewood, Rachel Rochford, Greer Jones Woodham, Usha Pollocksingh, Deborah Clement, Azeem Rahaman, Robert Yao Ramesar, Akuzuru, Lari Richardson and Curtis Alleyne.

Aerial Landscapes by Lesley-Ann Noel.

Ancestor – Great great grandmother, Ancestor – Salt-fed spirit and Prayer by Elsa Gabrielle Carrington Clarke.

Asemitry by Roger McCollin.

Eclipse – Heart of the Night by Kenwyn Crichlow and Hibiscus Sonata by Sarah Beckett.

The exhibition highlights the ongoing efforts and the meaningful, creative outputs of the Visual Arts unit at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Twenty-five years ago, the Visual Arts programme began as two courses within the English department. Today the Visual Arts unit offers both a Certificate and a Degree in Visual Arts, with an option of Fine Art or Design at the degree level. At the postgraduate level, the unit offers a Masters in Design Entrepreneurship.

The 25th anniversary exhibition runs through December 14, from 9am to 6pm daily, at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts on Gordon Street in St. Augustine.

Marsha Pearce
Marsha Pearce

Marsha Pearce is ARC’s Senior Arts Writer and Editor. She holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus, Trinidad. She lectures in the Department of Creative and Festival Arts at UWI and is also a freelance arts writer for the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspaper. Pearce is the 2006 Rhodes Trust Rex Nettleford Cultural Studies Fellow.