2020 Bermuda Biennial

Sometimes I Was A Woman

Andrea Sundt

Open water has always captivated Bermuda-based Norwegian artist Andrea Sundt. Her 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Sometimes I Was A Woman explores the complexities of what it means to be a woman today.  

A triptych of a sweeping wave elegantly carved into paper and mounted on reflective mylar, it encourages the viewer to step in closely, revealing their own reflection and creating an intimate experience with the work. In contrast, her 2016 Bermuda Biennial artwork Obligation, Constraint was a large-scale paper installation of a wave crashing over the stairs of the Young Gallery, which dominated both the gallery space and the viewer within it.  

We caught up with Andrea on International Women’s Day to discuss dichotomies of scale, the feminist ideals that inform her work and the ways in which “the cyclical nature of the ocean and its ebb and flow mirrors life – the female cycle in particular” and why, despite progress, female artists continue to be underrepresented.  

andrea sundt
Above: Andrea Sundt photographed by Meredith Andrews.

BNG: You originally trained in costume design at Esmod in Paris and created costumes for both theatre and film before completing an BFA at Parsons in New York. Does your work with textiles inform your fine art practice? In what ways?   

AS: Textiles absolutely inform my practice. I find the tactile nature of fabrics very inspiring. Storytelling is the common denominator when it comes to my art practice vs my work in costume design. I enjoy designing costumes as they are part of the larger production yet still integral to telling the story.  

When it comes to storytelling, the devil is in the details; how do I best tell the story through my art? What am I trying to convey, is it clear? Whether a piece of art is about a brief moment in time, something very personal or commenting on a political or social movement, in one way or another, I think of artists as storytellers. 

BNGYour 2020 Bermuda Biennial is part of a series called Sometimes I Was A Woman. How long have you been working on this series? How has it evolved?  

AS: I started working on this series in 2013. Originally it was part of a chapbook with text and printed pictures. It has evolved into informing large parts of my work in recent years as my practice has developed.  

Even though much of my exhibited work has been a part of my Wave series, large-scale paper installations, my small-scale work and writing has always been a part of my practice.  

I don’t have a specific goal for it to be complete. I imagine it will continue to evolve along with other areas of interest that I’m focusing on. 

Detail from 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Sometimes I Was A Woman by Andrea Sundt, 2020. Paper and mylar.

BNG: You say in your artist statement that this work explores “the notions of what it means to be a woman in 2020”. What do you mean by this?  

AS: With the origin of the Me Too movement, space was created for new discourse and there is now a contemporary platform on which to voice our (women’s) experiences in a patriarchal society. The power structure has shifted, and with any such newly obtained power there also lies responsibilities: to promote equality and help where you can. As a person and a woman I continue to evolve my own understanding of who I am and who I want to be. As a new mother, my hope is to be a good example to my son and to reflect and instilL, as best I can the feminist ideals that inform my work. 

BNG: Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?  

AS: Yes, I am a feminist. I recognise that due to my gender, I have been treated differently and that it has impacted my personal and professional life in some cases leading to loss of opportunity, though as a heterosexual white woman, I also recognise that there are communities, particularly women of colour and the LGBTQ community who face far greater prejudice. 

If asked, I would say that I relate to intersectional feminism. Coined by Kimberle Crenshaw who describes it as such: “It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” She speaks of how we can’t compartmentalize inequality between genders from other types of discrimination, due to factors such as race, sexuality or religious beliefs. It’s all connected.  

For me, being a feminist also means recognizing my privilege and what I can do to make a difference in whatever way great or small. For example, I made the decision that with my series of work in the last biennial (What We Share, 2018) that a percentage of any pieces sold would be donated to a women’s resource center here in Bermuda. 

BNG: In what ways is the fourth wave of feminism, and the reach that it has garnered by being digitally driven, changing the expectations of what it means to be a woman today?  

AS: The use of social media has made it easier to reach a broader audience. The enormous accessibility of nearly everything makes any form of political or social movement that much easier to engage with, understand and, if needed, to confront. I don’t know if the expectations of what it means to be a woman have changed for me, however I do feel like my options have. 

Its a new dawn its a new day by Andrea Sundt
Detail from 2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork It’s A New Dawn It’s A New Day by Andrea Sundt. Proceeds from the sale of which Andrea donated to a local women’s resource centre.

BNG: Both Sometimes I Was A Woman and your 2018 Bermuda Biennial artworks WomanHure and It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day, challenge perspectives through a female lens. The art historical canon is very much male dominated; works by female artists were often, and indeed continue to be, underrepresented.

What impact is the fourth wave of feminism having upon this? Is the landscape changing in your opinion?  

AS: The fourth wave of feminism’s use of social media and other internet tools continues to broaden its reach. The underrepresentation of art by female artists and specifically by women of colour has started to change and I see that galleries now more often choose to represent and exhibit these marginalized groups. This is such a positive shift although there’s still a long way to go. 

BNG: In Sometimes I Was A Woman the wave is carved into paper and mounted on reflective mylar which encourages the viewer to step in closely, creating an intimate experience. By contrast, your 2016 Bermuda Biennial artwork Obligation, Constraint was a large-scale paper installation which dominated both the gallery and the viewer. 

What attracts you to work with extremes of scale? How does this affect the viewer’s experience of the artwork?  

AS: You’re right, with Sometimes I Was A Woman my hope was to create that intimate space between the viewer and the piece. My use of the contrasting scale of work, comes back to my fascination with theatre and storytelling. Both these pieces invite the viewer to engage with the work albeit in different ways.  

Obligation, Constraint occupied such a large part of the space it existed in, confronting the viewer with its scale. With Sometimes I Was A Woman, you have to approach the work in a more intimate manner close enough that the viewer is reflected in the mylar of the piece positioning the viewer as a part of the artwork, part the story, if you will, too. 

2016 Bermuda Biennial artwork Obligation, Constraint by Andrea Sundt. Digital print on paper.

BNG: What is it about the open water that captivates you? The ocean can be read as metaphor for femininity given the influence of its rhythms on the female cycle. Do you see it that way? 

AS: Both socio-politically and geopolitically, water is of course essential and also a change agent for many coastal populations. On a personal level, I have spent a lot of time by the ocean, an experience that has always made me feel connected to home. The cyclical nature of the ocean and its ebb and flow mirrors life – the female cycle in particular, and this has always intrigued and influenced my art practice.  

The wave depicted in Sometimes I Was A Woman is intended to draw attention to the powerful new voice women now have, and as we find there is room for us on the podium, there’s a ripple effect of the Me Too movement that is unstoppable. I believe we are that unstoppable wave. 

Wave III by Andrea Sundt, 2019. Digital print on AluShape. A site specific installation for the 2019 Havana Biennial.

BNG: Obligation, Constraint was part of the Wave series, which included a site-specific installation for the Malecon in Havana during the 2019 Havana Biennial. What was this experience like?  

AS: It was such an honour to have my work exhibited at the Malecon as part of the Detras del Muro (Behind the Wall) in Havana in 2019. The BNG, and the former BNG Director, Lisa Howie, were such great catalysts for enabling me, along with two other artists from the 2016 Biennial, to exhibit there.  

I had a studio visit with Juanito Delgado, the curator for Detras del Muro, here in Bermuda and he invited me to be part of the exhibition. Planning out the process of bringing the art materials into Cuba was challenging as the infrastructure is very different. Everything, down to the last screw, had to be brought into the country as such items are not readily available there.  

We also planned to leave everything that was brought in (tools etc.) knowing there were people who could utilise them when the project was complete. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there in-person for the install and exhibition but going there is definitely a must. 

BNG: How has exhibiting in Biennials, both in Bermuda and Havana, affected your artistic practice?  

