Tessa Whitehead John Cox: Life’s Balance

Please join us for the opening of Tessa Whitehead and
John Cox’s exhibition Saturday 24th July 2021 from 7 - 11 am

An exhibition of paintings and drawings by Bahamian artists
Tessa Whitehead and John Cox

No One Would Ever Know Without Asking or Being Told!

Years ago I recall a conversation I had with a faculty member at The University of the Bahamas. He was an Anglican priest as well as a professor in the School of Social Science. He explained to me the reason the parishioners processed counterclockwise while preparing fo communion was to pay tribute to the ancestors. This simple yet deliberate gesture during the mass had a specific meaning that no one would ever know without asking or being told. It’s these little moments within traditional customs that reveal so much. Whether it be something common like going to church, cooking a meal, exercising, raising children or doing chores around the house; these day to day activities all inform a greater sense of who we are
and how we fit into a larger context.

I was never good at school or anything that people who were taken seriously were good at.  I always needed alternative ways to see and process information and ideas. I remember being terrified in high school that I would fail every test I took and subsequently be labelled lazy or no intelligent. I took US history and was mortified by the volume of content I needed to digest. No being strong reader I countered by listening very attentively to discussions in class and took more notes than anyone. So much so that my instructor ended up grading my note book instead of my exams. He mentioned that I had paid more attention to his lectures than most and that had to count for something.

Thirty years later I see myself relating to my environment not unlike how I remember relating to that US history class. At times overwhelmed and intimidated by the complexity of what is going on around me I still navigate things by paying close attention, listening and taking notes. I feel
like both Tessa and I in many respects see value in keen observation of our surroundings. Our practices overlap in the sense we both produce work as a form of note taking - a kind of exploring and reflecting at the same time.

The art world is filled with so many standards of tradition, perfection and excellence. So much so we can find ourselves erased from the notion ‘perfection’ where the ‘ideal’ replaces the personality. How we know we were here is marked by how we respond to these standards and expectations. It is our flaws that define us, free us and ultimately save us. We act in accordance to these mythological backdrops of our culture and live juxtaposed with principals of our own history.

Tessa’s exploration of her history, environments and tendencies is one that both abandons the ideas of perfection while simultaneously achieving it. Her work like few others in the region screams of raw experience, color, texture, tension, stories and commentary while paying little attention - at least on the surface - to any of these things. Her mastery of composition and intuitive gestures suggest a playfulness on top but possess a much deeper commentary on Caribbean life and where she fits and contributes into it significantly lingers in her work. Her work invites/encourages you to take notes on what otherwise would be overwhelming complex.

My work looks at history through the lens of this environment in broad and simple terms. I never feel validated by curators or academics but do think for some, the contributions I’ve made offer a window into an honest human experience. An experience that might allow for one to insert one’s self into the make believe narratives of balance, service and perseverance that my work investigates. Like Tessa, I think we both place value on memory and our own unique experiences to find traction and context within a broader cultural conversation.

Narratives and symbols are borrowed from knowledge both observed and told to us. It’s combination of these ideas that create the essence of the work. Right and wrong doesn’t exist, because somewhere in between is where ‘it’ all lives, and somehow shapes the reality that make our art ‘work’. Its not the perfect doctrine that saves you, its how we observe and respond to the relevant parts.

It is our flaws and imperfections that enable us to find meaning in our own histories and experiences. Like the meaning in the counterclockwise procession in the Anglican mass so do we find religion in falling figures and leafy bushes.

John Cox,  July 2021

Alison Chapman-Andrews’ Exhibition, Big Gully Pond is open to visit from April 10th 2021 through June 2021
Every Saturday 7am - 10am or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

Click to view list of works with notes by the artist

Big Gully Pond 

My visits to Barbadian gullies have led from one work to another and the have become one of my main influences. The paintings shown are the latest works that resulted from repeated visits to one particular gully at Layne Bridge near Sugar Hill village, that I named Sugar Hill Gully. It was natural, untouched in a land cleared for sugar cane. The magic of this place has stayed with me and it has become the centre of my painting world.
This series is the result of cutting and sketching in my sketchbook from a small black and white photo - taken from a car window.

