New art collective exhibits at Camana Bay

Born from a desire to explore art from a new perspective, four local artists have teamed up to call themselves C4 (Company 4), to give voice to their personal and unique expressions. They will exhibit together for the first time with their show “X1” on May 23 at Camana Bay. 

The four 

David Bridgeman, Aston Ebanks, Kaitlyn Elphinstone and Christopher Mann are all well established artists in the Cayman Islands, having exhibited in shows for many years. Work by the each of the artists can be found in significant corporate, public and private collections, including the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. The four have been meeting on a regular basis. They are kindred spirits within the art world, known for their eclectic use of materials and imagery, each keen to share and discuss their artistic ideas.  

“Our collective grew organically,” Bridgeman explains. “We started meeting at our various studios, finding that we had a common desire to break away from the constraints of local art whereby artists felt they needed to create something that was culturally relevant. Instead we enjoy the freedom of having no cultural constraints.” 

The importance of critique 

Having a group within which they could discuss artistic ideas and help develop them has become increasingly important to the group. Art, Bridgeman states, is like a science experiment. 

“You line up another idea, use what you know to create something, use the exhibition as your ‘experiment,’ then you look at the results and try and learn where to make improvements,” he says. “The critique element is therefore extremely important to the entire artistic process.” 

Elphinstone says she was drawn to the group because she was seeking critique of her work. 

“When you have been looking at your own work for so long, it’s really important to have others look and critique it,” she says. “It’s especially important to have people look at your work who understand where you are coming from. The C4 members have been fantastic in encouraging me where they feel my work is strongest and equally vocal in telling me when I should drop an idea!” 

Mann says he had liked and admired the work of his fellow group members for a long time before they finally decided to get together as a collective. 

“We can recognize the value of each other’s work, even though we all come from a different place artistically,” he explains. “The C4 collective is significant to our art practice and its worth is twofold: we are able to vocalize to a receptive audience who understand what we are doing and at the same time we gain valuable feedback from each other.”  

Ebanks notes the importance of what they hope to achieve as a group: “We are motivated, first and foremost, by the desire to express our individuality, and in doing so we find common ground. Redefining preconceived notions of what Caymanian art is just happens to be a byproduct of our collaborative efforts.” 

New exhibition 

While each artist is already well established and has displayed their artwork in various exhibitions over the years, this is the first time they have shown as a collective. “X1” runs from May 23 until June 1 at Block 6, Unit 3, Market Street, Camana Bay 

Mann notes: “The work to be exhibited will not consist of drawing and painting. Our work can be more accurately described as sculptural assemblage installation. We work as individuals, with the aim of exhibiting our work as a group.”  

“X1” will consist of new works representing ideas the artists have wanted to develop and show for some time, but have required a suitable venue and opportunity. The formation of the collective facilitated the opportunity, Mann states. 

Elphinstone says, “We are very thankful to Camana Bay for offering the collective an empty shop space in a bustling town center to exhibit our art and are really looking forward to bringing our off-the-canvas concepts to life.” 

A personal viewpoint 

Based upon his life growing up in Oxfordshire, England, Bridgeman is working on exhibiting a personal view of his life through the medium of sculpture and assemblage. 

“I’m an avid collector and I have an interesting collection of Champagne boxes that I’m going to use as a vehicle for showcasing different experiences and concepts,” he says. “The main theme is based upon my experiences with religion as I grew up participating in all the ceremony surrounding the Catholic church.” 

While the concept stems from personal experiences, Bridgeman says the challenge for him is to make the artwork relevant to viewers. 

“I’ve no idea what people will make of it,” he says with a smile. 

Elphinstone, whose previous work has explored man’s relationship with the environment, is focusing on assemblage photography, mixing physical objects and juxtaposing them with each other. 

“I’m using a new technique which requires me taking scans of objects and placing them onto transparency film. I will erect a glass mirror behind each piece of work to highlight each individual’s reflection in nature, so, as the audience walks by, they become part of the landscape of the artwork.” Elphinstone is also exploring the theme of gold and the landscape, whereby dead coral is spray painted gold, to reflect their value, a statement about the high prices attracted by coastal property in the Cayman Islands.  

“I’m fascinated about how we view the environment,” she says. “This project has allowed me to take a step back and explore the issue in its visual form.” 

Like Bridgeman, Mann says he is also a keen collector. His contribution to the exhibition will showcase specimen drawers similar to ones he has managed to collect, with each wall-mounted to draw the viewer in for closer inspection.  

“Years ago, I came upon the specimen drawers in a market and I’ve hung them on the wall over the years to display various objects I’ve found interesting. For this exhibition I’ve made my own, but on a larger scale,” he says.  

Mann says his contribution will contain language to tie each box together. This technique, he says, ties in with the work of fellow artist Aston Ebanks very well. 

“While each of us has different ideas and views, there is definitely a commonality among the work. Each of our work overlaps somewhat with each other, creating a harmonious flow to the exhibition as a whole,” he explains. 

“I’ve always been fascinated with newspaper headlines,” Ebanks says. “When I taught the National Gallery’s outreach program at Northward Prison, we spent time looking at headlines, reforming them and making statements or poetry from them. I’m fascinated by words, the idea that the words are just hanging there, already spoken.” 

Ebanks won’t give too much away, looking instead to surprise the audience when they first view his work at the “X1” exhibition.  

Forward thinking 

Ultimately, C4 hope that exhibiting collectively will give the group some sway when it comes to exhibiting overseas, an important aim for the four artists. 

“We really hope we will create something of a splash,” Mann says. “We anticipate that the publicity will expose our art to a wider audience than normal, and hopefully that audience will extend to overseas. We would love to take our exhibition on the road and exhibit somewhere like Miami, for instance. Exhibiting as a group helps us to gain a presence overseas because we aren’t just individual artists but a like-minded group that represents a movement.” 

“We are hoping to create a broader dialogue with the viewing public, and it’s fantastic to have this opportunity to have a voice and contribute to Cayman’s art scene in this way,” Mann adds. 

And while C4 remains a collective of four,
members say that interested artists who meet the criteria may be invited to exhibit with the group in the future and possibly join the group permanently as time goes by. 

The exhibition takes place at Block 6, Unit 3, Market Street, Camana Bay and opens Friday, May 23, from 6 to 9 p.m., with a cocktail reception and local DJ. The space will be open daily from 3 to 9 p.m. The exhibit closes June 1 with a coffee and panel discussion from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The group also plans to host a Pop up Critique night May 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to the exhibition and related events is free. For inquires, email C4 at [email protected] 

Aston-David-Chris-and-Kaitlyn-S

From left, Aston Ebanks, David Bridgeman, Chris Mann and Kaitlyn Elphinstone
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