AS: They have challenged and shifted my practice in respect to scale and material. To have such a tremendous opportunity as an artist I always want to make sure I am pushing the work as far as I can and in these cases, scale particularly, was an exciting aspect to develop. Most of my Wave-series have been made with digitally printed paper. For example, as my work was primarily exhibited indoors creating a site-specific work that is exposed to the elements was a challenge and ultimately involved going back to my theater background and sourcing material typically used for set design to create the work. 

BNG: What are your working on at the moment?  

AS: I’m currently focused on being a new mother, although there’s always something buzzing in the back of my mind. It’s hard to consider making larger pieces at the moment while wrangling my 10 month old son, but one thing I’m always able to do is write…and bring a notebook wherever I go. 

Find out more about Andrea Sundt here 

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Welcoming Special Guests

Governor Lalgie and Mayor Gosling

We welcomed several special guests to Bermuda National Gallery this week. Governor Rena Lalgie, who made history when she became Bermuda’s first Black and first female Governor at the end of last year, was welcomed by BNG Chairman Gary Phillips and Executive Director Peter Lapsley when she and her husband Jacob Hawkings came in for a private a tour of Let Me Tell You Something, the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

They were joined by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith, Senior Lecturer in Art and Design at Bermuda College, and several of his students. Dr Smith provided them with insight into the making of his 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork, Transience. The large work, which is made entirely of duct tape, will come down this week as the exhibition closes.

Transience by Dr Edwin Smith 2020 Bermuda Biennial
Top: Dr Edwin M.E. Smith, Governor Lalgie and BNG Executive Director Peter Lapsley with Sophie Tessitore and Eva Bottelli, students in the Postcolonial Visual Arts class at Bermuda College. Above: 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Transience by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith. Duct tape, 144 x 96 in.

Later in the week, BNG Executive Director Peter Lapsley and Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling congratulated three primary school children whose artworks have been tuned into a mural as part of the Peaceful Art Protest Mural Project – a collaboration between the Bermuda National Gallery and VIVID – the City of Hamilton’s Public Art Initiative as part of the programming for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

Dennis Joaquin, Thomas Smith, Angelo Burgess, William Leman, Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling and BNG Executive Director Peter Lapsley.
Peaceful art protest mural project
Thomas Smith, Angelo Burgess and William Leman.

The artwork brings together three drawings made by Thomas Smith, William Leman and Angelo Burgess, translated into a mural by Dennis Joaquin. The artworks were submitted to the Peaceful Art Protest, a project conceived by former Bermuda Biennial artist Rachel Swinburne in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The team concluded the day with a visit to a second mural, based on a photograph taken by Meredith Andrews, at No1 Carpark on Front Street where they congratulated the photographer on her work.

Dennis Joaquin, Meredith Andrews and Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling.
2020 Bermuda Biennial Performance

Centipede Art Movement

The Power of Performance Art

Centipede Art Movement is a grass roots collaborative conceived by staff and students at the Bermuda College. The guerilla movement, which was founded in 2014, aims to promote contemporary Bermudian art and create a space for local artists to work together.

With a focus on performance art, Centipede Art Movement aspires to disrupt what it describes as “Bermuda’s culture of censorship.” Their work is often both a feat of endurance (performances last between 8 and 24 hours in duration) and a testament to the power of repetition and shared labor in building a community.

Much like their namesake, Centipede describes itself as existing “under the rocks and between the ideals of Bermuda.” We spoke to the group, who exhibited in both the 2018 and 2020 Bermuda Biennials, about disruption, the perils of unconscious conformity and how “performance art invites us to be present in the moment.”

Top: Centipede Art Movement’s inaugural performance Working For Nothing, 2014. Above: 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork 100 Cuts by Centipede Art Movement, 2020. Wood, performance. Photograph by Maetog.

BNG: The Centipede Art Movement was founded in 2014. Why did you decide to create a collaborative and how was it established?  

CAM: We were hanging out in the Bermuda College Art Department, joking about having a “team of super heroes” or a “secret society” to help us create all the bizarre, provocative, physically impossible, and ridiculously expensive art we dreamed of. We were a group of nerds playing chess and arguing about cartoon characters, but we recognized a need; contemporary Bermudian art needed to be championed.

Where is the Bermudian art that illuminates our fears and failures? Where is the art that celebrates our unique character and triumphs? Where is the art that calls us to action? Where is the art that incites us?

The world is insular. Capitalism isolates us. We are inundated with the expectation to win, to be the best, to be the only winner. We are fed the tempting fantasy that any one of us could have everything, as long as we work harder, outcompete, and manipulate, everyone else. This is especially apparent in a hyper-capitalist society like Bermuda’s. It is very difficult for us to support each other because we are programmed to defend ourselves by defeating each other.

Collaboration is the only antithesis to the isolation imposed by our need to be the winner. Imagine what would be possible if we worked together instead of putting so much energy into making sure others don’t get what we have.

BNG: Why Centipede? 

CAM: We chose to be centipedes for the same reason Batman became a bat; because we are afraid of them! Fear is the inspiration for bravery. If we are ever going to challenge anything we need the courage to face it.

That’s where the name started, but it solidified as we realized how well it described us. Centipedes are very Bermudian. They are ingrained in our social consciousness as dangerous, unwanted, resilient, powerful, and reclusive. We exist under the rocks and between the ideals of Bermuda.

BNG: The movement aims to “support art and artists that might not otherwise have expression”. Which artists are you referring to and how does Centipede give them a voice? 

CAM: Bermuda has a culture of censorship. As embarrassing as it is that police removed Manuel Palacio’s painting from Harbor Nights, the truly terrifying thing is our self-censorship. We have a deeply ingrained compulsion to “not rock the boat”.  We only feel safe when accepted by the status quo. Where is the art that expresses the individual Bermudian experience? It is aborted in the hearts of Bermudian artists by the fear that our perspective is invalid without acceptance.

Our dream is to support truly contemporary Bermudian art; art that is so personal and conscious it becomes globally and historically relevant. Who are the artists that are brave and aroused enough to make that art? Good question.

BNG: How many members are there? How do you recruit artists to the movement? 

CAM: We are not that organized! We don’t have meetings, or members really, or a budget, or even a manifesto. To be totally honest, we exist less as a “movement” and more as a hope. We hope that Bermudians can find the courage to make relevant avant-garde art.

If you want Bermudian art to pull back the curtain on our systemic compliance, if you want to make art that will shake us until we are awake, then you are a Centipede.

2018 bermuda biennial labour agreement by centipede art movement
2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork Labour Agreement by Centipede Art Movement. Performance.

BNG: You have said that Centipede was conceived as a guerilla movement “which means that we can operate within or without the validation of galleries or social expectations.” Why is this important? 

CAM: Obviously we aren’t invading public spaces and staging happenings with any regularity, but we are in pursuit of liberty. We need the capacity to act. Action (or creation) is the tool people use to establish their place in the world. Your actions prove you are present.

We should all be aware that communication is navigation. In order to share your point of view with someone you need to understand where they are coming from. You need to know what they fear and what excites them. We also need to be conscious of, and responsible for our own motivation. That’s a lot of moving and subjective parts that need to be piloted to make communication possible. It requires a lot of courage and empathy. If you are arrested by the need for validation, or afraid to operate outside what is expected, you are conforming not expressing. New ideas exist outside current philosophies.

BNG: Centipede Art Movement has now exhibited in 2 Bermuda Biennials (2020 and 2018). How does this impact on the sentiment above? In what ways? 

