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.


Interview: Antoine Hunt

Mexico, mezcal and the meaning of home

Antoine Hunt is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work combines photography, sculpture, painting and film making. He has exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial 12 times. His 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork This Is Not A Home is a reflection upon his nomadic lifestyle which has seen him relocate his place of residence 19 times.

We caught up with Antoine to discuss the meaning of home and the making of his new feature length film In The Belly Of The Moon. The documentary, which recently premiered on i-Tunes, looks at the role of mezcal in both modern day Mexico and its folklore.

This Is Not A Home by Antoine Hunt, 2019. Mixed media, wood, oil pastel. 24 wood panels each 12 x 9 x 1 in. 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork.

BNG: Your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork speaks to the notion of home, which is something that has shifted in ways that we could never have anticipated when the exhibition opened. Why did you choose to focus on this?

AH: In the last year I had an incident involving my health that left me feeling helpless and I realised that I had to dig deeper into my vulnerabilities for me to truly heal. These realisations led me to the understanding that my nomadic discontent made me feel like I never had a place that I could call home…

BNG: You split your time between Istanbul, Bristol, Mexico, Berlin and Bermuda. Why is this?

AH: Being a hapless romantic, Bristol, Mexico and Berlin are all places where I had followed my heart and found that each of these places had left indelible marks on my soul. 

Excerpt from In The Belly Of The Moon. Photograph by Antoine Hunt.

BNG: Where have you been sheltering in place?

AH: My very small flat in Bermuda has been my place of refuge, where it has been all too easy for me to bounce off the walls. All plans to be attending numerous film festivals have gone awry in the would be apocalyptic pandemic.

BNG: We’re spending more time at home than ever before. Have the shelter in place restrictions altered your attitude to what constitutes a home in any way?

AH: I am learning to not look at the place that I am temporarily occupying as a utilitarian, no frills, practical, just a place to temporary put stuff in.  But as shelter that is taking care of me and that I should take care of in turn. 

BNG: When you are able to travel again where are planning to go and why?

AH: Mexico will be first on the list as there is a film Festival in Oaxaca at the end of the year. Then onward to Canada to continue research for the next film project.

Excerpt from In The Belly Of The Moon. Photograph by Antoine Hunt.

BNG: Your feature length documentary ‘In The Belly Of The Moon’ looks at mezcal and the traditions that surround it. What attracted you to explore this as a theme?

AH: I’ve been going to Mexico off and on for the last twenty years or so. Mezcal had always been a part of partying. That is, mezcal is a small part of my research of all aspects of the Mexican culture. It was not until around 2011 that I had found a deeper appreciation for the spirit by way of a film festival in Guanajuato, where I screened a film and then shot a short love film centred around the sometimes unquantifiable effects of mezcal.

This led to shooting the beginnings of the finished film In The Belly Of The Moon. The film begins with an epic poem describing how the gods created mezcal and the film gets its name from tales told long ago. The story says that Mexico City sits in a lake and looking from the mountains the city sits neatly in the moons reflection.

Excerpt from In The Belly Of The Moon. Photograph by Antoine Hunt.

BNG: Could you talk us through the process of creating the documentary?

AH: At first it was elusive then it was hard, then it sucked and was eventually satisfying and not necessarily in that order. Shooting a feature film in a country where one does not have firm grasp on the language is not an easy thing. Topping that off with crew that did not appreciate not having the comforts of an air-conditioned studio to shoot in. The first day I fired someone, people got sick and not from the copious amount of mezcal that we drank every day!

There was an interesting visit to a rural hospital where I had to bring in our lights in order for the doctor to see what she was stitching. Then there was the time the crew dropped me off in the middle of nowhere so I could capture a time-lapse sequence and almost ended up as lunch for a pair of coyotes.

There are so many stories that lead up to me editing the footage over two painful years, including a near death experience. Not involving the coyotes. I learned much, not only about the technical aspects. I was forced to stretch and grow way beyond anything that I could have expected when starting out. Somewhere in this, a documentary was shot and completed.

Excerpt from In The Belly Of The Moon. Photograph by Antoine Hunt.

BNG: Film, photography and sculpture are all part of your artistic practice. Do the different disciplines feed into one another?

