Renee Philip is part of the Wadadli Pen family having served as a judge of our first art competition back in 2010 and again in 2011. Renee, an art teacher and artist, among other professional endeavours, was also the founder of the Sidewalk Art Festival I’ve written about here on the blog. I’m shouting her out today because I recently had the opportunity to visit an art exhibition a collective of Antigua and Barbuda art teachers of which she is a part, put on at the Antigua Girls High School (there’s time to catch it still, morning to evening, upstairs the first building on the left after entering the gate).
I love talking with artists and people who appreciate art which is why I ended up staying longer than anticipated and now writing about it (though nobody’s paying me anymore to cover the local art scene). This work deserves to be seen though so I hope you check it out. Participating artists besides Renee include Rody Christopher, Spencer Derrick, Bernard Richardson, Harlon Nathan, Bernard Peters, Mark Brown, and Phillip’s daughter Déjà Phillip – a past Wadadli Pen arts finalist. Déjà’s work is impressive, though I understand from her mom that her professional ambitions lie elsewhere. The range of art ranged from oil on canvas to ceramic sculpture to fashion to photography. It is the first time the teaching artists have gotten together for an exhibition of this type, Phillip told me, since 2001. Seems like it should be more often but as another of the artists, Peters, explained the difficulty even finding a place to exhibit much less (I might add) sponsorship and all that comes with it, including an artistic climate in which there is no national gallery and artists come and go, unheralded, unsupported, it wasn’t hard to understand why the delay. The fact is –speaking as a writer now – being a creative in Antigua and Barbuda is a sheer act of will. Well, I’m glad they had the will to do it because, though I have attended a fair amount of the exhibitions in Antigua and Barbuda over the years, the artists on show included some whose work I hadn’t seen. Two of these are Peters and Harlon Nathan.
The way Nathan’s paintings move between the extremes of dark and light (the primal scream captured in ‘Enough’ to the early morning brightness and tropical colourulness of ‘Natural Beauty’, for instance) moved me to ask the artist about his oeuvre. There is much of himself, his beliefs, moods, and loves captured in these vertical pieces. One of his loves is music and that comes through in ‘Double Bass’, with both its subject and its use of negative space to create a bluesy-jazzy mood.
My most extensive conversation, however, was with Peters. His painting ‘Seat of Power’ with the lithe but towering (note her perspective relative to the elements) female figure and nature stirred up (watch the way the wind moves through the image) around her, but her seemingly in control of it all, even holding the sky as if on a leash was a wild, interesting, and sprawling canvas. He spoke of influences like the discussions around female power (referencing the strong women in his life) and the challenges women face (the many revelations of the #metoo campaign, for instance). We discussed how art speaks to these things, and how vital it is as a result; we spoke as well about creating outside the box in an environment that privileges everything-tourism. Speaking of, he pulled a section from the larger canvas for this piece, ‘The Horizon’ (look closely it’s more suggestive of Devil’s Bridge than a beachscape and is pulled, literally from a section of the painting). That’s the closest Peters, who counts Belgian surrealist Renee Magritte, as well as Antigua and Barbuda’s Heather Doram and Muerah ‘Mighty Artist’ Bodie (sidebar: does anyone know what has become of the Artist?) as influences, gets to anything remotely touristy.
Of course, it’s also a joy to see new work by Mark Brown as well (it’s been too long, Mark) – and from the charred wings of ‘Black Icarus’ to the penetrating gaze and beautiful ebony skin in his portraits, he did not disappoint. Be sure to check out these and all the other works on show before February 9th 2018. The show is called Revelations, and indeed it is.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.