CAM: We are not accusing any galleries of censorship. We are not looking for enemies, quite the opposite, we are looking for people to support. An individual gallery, auction house, or critic could operate as an authority or a gatekeeper. It is possible for any institution to be corrupt, but that corrupt governing body exists within, and is victim to, the larger system of validation and expectation we all conform to. 

Centipede is most afraid of self-imposed censorship, especially unconscious conformity. The Bermuda Biennial is a valuable opportunity to publicly share artwork that exists outside local expectation. Of course, there are issues of validation in anything juried, but these are the issues we need to navigate if we want to communicate.

BNG: Your inaugural work, Working For Nothing, was a 24-hour performance piece that looked at the impact of shared experience and its role in creating community. Could you please tell us about the performance and why you choose it as your first artwork.  

CAM: Six of us went to Warwick Long Bay one day in 2014. We dug a hole in the beach above the high tide line. For the next 24 hours we took turns walking back and forth to the ocean with two bright yellow buckets, diligently trying to fill that hole with water. It was a futile mission by design. The task was to fill the hole, but our goal was to commit to the task.

It was backbreaking work. The buckets were heavy. The water drained away almost as fast as we could pour it in. The sun was blistering, but the night was shockingly cold. Waiting for your turn was somehow more exhausting than doing the work. The sand shifted under our feet, in fact the footprints of the person before you made the trek uneven and difficult.

It was a grueling task, but our commitment endured and we flourished. At some point someone must have shuffled their feet and the erratic, treacherous foot holes coalesced into a clear path. Someone lit a fire to huddle around sharing stories while we cheered on our team. Visitors joined in while they could, some carrying water, some making the fire, others cooking us food. Some worked with us for hours, deep into the night, suffering our futility with us just to be a part of something.

It was beautiful. Only a handful of people were aware of what we were doing, but for those of us involved it was a powerful experience. We felt a part of something very old and true. It was the formation of tribe. We were a band of souls collaborating to give our fleeting and futile experience meaning. 

Working for Nothing by Centipede Art Movement, 2014. Performance.

BNG: Your performances take place over a long period time – Working for Nothing continuously over 24 hours, while Labour Agreement (2018 Bermuda Biennial) and 100 Cuts (2020 Bermuda Biennial) each took 8 hours. All works also involve repetitive action. Why are these two elements important and how does the experience – for both the artists involved and the audience – change over such an extended period of time? 

CAM: One of the goals of endurance work is to invite the participants to consider their experience of time. Someone famous said “music is the decoration of time”. You could extrapolate that idea to your entire life. You could see your life as time to decorate with experiences. The question is, “What is the value of decoration?” If the things we fill our lives with only have relevance to us individually, and only while we are experiencing them, do they have any meaning?

Another goal of endurance work is to explore resolve. Resolve is the desire to do something fused with the determination to do it. Resolve is the evidence you truly believe something is worth doing.

In any endurance piece, the futility and repetition of the task (the futility of your existence) is being contrasted with your resolve. We are asking you if you matter. 

BNG: How is performance art, which is rarely seen in Bermuda, embraced by the local community? 

CAM: Performance art is often used as an antiestablishment tool. The idea is to take the art off the “sanctioned and revered” space of the gallery wall and bring it into the “real world” where it can immediately affect circumstance. Performance art invites us to be present in the moment. It can be terrifying and dangerous in the safest and most progressive environments; in fact it is usually designed to be shocking and provocative.

It’s no surprise that in a society of taboo and self-censorship, performance art is largely ignored, disqualified, and misunderstood. Many people don’t see it as art, or even notice it. During Labour Agreement a lot of people believed we were genuine City of Hamilton workers and ignored us as they would ignore any custodian.  

While we were doing Working for Nothing some brave visitors participated as we said, but very few people noticed us. In fact one woman put her foot in the hole as she walked through with her friend. It was around 18 inches deep at that point, and about 5 feet across, with adults steadily walking back and forth with highly visible yellow buckets. Despite all those obstacles she stepped right in and out of the hole without breaking her stride. We ended up doing 100 Cuts in relative seclusion, so most of those visitors were actively looking to learn about or experience a performance piece.

We’ve had the full range of responses and participation you would expect for performance art and the experiences have been profound for us at the least, but we could not say “performance art is embraced by the local community.”

Centipede art movement 2020 bermuda biennial
Detail from 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork 100 Cuts by Centipede Art Movement. Wood, performance.

BNG: Has the contemporary art scene in Bermuda changed in the 6 years since Centipede was founded? In what ways? 

Bermuda is rich and fertile. We have a deep dirty past, strong resourceful people, and a fragile tranquil veneer we’re invested in preserving. There is plenty of fuel for the art fire. There are many Bermudian artists who aren’t just talented but are also conscious and hungry. The tide is shifting, there are more and more examples of visceral and inspired local artworks. The challenge is we feel unwelcome. We feel isolated. We still feel lucky to be heard or accepted.

BNG: What is next for Centipede? 

CAM: That’s obvious. We re-read this interview. We realize we have some great ideas. We remember how passionate we are about those ideas, those hopes, and those dreams. We get inspired! We remember our resolve! Who knows, maybe we’ll even start recruiting?

Click here to find out more about Centipede Art Movement

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Art and Music

Katie Ewles

Katie Ewles refers to her 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork  Becoming  as “a collection of individual experiences”, describing it as “a catalyst for people to safely connect, to feel part of something; to interact with people beyond the boundaries of space, time and six feet”.

The installation, which has taken on new meaning in the context of the pandemic, looks at the relationship between our individual and collective actions by asking viewers to select a coloured tile, write an anonymous personal message on the reverse and place it inside a block within the grid.  

Katie began exploring the physical properties of art making after graduating from John Hopkins’ Peabody Institute with a major in composition. Colour plays a key role in her mixed media work – a counter to the monochrome palette of music notation. 

Drawn to the impermanence of paper collage, Katie describes her art making process as “a constant state of exploration and discovery”. Working as a pianist and vocalist, she often juggles musical and artistic projects, and likens the “collective possibilities of creativity” to playing music in a group.  

We caught up with Katie to discuss the relationship between art and music, how the installation has evolved over the course of the exhibition and why, when the Biennial closes on the February 6, she plans to recycle the tiles in her installation into other collage works so that they “ultimately become the essential building blocks of the future, much like we as individuals continue to create a life for ourselves, secrets and all.”  

Becoming by Katie Ewles 2020 Bermuda Biennial
Top: 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Becoming by Katie Ewles, 2019. 8 x 20 ft.
Above: BNG members take part in the installation at the opening of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial. Photograph by Maetog.

BNG: You trained as a musician and later turned to visual art. What made you make the transition?  

KE: I have always had an interest in the visual arts, though my primary focus was on music. While in university, I started experimenting with graphic notation, a form of composition where musical ideas are represented through the use of non-traditional visual syntax, either in combination with or aside from traditional means of notation. This phase was hugely significant in my understanding of how traditional notation is fundamentally visual, and how it might be expanded to communicate a wider range of musical concepts. 

I became increasingly interested in the relationship between art and music. One thing that really separates them is the inherent tangibility of art – while notated music is tangible, music itself is not. I was drawn to the physical properties of art and art making and started experimenting with different media. 

I was fascinated with collage early on. I would cut out pieces of musical scores and stick them back together in a different order. I enjoyed the impermanence of creating with collage: I could always shuffle things around and create something completely different. I liked working with materials and how my art projects took up literal space. I liked using color, it was a refreshing element in the world of black and white musical notation. 

Now, for me, creating visual art and using visual processes in my music-making has become a regular and valuable way to draw inspiration and communicate a wider range of expression. 

BNG: Is music still a big part of your life? In what ways? 