AH: All that I make in my art is connected. Each discipline has technical aspects that satisfy part of my brain. Working in film, photography, sculpture and paint allows crossover. Each one feeds the other. Ideas cross pollinate.  

BNG: What creative projects are you working on at the moment?

AH: In addition to the pre-production for the next film, I am working on a surreal photography based series that is destined to be displayed in the Bermuda National Gallery.

Watch In The Belly Of The Moon on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play


Voices Of The Pandemic

A film by Milton Raposo

The 2020 Bermuda Biennial provides an engaging platform from which our island’s artists can tell their story. The Biennial  programmes which accompany the exhibition are focused on expanding this platform, creating dynamic opportunities for our communities to share their stories.

Voices Of The Pandemic is a project by artist and filmmaker Milton Raposo, founder of Method Media and former deputy chair of the Bermuda Arts Council, which explores life in Bermuda amid the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on our communities. His previous projects include FABRIC: Portuguese History In Bermuda and Osbourne’s Day Out: North Rock Tank to North Rock.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, the BNG received a grant from the Department of Community Affairs’ Cultural Legacy Fund to record the voices of the community. In light of the abrupt changes that Covid-19 has brought to life in Bermuda BNG has decided to direct the grant towards funding this important project as part of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial programming.  

The project invites you, the public, to share your experience of day to day life in these extraordinary times. The theme for this year’s Bermuda Biennial, Let Me Tell You Something, inspired by a quote from the late author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, asks artists to tell their own story. Now we invite you to tell yours.

We sat down with filmmaker Milton Raposo to find out more about the project and how people can get involved.

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: When did you start working on the project and why?

MR: I started working on this project in mid-March, around the time that the uncertainty started to be apparent. Originally the idea was to record everything related to the crisis, but that wasn’t practical considering social distancing and other mitigation efforts. As the situation unfolded, it became apparent to me that a part of this was not being documented and that is the direct effect the pandemic has had on the average citizen, whether it be someone who contracted the virus or someone who has lost their job. There has been a lot about essential workers and some capturing of behind the scenes work but not a lot about the direct effects on people. To me, that is more interesting. 

BNG: The pandemic has affected us all in ways that are both universal and uniquely personal. How do you intend to capture this?

MR: The title, Voices of the Pandemic, speaks directly to that. There are so many threads to be pulled on but knowing what is emotionally unique to Bermuda while also relating to what is happening around the world is key. Our pandemic stories have a uniqueness but ithose stories also relate to what is happening to people in other places like Italy or Spain.  

BNG: The reverberations of the pandemic and its impact on how we live our lives will be long term and will evolve over time. How will the documentary capture this multi-stage process?

MR: My intent is to avoid making a “recap” documentary as such but instead to capture what is current and in the moment. Right now, there are people who are sick or unemployed with stories that are unfolding. It sort of pens me in with how I’m going to deal with those individuals down the line, if I bring them back, but that could also be interesting to the narrative. As Bermuda gets back to normal, I expect new stories and developments. We’ve all had a fundamental shift, or disruption, in our ways of thinking and every day practices and I expect stories to be revealed because of that.   

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: What are the most interesting stories that you have recorded so far?

MR: Without revealing too much, one story is of one of the first people to get Covid-19; one of the imported cases. Another is of a tourism professional with a staff of 15 who didn’t even get the chance to gear up for the 2020 tourist season and now fears that tourism might be largely written off this year. Another interesting story I am working on getting is that of an essential worker in a position of prominence within their organisation who lost a family member to Covid-19 but they had to be on the job. And so while they were trying to protect Bermuda as a whole, their family suffered a direct loss.

BNG: What are you looking for in terms of submissions and potential interviewees?

MR: If people have been impacted by the pandemic in any way at all, they should reach out. No story is too small. People have to be comfortable with going in front of a camera and telling their story. I promise not to make it a long drawn out affair. Also, if they wish to send in a video describing what their current situation is like, they can. The camera phone has proven to be very useful tool! I’m trying to avoid lifestyle clips however. 

BNG: Are there are any stories that you are keen to capture that you haven’t yet managed to get on film?

MR: Yes, the hoax believer. There is a large segment out there that either believes this all a hoax or, for whatever reason, is not taking this seriously at all. Looking at social media, it appears there are a lot of people like that. I believe that voice should be included.

