Pieces so good they could be exhibited anywhere
Despite its complex history, this Bermuda Society of Arts Members' Show is a phenomenal and beguiling experience.
The exhibition possesses an intrinsic and fundamental democracy that transcends social, cultural, racial and any other barrier that may impede artistic expression and its accessibility and therein lies the complex history. It was not always this way. From the nascent artist to the fully realised artist this show provides ample opportunities for the viewer to engage with interest. The scope of diversity in medium speaks to an evolution of a new narrative that does not feel hollow or transient. There is a concrete contextualising that allows the inner world of the artist to connect with the outer world of the viewer across several parameters. In many regards it is a show that challenges preconceptions — even ideologies with a sweeping relevancy that is in the arena of risk-taking novelty. Several of the artists render personal strengths in meaningful ways to bring about a greater understanding — even when the vernacular is firmly based in abstraction. Bryant Richards, Jr's Infinite Possibilities is a balance of synthesis between the process of image on sheet metal, concept and the use of light speaks to this point in a commanding way. The arresting image of Andreas Detzer's Underwater Rainbow is mined from the same vein.
It is a daunting task to present a total review of all the works on display but an immediate highlight is the series by Karl Sternath. The relationship in his pieces between colour, medium and texture creates a transcendental sensation of depth. It is another conspicuous example of an elegant sensibility in abstraction that is rich, vibrant and controlled in its execution. On the other hand, the pastels of Vanessa Turner are impeccable in tone and composition. While there is some predictability in the theme of landscapes there can be no escaping a vernacular which is indigenous to Bermuda; and nor should there be. The challenge is to create a voicing that is new and unique. Otto Trott's watercolour St David's has an alluring luminosity in its washes while the Bermuda Triangle series by Kok Wan Lee seeks to capture the thermal representations of heat on local scenery. In both instances you have an artist utilising a different visual syntactical function to great effect. The mosaics of Corrina Rego are entertaining with subtleties of colour which possess a dynamic sense of movement that is coherent as it is fastidiously grounded in orderliness with various surprises embedded in the surface. The canon for contemporary art is set on its head with the illustrations of Elca Maranzana and the consciousness statements of autobiographical definitions that accompany her pieces.
At its inception the earliest forms of art were representations of nature. This broad spectrum of artistic statement illustrates the inherent strength of the Members' Show because within an arm's span you have Janet Carew's sparkling lyricism of abstraction in her series which features Gale Warning II and then there is the serene musicality of William J Gringley's Koi Pond. As with any strength there is a weakness. Many in art have voiced extensive and genuine reasons for a crisis of creativity in the world of art. The simple fact of the matter is that too many of our new artists, and particularly our young artists, are attempting to be creative but simply don't have the “chops”. It's like a songwriter trying to write a melody but doesn't know musical scales and the theory of harmony. It is once in a millennium that an untrained musician like a Jimi Hendrix can turn the world on its ear. Unfortunately, there are several instances where the intent may have been sincere, but the mark was missed.
By popular demand The History of Hats in Bermuda is included in this show. It is hoped that the significance of its historical content and cultural contribution will enable this display of hats to travel outside Bermuda to support various Bermuda initiatives and campaigns. This is a wonderful example of creative partnering between BSoA and the Bank of Bermuda Foundation.
The members' show as a collective repeats the same mantra throughout the gallery and that mantra is one that this is a powerful egalitarian vehicle of artistic expression. It affords our artists the opportunity to express creative visions that are beyond the capacity of words and it provides a medium for social and cultural enlightenment. Here is an audacious assessment: by any measure, standard or criteria for fine contemporary art there are pieces in this show that could be exhibited in any gallery, anywhere in the world. They are that good. This show contains works that should be acknowledged and appreciated for its ebullient expressions of ideas, observations and various ruminations on theme. There are many advocates of the arts as an important and essential foundation for an enlightened society in an overtly complex world. There is no greater advocate than the Bermuda Society of Arts.
The Members' Show at the BSoA, City Hall runs until August 5.