KE: Absolutely! Most obviously, it is a large part of my income – I regularly gig as well as teach and record/produce. Beyond that, music continues to play an important role in my self-expression. For me, music can be spontaneous. Of course, my creation of visual art can sometimes incorporate elements of spontaneity, there is most always some physical artifact. Comparatively, music is intangible and passing – it can exist almost in the same way that a thought or conversation might. 

In this same sense, I also love the collaborative qualities of shared music-making. I am primarily a pianist and vocalist and regularly play as part of a group. There is something beautifully spontaneous, trusting, and vulnerable about this kind of experience, particularly when improvising. I think this has had a huge influence on my interest to create interactive artworks that incorporate elements of spontaneity and ephemerality and has helped to compel my interest in exploring the connective possibilities of creativity. 

BNG: What is the relationship between art and music to you? 

KE: I think in many ways art and music are very similar: they are both a means of human expression and have the ability to communicate ideas and feelings beyond what can be described with traditional language. They fundamentally differ in the sense that art is a spatial medium and music is temporal.  

While artworks primarily exist spatially, they are observed and understood in time. This in itself doesn’t make art a form of music, but it does point to the essential component of the ‘observer’ that exists in both music and art – even if the observer is the creator themselves. 

In principle, the observer is subject to the same essential conditions as both art and music: space and time – you cannot see a painting if it does not get within your range of sight and you do not take or have the time to look at it.   

When I consider the significance of an observer in both of these forms, the role of choice and intention becomes critical: if one chooses to observe or create with intention, the creation is valid, whether spatial, temporal, somewhere in between, or even imagined. 

For me, understanding art and music in this way has opened my mind to the endless forms creative products might take, both of themselves and through interpretation. Beyond that, this understanding has, from my perspective, solidified the creative arts as an extension of the individual, both expressively and perceptively, with the potential to become a catalyst for understanding when shared. 

An example of a graphic musical score written by Reed Maxson, whose work inspires Katie. Sourced from

BNG: Do you approach the two mediums in different ways? 

KE: In general, I think my music tends to express emotion and my visual artwork tends to favor expression of ideas and concepts. This is not always the case, but I have wondered if this tendency might be subconsciously influenced by each medium’s fundamental nature seeming more effective at conveying either emotion or ideas. 

Often, music comes to me spontaneously: a melody that reflects my mood at that time. Emotion itself is quite an instinctive and transitory human quality, so I think for me, music is often the ideal medium for communicating and embodying this restlessness: with a form that is inherently transient and can in itself resemble the quickly changing flow of emotion. 

Comparatively, when I am making art, my process is often more calculated; I have an idea I want to express and develop a concept to present it visually. Emotion often has a place within this structure, for example with use of color, however, for me, color is often a device with which to support conveyance of the idea. In some ways, I think the physicality and relative permanence of tangible art can make it a more accessible medium for communicating ideas – one has the opportunity to consider the artwork from different perspectives in their own time. 

BNG: Are there any synergies between the two? In what ways? 

KE: The most obvious synergy between these two mediums in my practice is the effect of listening to music while creating art. For example, I often listen to dance music when I am in the process of creating a collage that involves hundreds, sometimes thousands of square tiles. I think the precise, rhythmic characteristics of dance music translates into the calculated nature of the artwork. Comparatively, I might listen to jazz improvisation when creating something abstract. The spontaneity captured in the music often propels me to follow my instinct and explore unusual shapes, colors, and forms.  

BNG: Do you work on musical and artistic projects concurrently or are the two very separate discipline for you? 

KE: I am almost always juggling multiple musical and artistic projects – I like to think it keeps things fresh! I’m also always on the lookout for ways to combine these disciplines into singular projects, whether through blending the boundaries of each medium into a synthesized, synergetic hybrid or utilizing them separately in the same project, for example, with film. 

BNG: You describe your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork as “an exploration of the human condition through paper collage.” What do you mean by this? 

KE: The exhibit is titled Becoming because the installation is principally about evolution – the artwork is continually in the process of becoming. This feature is at the center of how the artwork might reflect the human condition and experience. 

Our experience as a human is constantly in flux, both within ourselves and with our surroundings. Existing in a temporal and spatial world forces us to make choices within our finite lifetime. Our choices, whether big or small, passive or active, are influenced and determined by our personal experience and ultimately compound into our greater whole; our sense of self; our reality. 

In ‘Becoming’, participants directly confront these principles – they are forced to make a choice, and their choice changes their perception of the work, and by extension, their reality in that moment. Moreover, their choice changes the artwork itself. 

Consequently, participants are confronted with the choices and realities of others – both before them and those to come. What results is a beautifully complex transcendance of what is; we know ourselves and our reality, but we sense how much we do not know. 

The constant and collective evolution within the artwork, propelled by individual participation, and in combination with hidden written elements aims to explore these ineffable human truths. 

Autumn, from Refractions of Mankind by Katie Ewles, 2019. Mixed medium. 30×30″

BNG: Your first solo show Refractions of Mankind, held at the Bermuda Society Of Arts in 2019, also focused on paper collage. What is it about this medium that intrigues you? 

KE: I think what fascinates me most about collage is that it is fundamentally about the process: assembling various materials and forms into a new whole. I like that it feels spontaneous but at the same time methodical, like I am in a constant state of exploration and discovery.  

I think collage is unique in the way that it can reflect our daily processes: one might think of arranging their schedule, cooking their meal, or decorating a room as a form of collage. Although the process of collage can at times become repetitive and somewhat mechanical, I like how this also mimics aspects of our daily lives: wake up, eat, sleep, etc. Though the process might feel mechanical, each day and each piece of material are ultimately unique. 

I also am drawn to how collage, in itself confronts the dynamic between parts vs. whole; the individual vs. the collective. Materials are given context by what is placed around them, much like we are contextualized by the environment that we are in or the experiences we have over time. I like the tension that exists here, a constant push and pull between internal and external forces. These concepts are central to much of my work in collage. 

I think the process-based nature of collage is also what makes it an appropriate medium for Becoming, an artwork that is characterized by the process of becoming: change and evolution. 

BNG: Your Biennial artwork allows the viewer to take part in the art making process, by selecting a colored tile and choosing where to place it within the room. This takes the control of the finished artwork away from you and puts it into the hands of the viewers. Why did you choose this approach? 

KE: This choice had a lot to do with exploring the fluidity between the individual and collective experience. When we look at a piece of art, hear a piece of music, engage with anything, we have an individual understanding of what that subject might be or represent based on our personal experience. In a sense, the subject becomes and is what we perceive it to be, but in the process, we project ourselves onto the subject – it becomes an extension of us. 

When the subject is experienced by a collection of people what results is an array of different realities. Though each reality differs, they are all equally true. I wanted to find a way to visually portray this exchange: that ultimately art becomes what it is perceived to be – we as creators cannot control what people take from our work; we cannot control its final form. 

This idea is explored through allowing participants to leave their mark as they interact with the work. For every observer the installation is not only introspectively unique, but also tangibly. The artwork ultimately becomes a collection of individual experiences, both physically and symbolically.   

BNG: Before placing the square of their choice,  participants  are asked to write a secret on the reverse which shall remain private and known only to you. Why is this? 

KE: There are a couple different motives behind this component of the installation. With the theme of the Biennial being Let Me Tell You Something I thought it would be interesting to invite viewers to literally tell me something. 

More symbolically, this secretive component is intended to embody the experiences of other observers that we will never fully know – both within the immediacy of the artwork and beyond. 

I like how this can be understood as illustrative of the complexities of knowing – we see things on the surface, but often do not understand the subject in its entirety, whether living or inanimate, in part due to the basic limitations of our own perception and individuality, but also due to the limitations of our communicative mediums. 

