‘40 Years Later’
Guardian Managing Editor
Published: Jul 13, 2013
Many conversations have been sparked in the midst of the country’s celebration of 40 years as an independent nation this year, and a new exhibition at Hillside House Gallery is using art to start its own dialogue.
In “40 Years Later”, artists John Beadle, John Cox, Antonius Roberts and Heino Schmid each address individual issues from their unique perspectives, using their work to encourage viewers to engage in a larger conversation.
The idea for the exhibition came out of one of the regular coffee sessions at Roberts’ Hillside House Gallery, where artists and others gather weekly to network and exchange ideas.
Roberts’ contribution to the conversation is two-fold. It addresses how we treat our national symbols and the common social issues faced by Bahamian women, such as equal rights, standards of beauty and objectification.
“I still have a serious concern about the way we react to and deal with our national symbols,” Roberts told Guardian Arts&Culture. “They should be respected, celebrated.”
Roberts’ sculpture are carved out of a lignum vitae tree — the national tree of The Bahamas — that was removed and replanted to make way for the Princess Margaret Hospital extension. The tree, which Roberts believes was originally planted to mark the country’s independence, died after it was replanted so Roberts intervened and repurposed the tree, creating the powerful sculpture he has become so well known for.
“I couldn’t understand how the government, the architects could bring themselves to move this tree,” he said.
Out of the tree, Roberts has made a crucifix, which will eventually be re-gifted to the hospital’s chapel, and two more pieces – “Lignum” and “Alpha”.
“Alpha” is an untouched section of the tree’s root system that twists upon itself, beautiful in its simplicity. “Lignum”, a limb that holds the carving of a “lost and lonely” male figure.
“It is a way that the tree could serve its original purpose,” said Roberts of giving the works back to the hospital.
His contribution also includes four paintings, of women, each speaking to a different social issue.
Beadle’s contribution is a continuation of the themes seen in his “The John Beadle Project” at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
Beadle’s work is already well known for its keen observation of social issues, and in “The John Beadle Project” he addresses issues of fear and security.
In “40 Years Later” Beadle is exhibiting the sculpture “So High I’ll Fly Over It” from “The John Beadle Project” and two new paintings created specifically for the exhibition, based on the same overarching theme.
“I wanted to continue the body of work beyond the exhibition to see how far it would take me,” he said.
Beadle’s contribution to the conversation is a very personal one. It’s a conversation about what is going on in his environment, but it is also about how he fits into that space.
Schmid’s work focuses on domestic rituals, using traditional symbols, such as the church, a broom, a mop and boxing tape.
There are three mixed media on paper pieces and a small assemblage.
“The work is reflective of how living in a society that is celebrating this monumental event (independence) and how that translates into an individual environment,” Schmid explained.
Schmid said that as the youngest in the group he does not have a memory of that early independence and what that represented. He said the biggest challenge for him was to identify with the history.
“I could comment on the here and now, but it was interesting to try and channel that excitement,” he added.
Schmid noted that when designing the invitation for the show, he used an image of the crowd responding to the first time the Bahamian flag was raised that night on Clifford Park. “It’s said that I can’t identify with that excitement but I am trying, vicariously, to bring the work back to that point, of excitement and curiosity, that anything is possible.”
For Cox, his contribution — a large painting and two-part sculpture — to the conversation focuses on creative community building.
“I wanted the works to map the development of visual culture over the 40 years (since independence),” Cox explained.
The execution is not illustrative in nature — Cox’s work is not typically illustrative — but the spirit of the work embodies diminishing boundaries and strengthening the foundation.
Cox uses excavation as a metaphor to explain the 12ft x 7ft painting.
“It’s excavating to reveal past developments, digging into surfaces, digging in to lay the foundation for new works,” he explained.
Cox’s sculpture — two elevated chairs — acts as a “contemplative space”.
It’s a reference to his 2008 “Contemplation and Action” installation that incorporated a bicycle and chair.
“In this sculpture, I am extending the thinking, using the chair as an icon of contemplation but elevating it as a mark of the critical evolution of the visual arts in the country,” said Cox.
“We (artists) are so much more self aware and engaged and provocative in the works as a community. The chair mimics a high chair that a child would sit it. The high chair represents humility. We are evolving but still have a long way to go.”
• “40 Years Later” exhibition and discussion starts Wednesday, July 17, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Hillside House Studio and Gallery, Cumberland Street. The conversation continues on Saturday, July 20, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Call 322-7678 for more information.