Included in this exhibition are four small paintings Gully Pond. The main elements for the larger works were chosen and develope from them; simplified, played with and altered, resulting in three large developments called Big Gully Pond, Variation 1, 2 and 3. The “pond” itself was a stream, on my first time discovering this gully, in 1993, but the owners bulldozed and dammed it for irrigation. In Gully Pond 1 the zig zag shape of the
stream is shown with inviting, soft green banks where small boys once lay and caught cray fish in the stream. Overhead, two branches with flowers grow from a triangular tangle of branches and leaves. On either edge are two palm trees again with triangular decoration and a climbing vine. A very romantic scene, lost in later versions… I’m pleased to say.

To me, the two outside trees in this series are palm trees. Over the years the painted trunk developed from a recognizable tree to a trunk that cuts the picture from top to bottom. A dividing shape. In all these paintings it has both a cylindrical solid form and a flat thin silhouette which maybe a shadow. These ‘trees” divide the picture into two or three openings where the view beyond is seen.

Apart from the trees, the main elements are the green triangle representing the tangle of leaves and branches and the blue of the water in the bottom half, with a reflection of the green form and the web of branches. In the final variation the centre tree has disappeared and the landscape behind seen.

Thanks to the painting of Ras Akyem that I own, that taught me the scratching technique and to assistant Marcos for splashing on the orange spots, varnishing and edging.

Alison Chapman-Andrews, April 2021

PAST PRESENT FUTURE is open to visit from November 14th 2020 through January 2021
Every Saturday 8am - 10.30am or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

A Guided Talk With Kraig Yearwood
Please join us for a guided talk with Kraig Yearwood around his new show, This Is How Our Garden Grows. There will also be a screening of a short film with Kraig Yearwood interviewed by artist and writer Katherine Kennedy.
Saturday 10 - 11am, 10 October 2020.

Kraig Yearwood’s solo exhibition, This Is How Our Garden Grows, Opening night reception 5.30 - 7.30pm Sunday September 19th 2020  
Open to visit from September 26th 2020 | every Saturday 8am - 12pm or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

Kraig Yearwood: This is how our garden grows

Life, earth, nation, enclosure, plot, property, recreation, nourishment, self-sufficiency, primordial Eden, touristic paradise, the human as the enemy of nature, the human as nature: the connotations and interpretive leads of “our garden” in the title of Kraig Yearwood’s new body of works are numerous and, appropriately enough, fertile.

Whereas Yearwood’s previous production has tended towards the auto-biographical, the scope of these recent works - most of which were created during the lockdown – is as universal as the occasion calls for. The shadow of Covid hovers over them all with horizontal strips and lines alluding to the 6’ social distancing protocol. Alongside skulls, masks, thorns, barriers, first-aid gear and other 6’ allusions (this time vertical), they speak to the sense of precariousness and vulnerability, which – in the wickedly compounded context of Covid, climate change and Black Lives Matter - has enveloped us all, and yet is so individually felt.For all their references to mortality – and (impossibly) to being dead - the works are nevertheless meditative and poetic. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with our lives and put a question mark over some of the most ingrained expectations of modern life, but for a moment it also slowed the world down and presented a unique opportunity for existential reckoning and recalibration. While the show’s title contains an oblique reprimand for our collective management of the ‘garden’, the series itself documents the uneasy process of coming to terms with a condition – widely anticipated in the context of climate change, but no less shocking in its early arrival - defined by unexpected hazards and altered horizons.

Yearwood’s one-man garden-paradise-prison is thus haunted by a sense of anxiety, loss and sneaking paranoia. Hints at unnatural barriers, potential contamination and the twisted fear of both closeness and isolation, however, give way to astonishingly lyrical imagery, where the naked, vulnerable figure seems at peace with his surroundings, where endangered alveoli double up as budding flowers (or vice versa) and the human becomes part of a larger ecosystem – though the separation between the conscious and dreaming self has also become fluid.