I think even when I do read the reverse of the tiles, I will be subject to the same limitations that participants were: I will create my own understanding based on my experience, but I know while my understanding of what is written is valid, it is only one reality, and I have no way of knowing the author’s true, individual intention in their message. 

becoming by Katie Ewles 2020 Bermuda Biennial Bermuda National Gallery
A visitor adds a tile to the installation which has grown organically over the course of the exhibition.

BNG: Has the piece evolved over the run of the exhibition as you imagined it would? 

KE: Yes and no. Yes, in that many of the expectations I had for how it would develop visually have materialized: groups of tiles creating larger formations, particularly on the far wall upon entrance; a concentration of tiles around eye-level; rogue tiles that frame the extremes of the grid. 

No, in the sense that participation was hindered by the effects of the pandemic and so the visual is more disseminated than originally anticipated. It will be really interesting to read what people have written on their tiles as I imagine the events of 2020 will have influenced the content and it will trend towards something different than initially expected. 

BNG: The work centers on how our individual choices affect the collective. This is a notion that has taken on renewed significance over the past year amidst the pandemic which has reminded us of both our individual responsibilities and how our actions impact the health of the wider community. Do you think that is something people are more aware of than before? Has it changed your approach to the work in any way? 

KE: I think certainly, in general, people have become more aware of how their actions impact the wider community – I know I certainly have. What once felt like an individual choice, for example, going out to lunch with friends, now feels like a choice you are making not only for yourself, but for those you interact with. I think maybe it has always been this way, there are consequences of every action we take, however, with the pandemic these consequences have become more obvious and associated with greater risk. 

In terms of Becoming, 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 currently face as individuals in 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. 

At the same time, aside from this pandemic-infused analogy, I have started to view ‘Becoming’ more and more as a catalyst for people to safely connect; to feel part of something; to interact with people beyond the boundaries of space, time, and six feet.  

BNG: When the exhibition closes the artwork (in its current form) will effectively be destroyed when it is de-installed. This was a conscious decision. Why is this? 

KE: Beyond logistics, I think this comes down to the artwork being fundamentally about the process of becoming. The work is subject to the same conditions and limitations that we are as people: a finite lifetime; the restrictions of our own physical being. I chose to embrace these conditions, rather than resist. These conditions have the potential to drive change and evolution. They don’t necessarily destroy what is, but rather, transform. 

While I will be sad to see the installation deconstructed, I also know the components of this piece will go on to become other works, and even reveal their full form: the writing hidden underneath. In some ways, I think this isn’t so much destruction as it is liberation. 

BNG: You explain in your artist statement that the squares will later be reused in other projects. Do you have a specific project in mind? 

KE: My plan is to methodically uninstall the tiles and analyze the written material alongside information I collect about their relative placement. It will be interesting to see if there are any trends that arise. For example, are there words that consistently pop-up? Is there any correlation between the written content, the color of the tile, and where it was placed on the wall? 

Though much of this analysis will be objective (i.e. the word family appears eighty-four times), when it comes to analyzing subjective material I will be at the mercy of my own individuality. I like this – it is a reminder that even as the creator I am answerable to the same limitations as the work I create and the people I share it with. 

Ultimately, following analysis, fragments of the tiles will be reconstructed into new, double-sided collages: one side color, the other writing. My hope is that there will be clear trends in the written content so that the artworks might explore these subjects (e.g. the word ‘care’ written in many people’s handwriting collaged together). 

This continuation of the installation is really about embracing the spirit of ‘becoming’ and giving new life to what was, and what will be.

Let Me Tell You Something, the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, closes on February 6. Click here to tour the exhibition.   

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.  

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Peaceful Art Protest Mural Project

Dennis Joaquin

The City of Hamilton’s mayor, Charles Gosling, together with Bermuda National Gallery director Peter Lapsley last week unveiled two murals produced as part of the Peaceful Art Protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The public artworks mark a collaboration between the BNG and VIVID – the City of Hamilton’s Public Art Initiative as part of the programming for Let Me Tell You Something, 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

The artworks were submitted to the Peaceful Art Protest, a project conceived by former Bermuda Biennial artist Rachel Swinburne and were translated into murals by Dennis Joaquin. The Peaceful Art Protest, an open call for work by artists of all ages, was set up as a way for people to express their solidarity through art ahead of the historic Black Lives Matter march which took place in Hamilton in June 2020.

Mural artist Dennis Joaquin worked for BELCO for 25 years before retiring in 2010 and embarking on what he describes as “a creative journey of self-discovery.” The self-taught artist meticulously translated both a photograph taken by Meredith Andrews and three drawings made by primary school children into larger-than-life murals. 

We caught up with Dennis, who credits the Peaceful Art Protest with reminding him of why he loves to create, to discuss his process and how for him the murals felt like “an historical event of energetic change.” 

Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling, Peaceful Art Protest founder Rachel Swinburne, mural artist Dennis Joaquin and BNG Executive Director Peter Lapsley at the launch.

BNG: Have you always been creative? 

DJ: I come from a very creative family with a history of mechanics, masons, and seamstress, so I was surrounded by creativity at a young age. My biggest influence has been my mother, as she has shown me there is no limit to what one can create, which is displayed through her handy works all around the house.  

I have always been creative. I started by copying comic book illustrations using pencils, brought my first airbrush at 16 years old and started to paint portraits and decorated anything I could find. I started studying master artists and different techniques until I found my own style.  

I learned how to sew and started designing and performing puppetry. l learned how to play the conga drums and wrote poetry. Before the lock-down in March, I had for the past five years been working with an Alzheimer’s and dementia charity, and was able to use these skills to entertain and teach art basics to our seniors at various homes.  

This was all thanks to the positive creative surroundings that influenced me as a youth. 

BNG: What was the first mural you painted? Have you painted many others across the island? 

JD: The first mural that I was a part of creating along with Kendra Earls, is located on the front of the public restrooms at No1 Car Park on Front Street.  

From there, I have created and or have been a part of the creation of ten murals on the island, most of which are on private estates. 

Bermuda National Gallery Peaceful Art Protest Mural Project
The first mural, based on a photograph taken by Meredith Andrews, is located at No1 Car Park on Front Street. The location was chosen to mark the start of the route of the BLM march, the largest gathering of its kind in Bermuda.

BNG: How do you approach a mural project? 

JD: Most murals I can approach free handed, as with the first art work that I painted with Kendra Earls. We had an idea of what we wanted, found illustrations on the subject matter and then painted it.  

For the translation of photographs and illustrations that need be precise or to scale to a mural, like the Peaceful Art Protest murals, I use Photoshop. There I can design a stencil that will help me get all the right markers in place to create a good representation of the image I am to transfer. This is a technique that I learned as an air brush artist and graphic t-shirt designer. 

BNG: What were the challenges of working on the Peaceful Art Protest murals? 

JD: Probably the only challenge I had was the weather, hoping that the rain wouldn’t ruin the work, but the weather was great for the four days I worked on the Front Street Mural. 

Again, weather was an issue for the primary school exhibit on Queen Street, but gratefully it held until I was able to complete all three images. 

The energy and responses from the passers-by were most encouraging and inspirational. I had great positive conversations that uplifted my spirit and spurred me onward to paint more. It reminded me why I love to create. 

Bermuda National Gallery peaceful Art Protest murals
A second mural, based on three drawings submitted by primary school children, can be seen at the top of Queen Street, along the route of the march which passed in front of this location as it moved through the City.

BNG: What has the overall experience of completing the Peaceful Art Protest murals been like for you? 

JD: I feel honored to be a part of what I consider to be an historical event of energetic change. I almost feel like the scribes of old, recording today’s events for historical reflection. 

