A selection of Cayman’s most popular artists are exhibiting their work at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. The artworks are set to be auctioned from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 7, with a portion of proceeds helping to support the gallery’s operational costs.
The works of Avril Ward, John Broad, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Randy Chollette, Wray Banker, John Broad, Theresa Grimes, Chris Mann, David Bridgeman, Miguel Powery, Mikael Seffer, Gordon Solomon, Renate Seffer, and John Bird are all available for preview at the gallery in advance of the auction.
In this, the second in a three-part series, Weekender chats with exhibiting artists to find out the inspiration behind their works.
David Bridgeman’s work is on display at many private homes and businesses across the island. Bridgeman’s work artistically intertwines the natural worlds of the U.K. (his birthplace) and Cayman (his home for almost three decades), while managing to avoid common Caribbean and Cayman artistic clichés.
For the opening of the new National Gallery building in 2012, Bridgeman was involved in helping to hang part of the permanent collection on the top floor. At that time, Natalie Urquhart, the National Gallery director, was considering what she could give to the major donors as a thank-you gift. Bridgeman says he was honored to be asked if he could produce a painting of the gallery that would then be made into a limited edition of 50 prints, one for each of the donors.
“Time was of the essence as the painting had to be prepared for printing and then sent to the framers,” Bridgeman said. “I remember drawing the gallery on-site with my watercolor pad propped on the bonnet of the car as the sun was setting, hence the burst of orange between the buildings.
“I kept the original painting until now and thought it fitting to donate back to the gallery to be used as a fundraising opportunity.”
A prolific artist, Bridgeman said his biggest problem artistically is that he has so many ideas that he never knows which one to concentrate on at any given time.
“That was until I met the well-known Canadian artist, Arlene Wasylynchuk, who came to visit my studio last year. After reviewing all of my work, she advised me to pick one thing to concentrate on for a year and to work at producing as much of it as possible. As a result, I am drawing and painting only for the time being,” he said. “I am now beginning to feel a change in the way I am painting and the reference material I am using. Strong colors largely remain as I like the immediate impact colors make on me. I think they force an immediate engagement with a viewer. I am preoccupied with the simplification of shape and form. It is the hardest thing to try and paint like a child again.”
Artist and art teacher Chris Mann is another popular and prolific Cayman artist. His work, “Vanitas Theater,” is part of a series on which he is currently working.
“The term Vanitas comes from the mainly Northern European still life painting tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries,” Mann said. “In these highly detailed Vanitas paintings, objects of great worldly value, such as silver and gold platters, glassware and expensive foods, were evidence of the owner’s wealth, but were accompanied by a summary reminder of mortality, often a skull. These paintings were to remind the owner and the viewer that the desire for these things was a vanity, and that death, regardless of wealth or social station, is inevitable. In the Christian tradition from which these emerged, they served as a reminder of the importance of living a worthwhile or moral life.”
Mann said “Vanitas Theater” is part of his “Memory Box” series, the first piece of which was shown in the Art of Assemblage exhibition at the gallery.
“The ‘Memory Box’ series gets its title from the name given to wall-mounted, shallow framed, glass-fronted display boxes. These are hung on the wall outside residents’ bedrooms in care homes,” he said. “I was informed by staff the purposes are to stimulate the fading memories and imagination of the occupants, in the case of those with dementia or senility. They also act as a kind of biography to inform visitors and workers about the resident, their life and experiences.”
Memory boxes are essentially homemade collages, made up of photographs and memorabilia, which Mann said he came across when he had to put his parents into a care home a few years ago.
“They are fascinating, poignant and sometimes surprising. They made me want to meet the people they were referring to. They made me also reflect on the difficulty of summarizing a life.”
While his first “Memory Box” piece focused on the idea of the life of a couple from childhood to old age, in Vanitas Theatre the focus is more focused on childhood and on references to that period of life.
“The references are mostly literary and include illustrations I drew that are significant to me, but I think will be familiar to some others looking at this work, being derived from classic children’s literature,” he explained. “I use references to theater in various forms as a metaphor for life and experience, with all of its high, lows, emotions and humor.”
A passion for art
John Broad’s artwork is recognizable by the color, energy and passion represented in his paintings.
“I have always been fascinated by the color and rhythm of carnival, as the different troops parade by and the music plays,” Broad said. “My painting ‘Carnival Queen’ contains all of my artistic learning up to date. Aerial perspective helps to place the central figure in the foreground of the picture plane, with the suggestion of processing revelers behind.”
Broad, who has exhibited both in Cayman and in a group exhibition showcased in the London Underground, said the piece he is submitting for the Big Art Auction 2 has a painted canvas done traditionally, with some of the areas subdued with gesso to give a subtle variation on complementary colors; however he then introduced the collage effect by using torn edges of peeled acrylic paint.
“The challenge was to unite these two different media, the muted tones of the background with the raw spectrum of the acrylic collage,” he explained. “I think this mixture of approach conveys the moving spirit and passion of the Carnival.”