How does one attempt to position the visual arts production of one’s own country in the context of a national exhibition among several regional exhibitions?
This question was central to the mounting of the 'THE IMPRESSION', an exhibition of works by Barbadian artists under the curatorial direction of Nerys Rudder, Chair of the Barbados National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The title of the exhibition clued viewers into how the works on display were thematically framed; with the point of entry hinting at the nuances observed in the many ways local artists make impressions upon and inspire each other.
By extension, the show underscored the interconnectivity of each artist’s practice (whether conceptually, through the use of materials or any other number of ways), the result of which was an impressive selection of contemporary Barbadian visual art within the much larger display of creative practices CARIFESTA XIII presented island-wide.
After a thorough process of being re-introduced to local art practitioners and after several studio visits spread out across the island, Rudder began the incredible task of tackling what a national exhibition could possibly look like by addressing the difficult topic of representation head on. Her decision to embrace more stylised works points to a preoccupation with what she describes as, “the interior landscapes of the artistic mind and their responses to the stimuli of practicing in a Barbadian context.”
As such, within this curatorial frame of reference, works were grouped into one of several categories, including Impressions of One Another, Gender and Identity, a Post-colonial Legacy; Our Intangible Heritage, Our Daily Life, and Artistic Call and Response.
Elaborating on the manner in which the exhibition was conceptualised Rudder had the following to say:
“Within these parameters, the answer of how to depict our country lay in the artists’ viewpoints themselves. Rather than representational portrayals, this mostly abstracted and stylised show seeks to capture the cerebral essence or notion of various aspects of the island: the artistic IMPRESSION of Barbados.
'THE IMPRESSION' is testimony to the incredibly personal intuition, perspectives and exploration of archetypal themes of identity, fantasy, folklore, music, religion, gender relations, industrial construct, entertainment and the natural landscape within a post-colonial independent island society.
The multi-layered aspect of the theme also encompasses the other meanings of the word Impression, including the concept of physical marks or imprints upon surfaces as well as how artists leave impressions on each other. This latter notion explores how artistic inspiration from one another manifests as an act of homage and ultimately legacy creation.”
Artists with works on display in 'THE IMPRESSION' included: Llanor Alleyne, Simone Asia, Natalie Atkins-Hinds, Arthur Atkinson, Kenneth ‘Black’ Blackman, Ras Ishi Butcher, Alison Chapman-Andrews, Ras Bongo Congo-I, William Cummins, Joyce Daniel, Anna Gibson, Versia Harris, Wayne Hinds, Caroline Holder, Jason B. Hope, Cy Hutchinson, Juliana Inniss, Rupert Piggott, Ras Akyem Ramsay, Corrie Scott, Ricardo Skeete, Lilian Sten-Nicholson, Leslie Taylor, Cecil Webb, Ronald Williams and Kraig Yearwood.
'THE IMPRESSION' was organised to sit synonymously with the Regional Exhibitions, complementing other signal events including ‘History + Infinity’, ‘Journey to One Caribbean’, and fringe events like the Artist Alliance exhibition ‘Home’ and the ‘Contemporary Studio Ceramics’ show at the Barn Art Centre. 'THE IMPRESSION' opened at the Punch Creative Arena at the Barbados Community College on August 21st and closed on August 27th. All photographs is courtesy of Nerys Rudder.
Nerys Rudder BA, MA, MSc. is a curator and object conservator who has worked within the cultural heritage industry of Barbados for 15 years. She is the Chair of the Barbados National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), a member of the Institute of Conservation: UK (ICON) and the International Institute of Conservation for Historic and Artistic Works (IIC).
Rudder has also authored a number of catalogue publications of the National Art Gallery project, curated multiple national exhibitions and managed three national collections. She specialises in educational workshop facilitation and has conducted various outreach programmes for the Barbados National Art Gallery project, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, the Barbados Archive Department, the Caribbean Regional Alliance of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA) and the University of the West Indies Federal Archives Centre, to name a few.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on September 10, 2017. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: