Over the past two years, faced with the physical and economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists returned to fundamentals. With exhibitions postponed or cancelled outright, artists took up pen, camera and paint and applied themselves to their immediate surroundings. The sense of isolation was particularly acute in Bermuda, an island measuring 21 square miles, which closed its borders for the first time in the nation’s history. Confined first to their studios and then to their island home, many artists took as their subject the people, places and things around them while, simultaneously, using this time to reflect on the island’s history and its place in the world today.
The theme, A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future., asked artists to reflect on the past two years and to imagine what the future might hold. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Bermuda National Gallery and, for the first time, submissions were open to poets as well as visual artists as a way of celebrating Bermuda’s rich poetic tradition and the written word’s intersection with visual form. Over 100 submissions were received, and 32 visual artists were chosen to participate, alongside 11 poets.
The visual works are wide-ranging, including such media as drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and installation, as well as a number of site-specific pieces located outside the gallery across the island. In the literary submissions, the poets each turn towards the liminality of the spaces they inhabit, of the realities and histories they recall, document or imagine. In this way, A New Vocabulary continues the Biennial’s rich tradition of showcasing a diversity of materials and ideas, bringing visitors (as well as Bermuda’s landscape and history) into the gallery while simultaneously encouraging people to engage more deeply with the island, bringing their imagination to bear on places both familiar and unfamiliar.
2022 Biennial Jurors:
Claire Gilman, Chief Curator, The Drawing Centre, New York
Alexandria Smith, Head of Painting, Royal College of Art, London
Richard Georges, Poet Laureate, British Virgin Islands
The Bermuda Biennial is sponsored by Bacardi Limited. The exhibition is on display through to December 30.