Local artist April Bending recently represented the Cayman Islands in the Art Basel Miami Beach show.
‘I have not been a part of Art Basel before, but I have been to see it over the last several years and was excited about being part of it,’ Ms Bending said.
Often cited as one of America’s most prestigious art shows, Art Basel Miami Beach hosts hundreds of acclaimed artists each year.
‘To participate, you apply through an art gallery and are juried,’ she explained. ‘If you are selected, you can show your work.’
Ms Bending’s unique style of artwork, which she terms abstract realism, stood out even amongst the vibrant mix of pieces showcased at the exhibit.
‘In Miami there was every possible style and approach to artwork,’ she said. ‘That is what makes the show so exciting.’
Amongst the artwork Ms Bending displayed at the exhibition were pieces from her On the Road and Fossil series.
In keeping with her highly textural style, these pieces focused on embodying the conceptual rather than replicating the actual.
‘I am more concerned with texturing the surface and creating an emotion through the image rather than documenting a moment in time,’ she said.
Though Ms. Bending’s impressive résumé includes showings in countries like Japan, her advice to local artists aspiring to gain an international reputation is always the same. ‘If you want more exposure than is available on the island, then you must just keep applying to places that you think will work for you.
‘It can be a lot of work and often takes awhile before you see any results, but persistence is the key.’
Ms Bending’s recent experience in Miami is proof that she takes her own advice.
Limiting the palette allows the viewer to focus on the image rather than be distracted by a myriad of colours; much as a black and white photograph requires a different mindset to view than a colour photograph does. But colours do evoke emotions, so I use simple monochromatic schemes to set the moods of the paintings. The black under painting provides a backdrop that can become sombre or serene.
Texture is also important. It allows me to use the surface of the canvas to diffuse light and create vagaries and ambiguities as additional layers of paint are applied. Those ambiguities require the viewer to participate in deciphering the piece through personal interpretation.
Often viewers see different meanings in my paintings. This pleases me because it means that people are referring to their own unique experiences to understand my work. And, even though one painting can be interpreted in many ways, those ways are limited to our communal experiences which are all part of the human condition.
One might expect to see paintings of people in a show that is focusing on the human condition but in this show there are also images of fish and fossils. Because, having been in existence since early times, I see a connection to them and the human desire for immortality.
The juxtaposition of the fragile lives of fish, with the sculpture-like remains which become fossils, emphasises mortality and immortality.