2020 Bermuda Biennial

Biennial in Retrospect

Let Me Tell You Something

The doors to the gallery have reopened, providing a four-week window to see Let Me Tell You Something the 2020 Bermuda Biennial before it closes on the 6th February. The exhibition opened in early March when the coronavirus pandemic had yet to reach our shores. The artworks were all made before anyone had heard of Covid-19 and yet so many of them speak to the tumultuous events that were to unfurl in the year ahead.  

Looking at the Biennial artworks today in light of 2020, many have been imbued with a new, almost prescient relevance. From the notion of home, transformed in ways we could never have foreseen, explored by Antoine Hunt;  to the underlying  anxiety so humorously captured by Bryan Ritchie, the works in Let Me Tell You Something remind us that the best of contemporary art reflects the moment in which it exists.  

To celebrate final run of the exhibition, we caught up with several of the artists to look back at their work and discuss what it means in the context of twelve months which we will never forget.  

becoming by Katie Ewles 2020 Bermuda Biennial Bermuda National Gallery
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Becoming by Katie Ewles, 2019. Mixed media installation. 8 x 20 ft.

Katie Ewles on how our individual responses affect the community: 

“There are obvious ways in which the pandemic has added new context to the installation: a participant choosing whether to install their tile as part of one of the growing formations or to isolate it away from the other tiles might now feel the experience is strangely analogous to the choices and challenges we are currently facing as individuals with our society.   

Becoming is fundamentally about change and evolution – the artwork develops with the choice of every participant, and with the added context of the pandemic, each participant’s choice suddenly feels much more critical. Many tiles are crowded together, creating dynamic areas of dense color, texture, and contrast. Other tiles are boldly isolated from the growing formations.

While at first the larger formations might appear paramount to the peripheral tiles, now, within the added context of the pandemic, these structures feel unexpectedly vulnerable: susceptible to our human tendency to want to contribute to something larger, creating structures in constant flux – unpredictable; undefined. In contrast, the outlying tiles have gained a silent power: quietly filling space, removed from the focal point, but nonetheless carrying great impact in creating a network that reaches across the entire space.  

What I suppose has most circumstantially changed my understanding of the artwork in terms of the pandemic is my perception of the areas that have not been filled in. What before I thought of as empty squares, waiting to be filled, now feel like they stand for something much more: they represent a year of restriction; a year of choices to abstain; a year of creating alternatives. They in themselves represent unpredictability and potential.

In terms of what Becoming has become, these empty squares illustrate what may have been lost, but also hope that there is more to come. In the same way that the outlying tiles could be understood to represent a new beginning, these empty tiles are filled with the power of what can be.”

Christina Hutchings Fast Talk 2020 Bermuda Biennial
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork FAST TALK by Christinas Hutchings, 2019. Ink on paper and plexiglass. 17 x 13 in.

Christina Hutchings on digital communications: 

“The historic events of 2020 have shifted the way I look at digital communications and my 2020 Biennial artwork. FAST TALK was made before the 2020 pandemic. It is a linear drawing and a collage combination. The ink lines and metal rods are representations of the crisscrossing paths of undersea communication cables and the orbiting overhead communication satellites which transmit our day-to-day information.   

My view about the artwork has shifted from imagining our words and day to day information as a scrambled digital code transmitted by undersea cables stretching across the sea floor, or orbiting satellites above; to an appreciation for a greater capacity to connect face to face

The digital communications of the 2020  pandemic permit a higher level of human connection among family and friends by conveying visual information, in fixed images as well as in real time. Because of this, we can better share, our emotional connections, even in the absence of physical proximity. 

There is second adjustment in the way I view FAST TALK.  In the artwork, the ink lines and metal rods represent the communication cables; I imagine them to be ropes or mooring lines which secure our island to the mainland continents.  This image of the small island of Bermuda being affixed to large landmasses – the rest of the world – alleviates the feelings of remoteness on the island.  Which is an added comfort during this time of isolation.”

Jayde Gibbons All The Kings Men 2020 Bermuda Biennial
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork All The Kings Men by Jayde Gibbons, 2019. Photography and mixed media. 72 x 96 in.

Jayde Gibbons on the Black Lives Matter movement: 

The Black Lives Matter movement has simply amplified what I and countless others have been saying for decades. It is exciting to see that the Black Lives Matter Movement has had an impact on the local art scene, and I believe that it’s because of this, that black Bermudian artists have recently been allowed to occupy space in spaces that haven’t been so welcoming to us in the past.  

The purpose of Queendom Heights has, and will always be, to instill a sense of pride in my Bermudian people, specifically Black Bermudians. Queendom Heights is a direct manifestation of what we’ve known since the beginning of time, that Black Lives Matter, and that we are real people whose stories and traditions deserve to be documented and celebrated, not exploited because we’re trending.” 

Arie Haziza Wild Randomness 2020 Bermuda Biennial Bermuda National Gallery
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Wild Randomness (Triptych) by Arié Haziza, 2020.
Mixed media on canvas. 48 x36 x 2 in.

Arié Haziza on the impact of Black Swan events: 

“To me, the ongoing pandemic has certainly brought home this idea that the future is what’s left after our complex and hyper-connected world is disrupted. This was introduced in my previous artworks but not fully developed. Along those lines, I have started exploring various ways to represent and experience what is ultimately a smaller and smaller physical world we are living in.”

Catherine White Figment 2020 Bermuda Biennial
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Figment by Catherine White, 2020.
UV print on aluminium. 12 x 36 in.

Catherine White on loss

This period of time truly sharpens the point that moments are fleeting. How many people are now thinking back to the last moment they saw their loved ones?  So many untimely passings

As someone who was sheltering alone during the pandemic, there is the connection between people that was also keenly lost.  I remember heading out on early morning walks during the first lockdown, and the simple pleasure of bidding a stranger “good morning”.  Isolation from family and friends, can create a void where you lose who you are.  Connection grounds you. 

Loosening these links between people over last year will have a lasting impact and those moments together that we do have should be cherished.” 

Click here for a virtual tour of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial exhibition,  sponsored by Bacardi Limited.