Review: show a stellar, artistic experience
When I was new to jazz, I came across a recording by The Quintet. It was a 1953 concert at Massey Hall in Toronto featuring legends Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. The excitement of this discovery has never left me.
The new show at Masterworks, the Charman Prize 2015, in many ways rendered and surpassed this same excitement of discovery I experienced all those years ago. It actually defies the word “excitement” — it is a stellar, artistic experience of wonderful proportions and, in equal measure, I also found this show to be deeply perplexing.
Here’s why. Let’s acknowledge the immediate benefit of the Charman Prize to the Bermuda art community. Today, and throughout the history of art, competitions of this sort have provided emerging artists and established artists with opportunities for exhibition and the ancillary possibility of greater exposure, monetary awards and commissions — an essential consideration for some artists and a lifeblood of sustainability to others. The response by artists to this competition is amazing. There are more than 100 works of art in this show and it would be difficult to list details of every form of art because the representations span the broad spectrum of painting, jewellery, photography, sculpture and drawing, to list a few.
It is not the intention here to question or disparage the difficult task of judging a show with such a diverse catalogue. One aspect of the phenomenon of art and its creative process is the varied motivations for expression and how these expressions in turn communicate something to the viewer. This communication can be emotional impulses that swing between love and hate or pedagogical references of admiration or castigation. This communication can be as varied as art itself and begs the essential questions: what would be the framework of adjudication that would be fair to all submissions and how do you eliminate subjectivity from an exercise of this complexity? A Herculean task indeed.
I was fortunate to see this show before the awards were announced. There is a freedom in stepping into the unknown of creativity without the lens of judgment imposed upon you. I fully retreated into my own aesthetic judgment, and this is a joyous indulgence that draws me to art ad infinitum. It is the connection of being emotionally moved, to absorb every element of the figurative or the abstract; to embrace creativity, regardless of art form or genre in an unbridled fashion. Again, I have no intention to denigrate an art competition — it has its place and the winning artists are to be congratulated and celebrated.
Given the purpose of the Charman Prize 2015 show, it is possibly within the realm of Socratic irony that I offer my highlights. Three Queens by Chris Dawson is evocative of Cézanne’s The Card Players but with a vernacular of transcending humanism that never loses its veracity in the use of facial planes and lighting. The tribute to Georgine Hill by Lexy Correia’s One Classy Lady is a sensitive portrayal of feminine verve and this same vein is mined by A. Lisa Ty’s graphite and charcoal Bermuda Pride. The photographs of Bryant Richards Jr, Juliz Ritchie and Alan C. Smith are arresting images of unrelated themes that push style and composition to new heights of invention and execution.
My Gift by Alice Coutet is fascinating in how the uniqueness of personality and child essence are articulated in a semi-expression with telling eyes, while conveying a palpable strength, depth and complexity of character. Teresa Kirby Smith and Karl Sternath, with The Blue Hour and #199 Stemsi respectively, take flight from two different departure points to arrive at a serenity of luminescence central to their pieces.
The wonder of the Charman Prize 2015 show is its inherent, universal presence of truth in this deep and varied body of work. There is a common notion in art that what endures and resonates are archetypes — mythic or otherwise. We seek our own perceptions, intentions, attitudes and experiences in art and the currency of understanding is abundant here. There is a personal, artistic truth of some kind reflected and this creates a powerful connection.
Whether it is the charcoal Belco by Jacqueline Alma, Greg Heng’s Ocean Life or Bermuda Time by Michele Smith, the viewer’s gain is realised in the various abilities of composition and the overall executions on display at present. The coherent, aesthetic principles of beautiful appeal, quality production and theme promotes an extraordinary significance for this exhibition.
Regardless of your sensibility towards juried shows, the Charman Prize 2015 is something quite wonderful. It presents judgment, disagreement and even discrimination. It promotes the value of common culture with the possibility of shaping, recognising and engaging important and new Bermudian art.
Masterworks’ Charman Prize 2015 is running until January 8 next year.