The dreamlike quality of some works does indeed reflect the common sense of disbelief and yearning to be released from what feels like a prolonged state of unreality. Nowhere is this made more explicit than in the figure of a falling man caught between sleep and wakefulness in the two “Hypnagogic” pieces (“Head” and “The Fall”). Yet, as much as it evokes the sudden sense of falling in a dream, the man’s splayed position in mid-air also registers as a lasting global embrace. Between the arc of the earth in “Head” and his surrender to the soil (or imminent awakening) in “The Fall”, the figure’s plunge towards the garden – itself ever awake with bemused birds and sprouting plants – may therefore at once be seen as a metaphor for our suspended everyday lives, and as a parable of life’s journey, where the earth is both origin and destiny, and the garden everything that happens in-between.

Therese Hadchity, September 2020

‘The Blue’, our first post-lockdown exhibition. Opening night reception 5 - 7pm Sunday July 19th 2020  
Open to visit from July 25th 2020 | every Saturday 6.30 - 10.30 am or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

The Blue is based on the simple premise of looking at the way in which this primary colour is used by artists and designers in their work. The exhibition features an eclectic mix of paintings, collage and sculptures interspersed with items designed and employed in the everyday by established and emerging artists and designers from Barbados, Guyana, the Bahamas, and the wider region. Emerging artists Kraig Yearwood, Versia Abeda Harris, Llanor Alleyne, and Tessa Whitehead are shown alongside the more established Caroline Holder, Alison Chapman Andrews and Stanley Greaves. Designers from Barbados include Neil Barnard, Pauline Bellamy and the architect Paul Simpson beside photographers William Cummins and Sofie Warren. Strolling through the airy gallery, the visitor is presented with a collection that is certain to resonate with anyone who has lived in the Caribbean.  Paintings sing with the vibrant colours and subtle shifts in hues of various blue pigment. Other works, including the poem Blues by Derek Walcott invite deeper contemplation of the struggles and celebrations of life as seen from different points of view, genres, ethnicities and orientation. Objects luxuriate in the optical hit of block blue colour or potential emotional resonance elicited from various shades of blue.

Artists have long employed the colour blue to express different emotions.  Picasso famously depicted the world in melancholic shades of blue during his Blue Period, reflecting the financial and emotional turmoil he was experiencing at the time. Since antiquity to the Middle Ages, lapiz lazuli (a deep blue metamorphic rock) was mined and used in jewelry, mosaics and ornaments for its intense colour. Later ground to powder it became a prized pigment and one of the most expensive colours for Renaissance painters, like Titian who dressed the Madonna in blue robes. Spring forward to the 1960’s, when the French painter Yves Klein developed in collaboration with Edouard Adam, a new paint colour - International Klein Blue. How often the word blue is deployed in associations and sayings – blue chip, blue collar, the blues; as a gender signifier; within politics and world culture.

Estelle Thompson July 2020

Opening night reception 6 - 8pm Sunday February 16th 2020 Open to visit from February 22nd 2020 | every Saturday 6 - 10 am or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

Up Close

Recent Paintings by Bethany Pile

The eleven paintings on show here represent the first solo exhibition for Bethany Pile where her consummate skill in rendering oil paint has found new expression in a developed and singularly purposeful way. The Brighton Storeroom is especially proud to host this show as Pile has lived most of
her life not far from this very gallery.

In discussing one of the paintings shown here (Zöe 2019) Pile remembered her childhood beachcombing at Cattlewash where she selected and gathered a huge number of shells on her daily early morning walks, subsequently organising them into “collections’ at home. In re-discovering these bags of shells she recognised their powerful mnemoactive quality – a scientific term describing the sensory potential of a physical object to trigger memories – and incorporated them into the image of her friend, extending the notion of portraiture.

It is a characteristic of Pile’s work that what is first seen is not as straightforward as it appears. Titles are short and non-descriptive, suggesting that the artist’s intention is for these paintings to serve in a mnemonic way themselves, encouraging prompts for the viewer’s own memory linkages and individual interpretation.

Two critical aspects that distinguish her work are the careful editing that reconfigures original photographic source material and the sensitively reduced colour scheme; both of which serve to establish this elegant, compelling and engaging imagery.

Pile’s painting process is painstakingly time-consuming and her paintings slowly emerge. A discerning viewer may well detect that it is that time invested, and the love therein, that imbues these paintings with their magical quality.

Dennis de Caires, February 2020

Open to visit from November 2nd 2019 | every Saturday 6 - 10 am or by appointment | (246) 231-6775 / (246) 231-1901

The Brighton Storeroom copyright 2021