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: What do you hope to achieve with the film?

MR: A few things. I’m a big believer in documenting periods of time of national importance and telling untold or underreported stories. I think this film will feed directly into the theme of this year’s Biennial, Let Me Tell You Something, which reveals some of these stories.

It’s cliché to say but I hope it will document a period of time in Bermuda’s history where we joined a global effort to push back against a serious threat to peoples’ lives and livelihoods. It’s easy to joke about the laid back attitude associated with island life but Bermuda hasn’t seen a threat like this since possibly World War II, or more recently the 1970s riots.

Bermuda is a great example of survival – from figuring out how to capture rain water, to riding out hurricanes better than anyone else, to being home to insurers who bail other global communities out of their own national disasters. In that sense, Bermuda routinely punches above her weight and reveals her own powerful, special voice.

If you would like to take part in the documentary please contact Submissions are open to Bermudians living both on island and abroad.

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Jigsaw Challenge

BNG Puzzles

As more and more of us discover the joys of completing a jigsaw, we have produced two more online puzzles featuring artworks from the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

Click HERE to complete Dr Edwin M.E Smith’s Transience.

Those of you who like a challenge, click HERE to complete Wild Randomness by Arié Haziza.

100 piece jigsaw featuring 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Wild Randomness by Arie Haziza.
100 piece jigsaw featuring 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Transience by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith.

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Interview: Dr Edwin Smith


Transience, by artist and educator Dr Edwin M.E. Smith, is a striking installation produced for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial. The artwork, which is large in scale (144 x 96 inches) was created by applying duct tape directly onto the wall of the Young Gallery. The painstaking installation process took over 24 hours to complete. Yet the work, by its very nature, will be destroyed when the exhibition closes.

We caught up with Dr Edwin M.E. Smith to discuss the intricate technique behind his work, the importance of fleeting moments and his pride at seeing former students included alongside him in the exhibition.

BNG: Transience marks a change in direction for you, having predominantly worked with acrylic, charcoal and chalk prior to this. What is it about duct tape that attracted you as a medium?

ES: The decision to use tape for this installation is not as new or even as dramatic as it may initially appear. I have used duct tape in my work Culture of Entitlement 2 (2014) to reference Bermuda Day traditions and the usage also resembles the linear approach used in previous instances of my work such as Paper Boats (2009).

Culture of Entitlement 2 by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith (2014)

Last year I created a tape installation I Shall Only (2019) in a gallery in the John Macintosh Hall in Gibraltar during an art residency. This recent use with limited materials and time made me consider the medium for more developed possibilities and was quite timely as I turned my attention the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

Duct tape easily replicates the forms, lines and monochromatic values that are characteristic of my image making. However, along with the aesthetic consideration, duct tape, as a non-permanent medium excellently contributed to Transience as this is an installation that is also intended to be non-permanent.

Paper Boats by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith (2009)

BNG: What were the challenges of working with this medium?

ES: Compositional manipulation in my effort to highlight focal points, create balance and say what I want to say are the most challenging aspects of my work. This remained the case even as now used duct tape as the primary medium. I am a planner and try to anticipate every possibility. Having said that, duct tape definitely has unique considerations!

I searched for appropriate colour, widths, lengths, textural surfaces and tack characteristics. I also needed to have a surface that I could draw on. Importantly, I had to ensure that the tape remained on the wall for the duration of the Biennial, although I knew that the work would be in a climate controlled environment. I even produced a maquette to assist with my experimentation and to visualise the plan for the jurors.

I was happy with my calculation choices and the installation was completed without much excess. My son, and fellow artist, Micrae Smith assisted with the installation which took approximately 25 hours, not much longer than originally anticipated.

There were happy discoveries in addition to these considerations. I did not anticipate that the underlying masonry and the gallery lighting would cause the grey tape to have a stainless steel or metallic finish. I believe the result positively contributes to the work.

Installation begins on Transience.

BNG: Could you please talk us through the installation process?

ES: I digitally separated my composition into two parts – an underlying grey layer and a top black layer. In turn, these were projected onto the gallery wall and sized to meet my desired dimensions.

