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Artists explore theme with aplomb

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Extinction Road by Vaughan Evans(Photograph supplied)

The Bermuda Biennial is a major exhibition of the island’s contemporary art. The show at the Bermuda National Gallery comprises 20 artists selected by two international jurors under the themed title It’s About Now: Memories of the Present. The artists address a wide range of political, social and philosophical concerns.

Contemporary art is often associated with a unique language that can be opaque — impenetrable to many — and understood only by the initiated. However in a show that notably has no paintings, the artists’ statements offer concise explanations about the ideas behind their work. Indeed, if you are more comfortable with representational art rather than concept-based “issue-driven” work then the accompanying texts add accessibility.

Aesthetics are not necessarily the prime aim of contemporary art but Will Collieson and Vaughan Evans combine both in their work. They share a pessimistic assessment of the state of the world. Evans’s lino relief print Extinction Road uses a traditional technique in his excoriating allegory of capitalist excess.

The balance and harmonious design of Collieson’s surreal mixed-media assemblage, Tick, Tock, Tick, is superb. Seemingly, order has been created out of chaos in a work filled with symbolic motifs of extinction. The hands of time have fallen and lay scattered at the foot of the piece along with fractured pieces of the clock face.

As you progress through the gallery you pass under a huge work by Andrea Sundt Obligation, Constraint. The sculptural arc of water addresses environmental sustainability and is created from digitally printed paper and not textile as it would appear.

You are drawn up the gallery stairs by the sounds of breath. Dany Pen’s work Last Breath combines sound installation with blackened limestone arranged on the floor in precise lines. The work is a metaphor for life and death and influenced in part by the psychic shock of Cambodia’s genocide.

Ani Douglas’s work in steel and wax, Waxing and Waning, has philosophical depth and is expressed cleverly. The wax of several melted candles has merged over time to form a solid trunk through the four levels of the piece. Drips of fresh, melted wax symbolise new life, each with a unique path but made possible by the remains of what went before: the present is enabled by the past.

Alan C. Smith captures restive creativity in his immersive 30 day w/0.

Michael Walsh’s mixed media, Nothing is True, is unexpectedly engaging given its apparently morbid nature. It shows the clothes he will wear on the day he dies. Arranged like a rudimentary department store display the work has humour and irony — with many interpretative possibilities — including viewing life in its entirety.

Antoine Hunt tackles a sense of belonging with a photograph from his cloud series and there is some fine work from Christina Hutchings and Louisa Bermingham. Bermuda’s contemporary artists have excelled in a rigorous and varied investigation of the show’s theme. The exhibition is thought-provoking without relying on sensationalism.

It runs until November 26.

Isabella, by Antoine Hunt (Photograph supplied)
Philosophical depth: “Waxing and Waning” by Ani Douglas and, right, “Tick, Tock, Tick” by Will Collieson (Photograph supplied)
Tick, Tock, Tick by Will Collieson (Photograph supplied)
Extinction Road by Vaughan Evans (Photograph supplied)