Natives Sons exhibit on tap

The Cayman Islands-based art group, Native Sons, is holding a new exhibition at the Morgan Gallery, a press release said.

Grass Piece opens Tuesday, 19 February and runs for two weeks.

Formed in 1996, Native Sons are a group of Caymanian artists now recognised as among the most respected and prolific in the Cayman Islands. The group was formed in order to inspire, promote and encourage Caymanian artists and their art. Their stated goal is to define ‘Caymanian Art’ while continually raising its standard

Exhibiting artists are Nasaria Suckoo, Al Ebanks, Nickola McCoy-Snell, Wray Banker, Gordon Solomon, Randy Chollette and Chris Christian.

Grass Piece refers to a small plot of land that is used to raise cattle or vegetables; a place where human labour and the natural world meet to provide sustenance for a family.

Describing why they chose Grass Piece as the title, the group stated:

‘Native Sons decided to use this title for the show because it really represented new opportunities for us as Caymanian artists, and because it brings us right back to our roots, our culture.

‘This exhibition is about many things; our first exhibition as a group at a commercial gallery, a new opportunity to define our own space as artists, about jumping over fences, about our symbiotic relationship with our physical and spiritual environment, it’s about development, it’s about peace, it’s about our agricultural background, it’s about feeding the spirit, it may even be about losing all of the above.’

Nasaria Suckoo’s paintings celebrate the rooted-ness of Cayman’s culture and ancestry. Her work contains the underlying strength of a spirit rooted and grounded in faith in God, in people and their culture. In her paintings a deep, hidden well of joy can be seen, triumphing over lamentation and heartache.

Al Ebanks work has always blended the dance between the natural elements of Cayman, the ground; the light; the water; and the culture in which he grew up. His ‘Sumting Fishy’ series focuses on the sea and its importance to the livelihood of Caymanians, especially in days gone by. Often in Al’s paintings, the hidden form of a woman can be seen. The hidden strength of womanhood is an important theme in many of Al’s paintings, and reflects the importance of the woman, especially in Cayman’s past, when the man of the household often went to sea for long periods of time.

Nickola McCoy-Snell has won the Fine Art section of the prestigious McCoy Prize on two separate occasions. Recently, the scope Ms McCoy’s art has expanded enormously, and the range of her artistic expression is reflected in her choice of technique, subject, and media. Commenting on one of her paintings in the new exhibition, ‘Sweet Summertime,’ she said, I want the painting to convey the feeling of jubilation that I felt when I was allowed outside over the weekends, and during summer…when we could run wild. The vibrancy of colours that came alive during summer made us giddy with excitement… I want to harness the essence, the spirit, the energy of the grass piece as it lives on in my childhood memories.’

Wray Banker uses the disciplines learnt as a professional graphic artist to provide a fresh, often humourous look at everyday activities in Cayman. Commenting on his work, Wray said, ‘What comes to mind when I think of ‘Grass Piece’ are the colours; vegetation, animals and activities taking place within them. My work for the show will include some fantasy pieces: Characters taken and developed from my doodles along with my continuing Big Eyed Guy series.’

Gordon Solomon has the rare ability to infuse commonplace activities with a sense of the sacred, and his depictions of real people and activities seem to be overshadowed and connected by his sense of spirituality. Gordon said, ‘Family Roots’ is the theme that I am working with. This particular series is focused on landscapes and people. The land has nurtured my family for many generations; it is on green fields that our relationships were built. On little roads I stopped to reflect and appreciate the present, while ever aware of the modern machines in the shadows of development which is ever changing our environment, our ‘Grass Piece,’ forever.’

Randy Chollette’s journey as an artist mirrors his spiritual journey. Speaking about what ‘Grass Piece,’ means to him, he said: ‘My Father used to raise cows, goats and pigs. For me, Grass Piece means ‘Substance;’ different animals go to the grass piece for substance.’ Randy paints scenes from a Cayman he remembers, often using a style which fragments landscapes or portraits by using a series of heavy black lines, like the leading of a stained glass window. Randy explained that the black lines represent the spirit that runs throughout all life, holding it together and giving it structure; something normally unseen, yet vital.

Chris Christian began by painting scenes of traditional Cayman life, such as women weaving silver thatch, or fishermen wading into the sea. But more recently, he has been employing his mastery of traditional oil painting technique to explore new, more abstract avenues. Commenting his most recent work, Chris said: ‘The ‘Reflecting’ series is based on a reflection of our past and the energy that surrounded it. ‘This new series is an evolved style that combines each element of my previous works that I feel most connected to. The flow and movement is influenced by my love of the ocean.’

Each of the artists participating in the Grass Piece exhibition show that, despite their vastly different and individual styles, a shared culture and shared experiences link their art.