Starting with the grey layer, I applied the tape to the positive areas of the projected image. I chose to do this with horizontal strips to maintain a textural consistency. I outlined the image onto the tape with a white acrylic marker and even made additional drawing adjustment to assist with the intricate cuts I had to make.

Finally, I trimmed the excess tape and went over the whole installation with a brayer and my palms, pressing to ensure adhesion.

The work was created using contrasting layers of grey and black duct tape.

BNG: Transience is an ephemeral work. When the exhibition comes down the piece will effectively be destroyed. How does this add to the work?

ES: The fact that the work will cease to exist at the end of the exhibition is extremely important and reinforces my concept of individuals participating in a fleeting moment. I want my viewers to grasp and take away the concept – which is, the importance of the moment.

On another note, the fact that this work only exists for now increased my enjoyment of the design and creation process. In the process I was totally freed from the concern or interest in producing art that would eventually sell.

The artwork begins to take shape.

BNG: This is your 7th Bermuda Biennial. How has your inclusion in the exhibition over such a long period of time shaped your practice?

ES: I feel fortunate to have been selected for inclusion as often as I have and I continue to enjoy my participation in Bermuda’s visual culture and in the exhibition. Inclusion in the Biennial may have had some influence on what I do, but I believe that time and my total life experiences are really the shaper of my practice.

I am the first to recognise that I am not the same person that I was yesterday and, without a doubt, the times are not the same as before either. I believe change should be reflected in my work as well. I enjoy my explorations and, as an art educator, I emphasise that sameness may reflect limited creativity. Without a doubt, the Biennial has served an excellent avenue to document the journey.

The finished piece measures 144 x 96 inches.

BNG: As the Senior Lecturer of Art and Design at the Bermuda College you have seen a number of your former students exhibit in the Biennial. What does it feel like to see former students, such as Naimah Frith who is showing for the first time this year, included in such an exhibition?

ES: I am happy to see my former students getting involved and taking advantage of opportunities. It should be , and remains, a natural expectation for me that my students will want to be part of the art world that supported their artistic development. Hopefully, their participation signals that they regard their perspectives as valid and an important contribution to be shared and added to local discourse. I am glad to remain connected with them even though increasingly I am simply one of the old guys!

Inclusion in major exhibitions such as the Biennial provides recognition and assists in personal growth but also provides relevant documentation through inclusion in prestigious catalogues and possibly, at some point, inclusion in the canon of Bermudian art history. Their work becomes part of the tapestry that will in time provide a future audience a glimpse into the realities, conversation and values held within this island home.

BNG: Sarai Hines, one of your former students, is leading a digital programme for the BNG Youth Arts Council this term. How does it feel to cross paths with some many of your former students as they establish successful careers of their own?

ES: Miss Sarai Hines and others are creatives who are making their career choices work for them. This is never easy as they are often times when significant others encourage the pursuit of other paths. I want to see them succeed!

I often reflect on when they were in the classroom and I remember their enthusiasm and approach not only to their own art making but also their critique of the art world they were entering. I am excited to see their maturity but I am more excited to see that their passion and work ethic has not wavered. I am proud of them and will continue to support them in any way that I can.

BNG: The Youth Arts Council students studied your work for their first module. They interviewed you and have also produced their own artworks inspired by Transience. How was the experience for you?

ES: I enjoyed the experience, as I expected I would! I am always happy to engage young people who have an interest in the arts. Now I am looking forward to seeing which aspects of Transience appealed to them. Their points of view are as important to me as are analyses and reviews received from other individuals who may or may not be immersed in the art world.

Artwork by BNG Youth Arts Council student Tcherari Nu Kamara, age 15

“My piece is about how time, while it facilitates growth and learning, can also be something that traps us if we pay too much attention to it. Inspired by Dr Edwin Smith’s piece Transience I used tape to create part of this artwork. I decided that the watches would work as handcuffs to represent the feeling of being trapped by time. The watches are made out of tape with bold, geometric print to provide a contrast against the more organic forms in the rest of the artwork.”
Artwork by BNG Youth Arts Council student Nae’ Zori Weeks, age 14

“I choose to do a big healthy tree mixed in with trees that have perished. To me, trees symbolise life. The dead and cut down trees in the background symbolise how humans have killed the earth. The sky is dark with thick grey smoke because factories are polluting the air that we breathe. I added clear tape to the ground to make it look as if there are plastic bags and bottles. I wanted to incorporate the tape as a reference to Dr Edwin Smith using tape in his work.”

