The month of June will bring plenty of opportunities to explore the creations of up-and-coming Caymanian artist John Reno Jackson.
Two exhibitions featuring his work open this month. His solo show, ‘uptospeed’, began 1 June at Full of Beans in Pasadora Place and a multi-artist show, ‘Homecoming’, launches at The Space, formally Awardart Gallery, in Caymanian Village on 15 June.
The 23-year-old painter, who goes by Reno, explores form and colour in an abstract style reminiscent of American street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat – Jackson’s first ‘art crush’.
While Jackson’s work is figurative and free flowing, he hopes his paintings will provoke viewers to stop and think about the emotions they provoke.
“I want people, when they see it, to reflect, truly to reflect and think about whatever it is they are thinking about,” he said.
“[I want] to make sure that when people look at the work, they’re not necessarily looking at what I’m telling them. They’re looking at it from a blank slate because they’re looking at something abstract. I don’t necessarily want them to understand it but I want them to be guided.”
He describes his work as blending familiarity with illusion to create a non-objective reality packed with emotion. Like Basquiat, an artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Jackson also has mixed cultural roots, a theme that he explores throughout his work.
“I try to talk about my culture and living in a country that is mixed race and being mixed race,” Jackson said, speaking from his dual-purpose studio and bedroom in West Bay.
As he paints, jazz music plays in the background, guiding an almost lyrical flow of brush strokes on canvas.
The son of a Cayman Bracker and Texan with Honduran roots, Jackson spent his younger years bouncing between the Cayman Islands, south Texas and at times Europe, developing his technique and exploring concepts around identity.
Like many young Caymanians, he found himself restless and anxious to explore the world beyond the Islands.
While travel afforded Jackson the opportunity to discover artists like Basquiat, Jeff Koons and Ernst Kirchner, he always returns home to Cayman.
The cyclical nature of life and coming of age are other themes that interest Jackson.
“No matter how hard you try to get away, you come back somehow,” he said.
In his formative years, he said he found the size of Cayman limiting, but with time he has come to appreciate what the small community has to offer.
“It was kind of stifling at first but then as I started to gain confidence, one of the benefits was it became easier to actually network,” he said.
“I think it’s relatively refreshing because it’s a small place, so reaching out to people is easier.”
Cayman does come with its challenges for artists, however. The cost of art supplies on island, for example, has driven Jackson to develop his initial sketches digitally, so as not to waste valuable canvas space.
He has also found the art scene to be closed off at times, making it difficult for younger artists to fully break in.
“My opinion now is that a lot of early artists got in the door and they’ve kind of closed the door, not to say they’re bad people,” he said.
“I don’t think it comes from a bad place. I think it comes from survival because to survive as an artist here is difficult.”
He would like to see the scene open up and welcome more collaboration. He would also like to see more grant opportunities and support from government for local artists.
“Every week or every day almost I feel like I see something in the paper or on the internet about how Cayman has the best beaches in the Caribbean or the best something,” he said. “I just keep thinking, when is it going to say we have the best artists in the Caribbean? Because there are loads of great artists here but I feel like they don’t talk.”
He pointed to the National Gallery’s recent Biennial exhibit, a show featuring a cross section of Cayman Islands artists, as a good example of Caymanians coming together as an art community.
One of his upcoming shows, ‘Homecoming’, will also be a multi-artist effort, including the works of Simon Tatum, Jared Olsever, Elaena McDonough and Sonia Sajnani.
He said the show captures the concept of ‘home’ in a broad sense.
“It’s based on a few things like mental homecoming, coming to terms with ideas,” he said.
“Two of us are Caymanian artists who are exhibiting our works back home. The other artists are people who want to go back home.”
The opening reception for the ‘Homecoming’ exhibit will be from 8pm-12am on 15 June at The Space. Admission is free.
His solo show at Full of Beans will run until 29 June.
For more information about Jackson’s upcoming shows and art, visit www.renojackson.com or find him on Facebook under @renojacksonart.