BNG: Do you have any advice for young people who are interested in pursuing the arts? 

JD: I think the most amazing gift that humans have, but take for granted, is the imagination. It is the greatest tool one has to express one’s inner being outwardly, the place where we make the invisible visible and create the world as one chooses it to be.  

My advice would be to train your imagination daily. Like an athlete trains for strength, we train for visions of new ideas and progress for future goals. An imagination is a terrible thing to waste. So use it wisely. 

The full selection of artworks submitted to the Peaceful Art Protest can viewed at

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Sketching with Objects

Flurina Sokoll

Like many of us, Flurina Sokoll has always been drawn to collecting things. As a child growing up in Switzerland, the Slade graduate would walk across meadows on her way to school and back, picking flowers as she went – carefully looking and selecting, honing her observational skills and intuition. This meticulous approach to collecting has stayed with her and informs her fine art practice today.

Driven by an emotional response to leftover objects, Flurina collects and arranges found objects that she is drawn to in order to create compositions imbued with new meaning. The artist, who has two artworks currently on display in the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, likens the process to a two-dimensional approach to drawing.

We caught up with Flurina, who completed an MFA in Fine Art at the Slade School in 2018 and won the Art Association Graubünden’s Art Award shortly before moving to Bermuda in 2019, to discuss her unique approach and how the move from London to Bermuda is influencing her art.

Flurina Sokoll, untitled (rearrangement), Artist’s Studio, Bermuda 2020
Top: 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Round About Through Flowers by Flurina Sokoll, shown here in her artist’s studio, Bermuda, 2020. Image by F. Sokoll
Above: Flurina Sokoll, untitled (rearrangement), Artist’s Studio, Bermuda 2020. Image by F. Sokoll

BNG: How do you approach your practice? What does the process look like?

FS: Hard to say where my process really starts. I guess with collecting. It is an act which needs a conscious decision to want to carry something with me. This is accompanied by all sorts of feelings and it can be by all sort of things – images, readings, nature, environment, people, stories, music…but mostly leftover objects and materials. Unused, cleared out, thrown away.

I collect such remnants in my daily life and then they accumulate in my house and studio. There is a clear order to it. I never want to just accumulate. I have to be able to find time for every single piece and make a conscious decision about how to use or handle it. I have to arrange with these findings. I directly sketch out in the space with objects by arranging and rearranging. Through these actions, my emotional response to the objects broadens as I break things up into smaller details, into its elements, which I then use to walk into even more precise arrangements.

Take a mug as an example: you can think of its use, its story, its cracks, its traces of use, but then it is also just ceramic, it has a particular feel, its colours, shapes, how the light shines into it, etc. There is a lot to discover just in a simple mug. I’m able to enhance particular aspects differently through movement; often emotional and intuitive.

Later, arrangements may need some kind of binding. That’s when drawing in 2D comes into place with more of a design-led approach. Think of a flower arrangement which needs a vase to be positioned in a particular spot. Then in another step there is the positioning of the arrangements inside the vase. There are several aspects to it.

BNG: You have exhibited in very diverse spaces – from the Crypt Gallery, based in the crypt of St Pancreas Church in London, to contemporary galleries which have a very clean, industrial feel to them. In what ways does the environment in which the artworks are placed tell part of their story? Does this influence the work when you are making it?

FS: I am very intrigued by spaces and environments and I often need to focus my energy in order to avoid being distracted by a space. In sketching out my arrangements in the studio, I use objects as tools that allow me to discover the space. Equally, the space itself can influence the sculptural arrangements.

I may move my arrangements into other spaces within the making process, although I have stopped referring to my art as environmental because it is first and foremost about the sculptural arrangements and how they find their position in the space.

When it comes to exhibitions, there are often other factors:  a short time frame, other artworks in the same space or curatorial decisions that can affect me. It helps to focus on the sculptural arrangements primarily and knowing from them how they best connect with the surrounding space. Then, if time allows, I can open it up again and let the environment of a particular space influence more again.

Flurina Sokoll, untitled (rearrangement), Artist’s Studio, Bermuda 2020.
Image by F. Sokoll

BNG: You have said that your practice is deeply rooted in your childhood memory of flower collecting. In what ways?

FS:  My childhood memories of flower collecting serve as a metaphor for aspects of my fine art practice. I will explain with an extract from ‘Florets’ which I wrote in 2018:

‘In the small village where I grew up, I had about a forty-five-minute walk back home from school, up the mountain and over the meadows. This led me to collect flowers almost every day in almost every season. It feels as if I would still like to walk over these very fields, collecting flowers and making a bouquet out of them to bring home. Everything about this action fascinates me: the resolute choice to pick one particular flower out of the plenty, the act of picking itself, the colours, the textures. The season, the whole ambiance, the path and the walk, the time. Holding the flowers together in my hand and eventually putting them in an appropriate vase. Filling the vase with water, putting the object in the right spot, nursing the flowers over the following days, maybe relocating them and accepting that they fade quickly, maybe drying a few single flowers out of the bunch and then stowing away the vase.’ 

BNG: Is collecting objects something that you have always done?

FS: Yes, always. Well, we all do to a certain degree. Don’t we?

Flurina Sokoll, untitled (rearrangement), Artist’s Studio, Bermuda 2020.
Image by F. Sokoll

BNG: You recently moved from London to Bermuda. As an artist, how have you found the transition?

FS: It has given me the opportunity to show my work here in Bermuda at the Biennal – which is a great honour. Bermuda is much quieter and it has been good for me to not be too distracted by the noise around me, which happens quickly in the vanguard of London. But I also miss London and would love to live and work there again at some point. 

BNG: Has the move to Bermuda impacted your practice? In what ways?

FS: Yes, 100%. I’ve been on island since February 2019. At first there was a lot to organize on many different levels and I needed to take my time. I’m now at a point where I’m able to open myself up more to all kinds of new inspirations and I am sure this will manifest itself in my practice in more depth.

As with most things, I try to achieve this not in too searched a way but more subtly. It happens in daily life and in its reflection upon it: through Bermudian houses and buildings I enter, people and their stories, objects I find on my way, colours, nature…and maybe also new dreams that I start to dream.

I have a studio here and I’m continuously making work. I have a certain vague idea of my “Bermuda series”  It’s starting to take on some form but it’s in in the early stages and I’m not sure yet where it will lead me to.

BNG: You have won several awards and grants. How have these helped you to develop as an artist? What advice do you have for emerging artists in terms of both funding and furthering their practice?

FS: They helped me a lot, certainly financially but also and perhaps even more importantly with recognition. Especially the Art Association Graubünden’s Art Award which I won a year ago in Switzerland with which I won my own book publication and a solo show.

I have also put a lot of energy into preparations and interviews for prizes that I didn’t win. Never be shy to apply. There is nothing to lose in applying and with every application my portfolio and texts improve, new curators get to see your applications and new opportunities will grow out of it.

Find out more about Flurina Sokoll here and follow her instagram here.

2020 Bermuda Biennial

A Universal Conversation

Cynthia Kirkwood

As a child, Cynthia Kirkwood would draw and paint with whatever materials she had to hand, looking on with wonder as the pen moved across the paper, observing the marks as they revealed themselves.  

The three-time Bermuda Biennial artist begins her fine art practice in much the same way today. After a period of figurative work, Cynthia has returned in recent years to a more organic method in which a meditative approach allows the art to unfurl freely.  

The Mystery Writing series, currently on display in the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, is the result of this unique approach in which one mark leads to another and one medium flows into the next. For the artist, the results – at once familiar and unexpected – bear witness to a moment of connection with the wider world; a reminder of her “thread in the universal conversation”.  