The BNG Youth Arts Council, aimed at students aged 13 -17, produces art activities relevant to the teens of today. Registrations is free. For further information contact

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Meet The Jurors

Behind the scenes with Bermemes

As a member of the International Biennial Association, the Bermuda Biennial, sponsored by Bacardi, provides local artists with the opportunity to have their work seen by some of the foremost art professionals in the world.

Bermemes caught up with the jurors for this year’s exhibition, Melissa Messina, an independent curator and curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate, and Kimberli Gant PHD, the McKinon Curator of Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum, when they were on island in January.

The film, which is presented by Qian Dickinson, explores the making of the exhibition and looks at ways in which emerging artists can get ahead.

Click HERE to view the film.

Artist Talk

In Conversation: Bryan Ritchie

The Art of Printmaking

2020 Bermuda Biennial artist Bryan Ritchie recently gave a talk for the BNG live from his home studio in Wisconsin in which he gave an overview of his practice and the concepts behind the art he creates, which primarily focuses on drawing and lithography.

Bryan has exhibited extensively in Bermuda, Canada and the United States and his work has been included in five Bermuda Biennials. He is currently a Professor of Art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where he recently concluded an additional role as Department Chair. 

You can watch the talk HERE.

Swimmer (Maybe I should get out and participate), 2019. Charcoal and pastel on paper. 30 x 22 in. Selected for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.
Maybe I Should Be Me, 2018. Charcoal and pastel on paper. 30 x 22 in. Selected for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial.

Artist’s Statement

My work explores social and political paradigms through implied narratives. I respond to a myriad of sources, including social interactions, media influences, daily rituals and memories.  My process stresses invention, with an emphasis on mark making and character development, to create depictions that explore a place between abstraction and representation. My entries for the 2020 Biennial represent a recent body of work produced while serving a new employment role as a department chairperson.

To remain connected with my creative practice while I learned the administrative assignment, I established a drawing ritual with specified working parameters. The resulting body of work became a whimsical snapshot into a period of risk, vulnerability and achievement. I questioned axioms regarding what is valued, what are aimers in life, and how does one navigate doubt, insecurity, failure and loss to achieve goals. The work was raw, but honest and gave form to shared questions about how to remain hopeful and vigilant as we age and accept new challenges.

Find Bryan at and @bryanritchie4617

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Interview: Gherdai Hassell

Interactions Bermuda

Bermudian artist Gherdai Hassell’s mixed media artwork celebrates the black female figure. Exploring ideas about representation, perception, identity creation, and childhood, her vibrant collages capture and center the gaze.

We caught up with Gherdai, who is currently studying for an MFA at the China Academy of Fine Art, to discuss her artistic process and the importance of the arts as we navigate these uncertain times.

BNG: You grew up in Bermuda and are now studying in China. How have the two very different experiences shaped your work?

GH: Growing up in Bermuda definitely shapes my artistic practice. Bermudian heritage is so rich and vibrant. I draw on many experiences I had growing up in Bermuda. Being in China has also had a profound impact on my work. It has underscored a pride that I never had before in my heritage. When you’re placed out of context, it makes everything clear – who you are, what you want to say, and why it matters.

BNG: Your work celebrates the strength and beauty of black women. Historically, there has a been a lack of representation of people of colour in the art world. Is this something that you were aware of growing up? How has it influenced your practice?

GH: I was less aware of the lack of representation when I was a child because being from Bermuda, and growing up within the community, I saw and engaged with mostly black people. In real life, there was representation. I’ve always had wonderful black women in my life: my mom, aunts, grandmothers and family friends. It wasn’t until I got older and started engaging with media and traveling that I became more aware that images being presented about people that I knew and loved did not reflect my real life experience. So I wanted to create work that does.

BNG: You describe you work as ‘an exploration of self through various materials which suggest that identity should be self-determined and understood’. Could you please expand on this?

