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Nurturing the future of art

  • As part of a sustainability art project, Knowles and Swaby created an installation at the 'Tree of Trees' that highlighted the harvesting of immature conch in Bahamian waters.

  • The thickness of the conch shell's lip was measured and the number recorded on the shell before the shells were installed.

  • Kachelle Knowles and Giovanna Swaby, this year's recipients of the Popopstudios Junior Residency Prize.

Guardian Arts&Culture

Published: Aug 10, 2013

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As most students prepare to head back to school as the summer winds down, for young artists Kachelle Knowles and Giovanna Swaby the last few weeks of summer signal the end of a unique opportunity to hone thier skills in a unique environment.

Knowles and Swaby are this year’s recipients of the Popop Junior Residency Prize.

Offered by Popopstudios International Centre for the Visual Arts and the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, the Popop Junior Residency Prize — now in its fourth year — allows art students the opportunity to explore new artistic paths, to learn and experiment while developing their skills. Prize winners also work on a sustainable art project, led by artist Antonius Roberts.

“These are two of the youngest and brightest artists in the country,” said John Cox, Popopstudios founder.

Swaby has a strong interest in video installations but has been painting since the residency began in June. A mixed media artist, Swaby’s work centers on human relationships.

Knowles has been experimenting with different media during the residency, and is particularly interested in public art.

Both have already received their associate’s degrees in art from the College of The Bahamas. Swaby leaves in a few weeks to study at the University of Dundee in Scotland, and Knowles is applying to schools for the 2014 academic year.

The award not only recognizes the great potential shown by the emerging artists in their work but also provides a space at Popopstudios for the summer months in an environment where practising artists work in their studios.

For both Swaby and Knowles, the opportunity to work in a shared studio space at Popopstudios has been a highlight of the summer-long residency.

“Having a studio space to work from is amazing. At COB we didn’t have that luxury, now we have the freedom to work individually. It’s a new part of the process,” said Swaby.

Knowles appreciates the freedom of working outside of a classroom setting and away from school deadlines.

“Here we are responsible for our own ideas and deadlines,” she said. “This is what being a practising artist is about.”

Swaby and Knowles said the exposure and access to the community of artists at Popopstudios along with the feedback and mentorship that it provides is invaluable.


Sustainable art

In previous years, prize winners traveled to Schooner Bay, Abaco to take part in a sustainable art project with Antonius Roberts, but this year the artists worked on a special project in Nassau with the Conchservation Campaign, which focuses on the sustainability of the Bahamian conch population.

Located at the base of Baha Mar’s Tree of Trees by artist Antonius Roberts, the recently completed installation illustrates the dangerously large numbers of immature conch that are harvested from Bahamian waters.

Close to 200 conch shells were collected for the installation, the thickness of the shell’s lip was measured, the measurement recorded on the lip and the shells hung at the base of the tree in plain view of the many motorists and pedestrians that pass the area daily.

More than half of the three barrels of conch shells collected measured less than 15mm, which means that more than half were juvenile and were harvested too early.


New York City

This weekend Swaby and Knowles are wrapping up a learning trip in New York City, led by John Cox. It is one of the most anticipated experiences of the residency prize. In New York, prize winners visit the city’s museums and galleries, and take in the creative atmosphere of one of the world’s art meccas.

The trip is sponsored by the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, which in addition to preserving the art collection of the late art collector Vincent D’Aguilar, provides travel grants to Bahamian art students to view the world’s masterpieces, galleries, collections and museums.

Knowles and Swaby said in an interview before leaving for New York that they will use the trip to inspire the work they are required to exhibit at the end of the residency.

“It’s so inspiring to see these amazing works in the galleries and realize that it was all created with the same tools that we have access to here,” said Swaby. “It’s inspiring.”


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