We caught up with Cynthia to explore her process, discuss how for her art making is “a way of witnessing the moment of being alive” and why now, more than ever, we all need to connect with the universal conversation.  

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Cynthia Kirkwood Mystery Writing  December 12 2019
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork: Mystery Writing December 12 by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2019. India ink on paper, 7.5 X 11.
Cynthia Kirkwood Two Reds and Pale Blue Bermuda National Gallery
Two Reds and Pale Blue by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2019.
Oil on canvas, 20 X 30.5. Collection of the artist.

BNG: Your current art making process is a combination of drawing, writing and painting. Could you please talk us through your approach? 

CK: I’d say it’s organic. Those three mediums – drawing, writing, painting (also sometimes collage and printing) – they all go together. Once I’m in my studio, with the materials around me, I’ll know where to begin. The actual materials help me know where to begin. Then one thing leads to another. 

BNG: The two pieces selected for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial are both examples of Mystery Writing, dated January 5th 2020 and December 12th 2019. Does the Mystery Writing come to you often? How does it manifest itself? 

CK: The Mystery Writing often comes to me. Or I go to it. I’m not sure which way that works. Anyway, I love it. The pen moving with such freedom. The sound of the pen on the paper. And then the paper with the writing on it is the result, the slightly unexpected result – it’s familiar but still somehow unexpected. It’s a confirmation of what just happened. And also a mystery. Something like that. 

BNG: You have said that “the paintings expand from drawings into colour. Could you please explain the process? 

CK: Did I say that? I made it sound neat but there’s a lot of meandering. I do a large number of drawings and what’s revealed and made visible in the drawings can be a reference, like an alphabet, for future work.  

It might go the other way too – paintings can take shape on their own and some quality of a painting may show up in a drawing. It’s reciprocal. 

Cynthia Kirkwood Bermuda National Gallery Inner Unity Oblong April 5 no3 2019
Inner Unity Oblong April 5 No. 3, by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2019.
Gouache on paper, 8 X 11. Collection of the artist.
Inner Unity Monument: No. 1, by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2020.
Oil on canvas, 42 X 52. Collection of the artist.

BNG: In your artist statement for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial you describe your work as “My gesture of witness. My offering. My thread in the universal conversation.” Could you please expand on this and describe your process? 

CK: A pen mark is a kind of gesture. A brushstroke. A communication. The marks add up into drawings and paintings and years of working and together it feels like a way of witnessing the moment of being alive. Of just being alive in a body.

Remembering: Yes. This is now. Here I am. Here we are. All of nature. Underground. Above ground. All the continents. Ancestors gone before us. Children of the future. All of us together. And such gratitude. Honouring this holy mystery of life. Gratitude for my own small path.  

I don’t go around all day experiencing this but there are glimpses of it. When I’m alone at work I can find that awareness in the continuous motion of moments. Through the physical work. It’s not linear time on the clock anymore.  

Finding this way of being in sync, of belonging and finding an awareness of the eternal, of the wholeness and of being a part – has to do with our future, the movement of humanity beyond the arguments and beyond the archaic ‘us and them’ way of life. In this spirit, I offer my trust in the future, in the brightness of our collective future through my work.  

Sometimes my work doesn’t seem like much to me, but more and more it’s beginning to feel like, Well, here it is. It’s my way of being alive. It’s all I have. And in this way it is my offering. 

I keep this quotation pinned up on the wall as a good reminder, when I feel tired and lost: 

“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” 

– Hildegard von Bingen 

Cynthia Kirkwood Mystery Writing Bermuda Biennial Bermuda National Gallery
2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork: Mystery Writing January 5 by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2020. India ink on paper, 7.5 X 11.

BNG: Is this approach to creating artworks something that you have always done? 

CK: It is, yes. Always. Since I was a young girl. I’ve always spent lots of quiet time alone with whatever available materials, drawing, painting. I’ve explored other things, other directions, but this mysterious, automatic work is a continuous thread. 

I love to study the construction of flowers, for example. I’ve had periods of making paintings from observation. Still life paintings. Portraits. Self-portraits. I also did figures or sailboats from old family photos for a while. Last summer, I made a series of ink studies of iris in the garden. Line drawings on paper. The structure and geometry of an iris is really something.  

But originally, alone, outside of any classroom, I started with the shapes and lines that come in when I’m just watching the pen nib move on the paper. Or I watch the brush make certain shapes and later I look at them and wonder what they are. 

Back in the late 1980’s I had a show of these automatic paintings, shapes and symbols, out at the Art Center at Dockyard, when it first opened. In those days Dockyard was still completely abandoned. Everything windswept and raw. Just salty and rusty. No people anywhere. No shops. Nothing. Just that one place to eat right inside the gates, by Casemates, where you could get a fish sandwich. For a while I had a studio out there.  

Those paintings were of triangular shapes floating in space. Lots of texture. Years later I had some work in a show there again, twice, but those times I was painting trees. Portraits of solitary trees. Anyway, no matter what else I’m doing, I keep notebooks handy, sketchbooks, where I make the mystery writings and drawings. 

Cynthia Kirkwood Bermuda National Gallery Transception Network Aqua 2020
Transception Network: Aqua by Cynthia Kirkwood, 2020.
Oil and marble dust on linen, 36 X 48. Collection of the artist.

BNG: The ‘universal conversation’ is more important than ever as we navigate these uncertain times. How can we all connect with it? 

CK: We’re all connected to it already. That’s the Oneness. When we’re true to ourselves, we realize it. We’re doing our thing and that sense of alignment lights everything up. And when life pulls us off center, we feel disconnected and lost. But there’s always a way forward. Like that Rumi quotation: 

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” 

There’s always another chance to find what makes us light up and to step into that. One small light changes everything. 

Find out more about Cynthia Kirkwood here and follow her on Instagram here 

2020 Bermuda Biennial

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Let Me Tell You Something

The Bermuda National Gallery is open every Thursday and Friday from 10am to 4pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. If you haven’t already seen the 2020 Bermuda Biennial in person, we urge you to do so.

The Biennial, now in its 14th iteration, is a critical platform for Bermuda’s contemporary art community. Organised by the Bermuda National Gallery and sponsored by Bacardi Limited, the exhibition showcases the dynamism of local and international artists living on the island and serves as both an educational resource and a platform for programmes on art, culture and dialogue.

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork This Is Not A Home by Antoine Hunt, 2019.
Mixed media, wood, oil pastel. 12 x 9 x 1 in.

As a member of the International Biennial Association, this important exhibition continues to represent the excellence of local contemporary art and brings Bermudian artists the opportunity to engage in an internationally juried process overseen by established international curators, both independent and from prominent art institutions.

The 2020 Bermuda Biennial is co-curated by Melissa Messina, an Independent Curator and Curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate and formerly the Interim Executive Director and Senior Curator of The Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; and Kimberli Gant, the McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum, previously the Mellon Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Arts of Global Africa at the Newark Museum, in Newark, NJ.

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork I-ANK-Forget by NOBODY, 2019.
Digital print. 48 x 48 in.

Qian Dickinson, co-founder of Bermemes, sat down with the curators when they were on island to discuss their vision for the show and why the exhibition plays such a pivotal role for Bermuda’s artists. 

Click here to watch the film on Stories, the BNG blog.

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Interview: Emma Steele

Strength In Vulnerability

Emma Steele uses textiles to challenge preconceived notions of craft based practices, drawing from a place of strength to express a feminist directive. Her 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork, which explores sex from a woman’s point of view, roots the traditional medium firmly in a contemporary context.  

“Experiences leave impressions. The impressions are the aftermath.” explains Emma of Aftermath, which marks the second time that the artist has exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial. Her 2018 artwork Just One Word: Consent fused knit textiles with prose, drawing from personal experience to explore the trauma of sexual assault.  

