Art of life found on the seas

Breaking the rules – or, pushing the boundaries of creativity, if you will – has a lot to do with Kerwin Ebanks’ approach to art, as well as to getting his work in front of the public.

Most recently the innovative painter has created four separate bodies of work in a variety of media all focused on one theme – Cayman’s seafaring heritage – that are on display this month and next at four West Bay restaurants.

Wort’ They Salt, as the exhibition is titled, derives from the idiom from ancient Roman times when soldiers were paid, in part, with a ration of salt, Ebanks notes. If a soldier’s performance was not up to par, that soldier was said to be “not worth his salt.”

Fast forward to Cayman’s early years, when the seamen came to be affectionately known as “old salts” and from there stems the theme for Ebanks’ paintings. He uses historical or traditional themes with a contemporary spin.

“It’s important to preserve our culture but also to understand that our culture is ever-changing,” he says.

Wort’ They Salt, he says, is meant to “honour the contributions to our country that our seamen have made. I found it only fitting to exhibit these works in West Bay – a district still very much connected to the seafaring heritage – and having been raised there.” His grandfather and four of his grand-uncles were seamen.

The restaurants where his work is on exhibit are Ristorante Pappagallo, Cracked Conch, Cobalt Coast and Osetra Bay. All of the arrangements, marketing and pitching the idea was handled by Ebanks – on top of his working three jobs and still having time to paint. Each venue will feature seven or eight original paintings – a different set for each restaurant. Sponsors include Jacques Scott and Cayman Free Press.

Influences

Ebanks is relatively new to the craft, having started painting seriously about a year ago. Since March he has been working on pieces for this month’s exhibits – an ambitious undertaking by any measure.

While his artistic influences include Baroque artists Diego Velazquez and Jan Vermeer, as well as Michelangelo and Caravaggio, according to his website, “he localises these arrangements with his familiarity with Cayman – its culture, its lifestyles, its attitudes, its heritage.”

In addition, he likes to “break the rules” by mixing media – some canvases incorporate oils, acrylics and water colours; others he painted, in part, using coffee and tea; and still others include batik print or burned crayon. One of his paintings lists the names of old schooners built in Cayman down the right side of the canvas; others depict seamen or other figures along the waterfront,

“I just decided to push the boundaries of my creativity,” he says, adding modestly, “I guess I’m pushing the envelope.

Wort’ They Salt Schedule of exhibits:

Ristorante Pappagallo opening reception, 5pm, Friday, 18 November, featuring paintings that feature past industries

Cracked Conch, 5pm, Friday, 25 November, showcasing a collection that details the occupation of fishing

Osetra Bay, 5pm, Friday, 2 December, with paintings that depict the dangers of the seafaring life

Cobalt Coast, 5pm, Friday, 9 December, with paintings that show the respect for Cayman’s waters.

For more information, email Kerwin Ebanks at [email protected]

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