Shows that expand the mind and soul
“People interpret Bermuda so differently through art,” mused Elise Outerbridge, the curator at Masterworks as she introduced the new show A Treasured Island.
The thematic collection on display at Masterworks is anchored by Andrew Wyeth’s Royal Palms and other magnificent representations by artistic greats such as Marsden Hartley, Albert Gleizes and Winslow Homer. What is notable is that Wyeth visited Bermuda in 1950 and his major works from that visit number only four pieces. Given where the other three reside, it is a major feat by Masterworks to have acquired this painting.
The opulent eclecticism of A Treasured Island showcases our rich Bermuda heritage with exquisite works and offers an immersive experience that affirms a singular truth: cultural engagement and significant art belongs to everyone. A remarkable testament to this is the mysterious painting Regatta. It is an unidentified oil from 1862 that captures a Bermuda Fitted Dinghy race featuring all-black sailors. Masterworks manages to achieve a transcendent connection while offering historical context with an emotional intelligence that defies Bermudian demographic and class.
The romantic suggestion of A Treasured Island is one where we are connected to something much larger than ourselves.
The reach of Elise Outerbridge’s statement wonderfully and unwittingly extends to the 2015 Bermuda Society of Arts Invitational and Emerging Artists shows, which opened at City Hall.
Let’s be clear. As important as an “emerging artist” show is, it cannot be all things to all artists regarding opportunities and expectations. Under the best of circumstances, this type of show should offer a transformative experience with an emphasis on development and enriching the creative process for the artist. The present show by BSoA is important and exciting for this reason: in a harmonious fashion, it articulates the universality of the creative process and brings art appreciation to the fore simultaneously in an intensely personal fashion.
An example of this is inadvertent parallelism of an artist in the Invitational Show juxtaposition with the work of an emerging artist — mono and polychromatic series of Meredith Andrews and the scenographic botanical themes by Avarie Graham. It was interesting to hear Graham discuss arriving at her idea for her botanical theme, the result of fulfilling a thesis requirement. Graham then steps on the head of mere coincidence and contrast with her piece Floral Femininity — collages of euphonious sensuality and lyricised colourings.
Continued highlights from the emerging artists show is the photography of Nina Cotterill, especially her image Washed Up Rope Detail, which presents a grandiloquent, visual narrative that is inherently elegant. Forest Path Way, by Pardeep Kumar Betha, is an abstraction of infinity that possesses an articulated definition of realism that is fascinating to discern given the immediate duality in his painting. Jordan Fairn’s Fictitious Labour has a depth of execution and realised creativity that is inventive and arresting.
It can be suggested that the purpose of contemporary art is to provide the kind of experience where dissimilar ideas are forged in an intentional, voluntary or planned fashion. The hope is that novel and new possibilities emerge to transport us into the uncharted territory of comprehension, thought and even irrationality. These novel and new possibilities are not always successful because the associated attempts at artistic expression with an “installation” piece do not originate in an intelligent context.
Despite the artist statement constructed with artifice and abstraction, we are not absolved of the related, cognitive challenge posed by Michael Walsh.
In this same context, that was difficult to suppress the Semmelweis Reflex and dismiss the work of Michael Walsh as a postmodernist bromide that does not elevate beyond vapid expression regardless of seemingly technical complexity. Unfortunately, neither the novel nor new is present in Walsh’s installation.
My Side, Your Side, by Milton Raposo, is a work that is turgidly pompous and shallow, if not outright maudlin in its offensiveness for all the wrong reasons. A genuine credit belongs to the BSoA, which appears to have deferred to artistic submission while not compromising the integrity of the Invitational Show with the inclusion of Raposo’s art.
Masterworks and BSoA with their respective shows offer an experience in culture and art that is beyond the value of what is on display. We cannot waver from the importance of art in our society and how shows such as A Treasured Island and the BSoA’s Invitational and Emerging Artist shows promote social and art ecosystems with diverse contributions and benefits such as developing talent, attracting tourists and broadening the scope of art appreciation.
To experience the interaction with the artists, especially “the emerging artists”, elicits a visceral connection that cannot be adequately expressed with words. It is also surreal to see the collective psyche of a generation play out in ideas, renderings and narratives associated with artistic pursuit.
The triumph of these shows is simple — they expand the mind and soul, and justify a visit.
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