We caught up with Emma, a former BNG student currently studying for an MFA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art in London, to discuss why textiles are both misunderstood and underestimated, how they have given her a platform from which she is able to make her voice heard and why the fourth wave of feminism has brought us to the cusp of change.

Top: Emma Steele at work in her studio in London.
Above: A moodboard serves as the starting point for a project.

BNG: Could you please talk us through Aftermath?

ES: Aftermath looks at the experience of sex. We are born pure and innocent but over time, experiences leave imprints on the body. The body adapts and manipulates its form.

Each person you have been with leaves an imprint. You adapt and change to that person. Over time experiences leave impressions. The impressions are the aftermath.

The knit represents the body. Each piece has a different print, created using my body, which is cut out of the polyester knit, leaving an abstract form within it.

Broken. Reformed. Marks disappear but the experiences stays with-one forever. Forgotten. Lost. Undefined.

I like the similarity between the representation of knit and the representation of a woman. There is a raw openness in the way that the knit falls when it is cut. It creates its own new form.

Experience. Expectation. Colliding into one defined piece. The aftermath remains.

BNG: How do you tell a story through textiles?

ES: Photography captures one part of the story. It is then placed within the structured form of a textile through dye sublimation – a print technique that allows me to print photography onto my knit structures – which further opens up the story.

The knit, with its tactile nature, represents a woman; her naked form. The photography adds layers of imagery to the piece. These are printed on both sides of the knit so that the viewer is able to walk around and examine it from both sides, a metaphor for the woman being displayed in her most vulnerable state.

To touch something. To desire. To want. To crave.

Aftermath by Emma Steele, on display in the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

BNG: Aftermath explores sex from a woman’s point of view.  Why was it important to you to tell this story?

ES: Sex has been stripped down and twisted back and manipulated into a social form, creating conflict within the topic. We are constructed and deconstructed.

Sex. Reclaiming. Judgement. Imprint. To be wanted. To be desired. To be loved. To be touched.

How do we cope with the reality of sex?

The experience of sex. Defining and remembering the experience. Reclaiming sexuality. Defining sexuality.

I wanted to re-introduce the narrative. To reclaim it for women so that we don’t live in fear of judgement. For me, this meant reclaiming something that I had lost.

I was sexually assaulted when I was eighteen. After my trauma I did not know how I felt. I had no emotions. I did not want to be touched. I did not know if I could be loved again. I did not know if I could feel beautiful and comfortable in my own body.

To be seen naked is to allow someone to see you fully vulnerable. You are at your most vulnerable state when you are naked. You are allowing someone to become a part of you.

I wanted to open the topic up, look at the emotional aspect of sex and the experiences of it.

The simple motion of a touch. To see. To react. To notice.

Detail from 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Aftermath by Emma Steele, 2020.
Knit textiles. 35 x 19 x 3 in.

BNG: Both your 2018 and 2020 Bermuda Biennial artworks use knitting a traditionally feminine and passive pastime to tell stories of female empowerment. How do the medium and the message interplay in your work?

ES: I did a BA in Textiles at the London College of Fashion before going on to the RCA, where we were taught the history of design and fashion. I became fascinated by the historical portrayal of women though the lens of fashion, particularly the portrayal of feminism through photography.

Throughout history, different stages of feminism have continued to evolve. This is the same for textiles, especially knit. In the second year of my BA, I began to interlink storytelling with the use of knitting. Textiles became a platform for my voice to be heard.

I use knit as a portrayal of femininity. Textiles are misunderstood and underestimated. Historically, women have been portrayed in a certain way, as has knitting, and I am trying to bring the two together to explore them both and to showcase it as more than just a craft or a simple pastime.

BNG: Your work is an expression of female strength in the face of male aggression. In what ways has this impacted your artistic practice?

ES: I was assaulted when I was eighteen, at the beginning of my artistic career. Over the past four years I have explored the topic by creating two individual pieces of work: Just One Word: Consent, which was exhibited in the 2018 Bermuda Biennial and a dissertation entitled Am I asking for sympathy? Do I need to be looked at differently? Will you listen to my story?

These two separate pieces of work allowed me to explore and understand two separate sexual assault cases that occurred to me. It was a way for me to allow myself to heal through an artistic platform and identify my feelings around the subject.

Being assaulted has impacted my life but it has also allowed me to re-think and re-design as an artist. There is a long healing process to being raped and there is not always help available when needed. These projects allowed me to open up the conversation and explore a new form of creating.

I use my traumas and how I am feeling as concepts for a project. It helps me to explore things and it is a way of self-healing though my creative practice. I allow my feelings and the events that have occurred to me to define and lead me within my practice.

Detail from 2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork Just One Word: Consent by Emma Steele, 2017. Knit textiles. 14 x 12 (x12).

BNG: The conversation surrounding sexual assault has been amplified in recent years with the growth of #MeToo. How has the movement affected people’s perspectives on consent and sexual intimidation?

ES: The Me Too movement was first started in 2006 but did not gather strength until 2017. I am sure we all remember this hashtag appearing on our screens with friends posting #MeToo. I posted my #MeToo post in 2017. I was hesitant at first. I wondered how I would feel typing those five letters on my keyboard. When I posted it, it verified that I had begun to accept what occurred to me. I had announced to the world that this had happened.

The Me Too movement has opened a new form of feminism. We are now in a new era and the internet rules the fourth wave of feminism. It has allowed women to take their voice back and it has given them a platform from which they can use their voices. We are at the starting point of change.

BNG: In the past year alone we have seen the conviction of both Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein for serial sexual assault. In what ways have these high profile cases helped to shift the conversation?

ES: These cases have opened people’s eyes up to the sheer volume of victims out there that have been silenced for years and are only now feeling comfortable enough to speak up. The Me Too movement has helped bring the fourth wave of feminism to life. Feminist power is growing and it is allowing the victim’s voice to be brought back to her.

Let’s begin to open up the conversation about rape. Let’s let the survivor know they are not alone: “I know it’s hard, but if we don’t figure out how to have tough conversations, we will sacrifice another generation of victims” (Anderson, 2019, Time, 15 January).

This is to help further educate people into a better understanding of what consent is and how important it is to give it. It is about helping the victim to become more empowered in herself and to allow her to begin to heal.

Education is the key to success. Educate people about what they are unaware of. The conversation needs to keep moving forward.

Just One Word: Consent by Emma Steele on display in the 2018 Bermuda Biennial.

BNG: Do you have any advice for women who have suffered a trauma similar to your own?

ES: I am sorry to anyone who has suffered from a similar trauma. I would like to say that what occurred to you is awful. Remember that you are a strong person and that you will overcome this trauma. It will not define your life forever. It may feel that way at the moment but I am a survivor and you are a survivor too.

My advice to anyone who has had to deal with a similar trauma is to understand that it was not your fault. You are not to blame. No matter what you were wearing or what you were doing, it was not your fault. That is something that I have struggled to come to terms with over the years.

I am three years surviving my trauma and every day is a new beginning. Some days I feel pain and anger and other days I smile and giggle like nothing has ever occurred to me. Let the pain come in and then remember that you won and that you are a survivor. Use that anger and pain to let you feel like a woman again – the powerful woman that you are.

To deal with such a traumatic event will change you. There is no way around that. It is how you deal with that event that will shape your future. Remember that you are a survivor and that you will overcome any aftermath that occurs to you.

Follow Emma at @emmasteeletextiles and @foxyladydesigns

If you are dealing with the trauma of sexual assault and would like to speak to someone the hotline for Centre Against Abuse is available 24 hours a day and can be reached on 297 8278.