GH: My process is meditative. The work unfolds as I make it. I never know exactly what it will look like when I begin. As I’m exploring the ways in which I can use and manipulate material to create, I’m also exploring parts of myself. I’m fully in the moment – mixing paint, cutting, drawing, making marks, assembling, discovering what could be. I’m on a quest for understanding and acceptance of my own identity when I work. I create from my subconscious. When I’m exploring materials, I’m also exploring untapped parts of myself.

BNG: Your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Interactions Bermuda is an incredibly ambitious large scale installation which incorporates collage and painting. At 6 ft x 8 ft it takes up an entire wall of the Young Gallery. Could you please take us the process of creating and installing the piece?

GH: Interactions Bermuda is my most ambitious and largest piece of work to date. I created the collages in my studio in China. I started with the faces and upper half of the figure then created the limbs. The figures are all over 4ft in height, so to get the work to Bermuda I had to disassemble the work and re-assemble it on site in the Young gallery. I then created the Aura Mural around the figures directly on the wall.

BNG: This is your first Bermuda Biennial. What does it mean to you to be included in the exhibition?

GH: I’m thrilled to have my work exhibited on such a platform, to have my work curated by an international jury and shown alongside some incredible artists.  I’m particularly happy to have my work showcased on such a platform so early in my career. Taking part in Biennials was something that I had planned to do perhaps midway through my art career, so I feel like I’m a little ahead of schedule. I’m very humbled and grateful for the opportunity.

BNG: Your work was showcased in the last year’s Wearable Art Gala, which was founded by Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson, and chaired by Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Solange Knowles. How did your inclusion in such a high profile event affect your career?

GH: The artwork I displayed at the event was an experimental piece. It sold for over $6,000 – about $1,300 above asking price.  I was thrilled to be included and even more pleased that the work went to such a worthwhile cause. It gave me the opportunity to take a step back and to reflect and grow as an artist. It has strengthened my belief in my messaging and my work.

BNG: Their team discovered on social media. How has Instagram provided a platform for your work?

GH: Instagram is a great platform for artists as it allows you to tell a visual story. I have created and grown my brand on Instagram. It has allowed me to connect with other artists – both in Bermuda and across the world. Most of my press opportunities and sales outside of Bermuda have come through Instagram.

BNG: You are a great role model for young Bermudians. Do you have any advice for local emerging artists who are looking to further their practice?

If you have a dream to be an artist, go after it. Just do it. Artists are so crucial to our society. When you step out on faith, everything you need shows up to meet you halfway. As everything has shut down due to the coronavirus lockdown, people are turning to the arts more than ever. They read books written by artists, they watch films directed and acted in by artists, they listened to music created by artists and they looked for inspiration created by visual artists. Without art, life wouldn’t be as beautiful. So create your work, we all need it. Find a mentor – early – it can make a difference on your path. I’m willing to help any young artist coming up in Bermuda, please connect with me on instagram at @hassell_free.

Interactions Bermuda Mixed media collage. 6ft x 10ft x 0.5 ft.

Artist’s Statement:

The eyes of the figures are an access for viewers and a veil or protection: a safe space for the women to exist. The collages are avatars, an exploration of self through various materials, which suggest that identity should be self-determined and understood. I employ multimedia to communicate the complexity of being myself, out of context.

2020 Bermuda Biennial

Interview: Arié Haziza

Wild Randomness

Canadian artist Arié Haziza heads the catastrophe risk analytics function for a reinsurance company on the island. His 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Wild Randomness looks at situations in which a single event can have a disproportionate impact on our individual and collective lives.

As we navigate these uncertain times, his work felt like the perfect starting point for Stories – the Bermuda National Gallery’s new blog.

We sat down with Arié to discuss his work, which explores the lack of predictability in outcomes; a notion which we are all having to learn to live with in ways which seemed unimaginable only a few weeks ago.

BNG: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

AH: I moved to Bermuda in early 2001 from Canada. I head the catastrophe risk analytics function for a reinsurance company on the island. I regularly collaborate with Nassim Nicolas Taleb, author of the best-selling book The Black Swan, and Professors Galla Salganik-Shoshan and Tomer Shushi at Ben-Gurion university, on topics relevant to the reinsurance industry ranging from ‘fat tails’, ‘black swans’, cascading phenomena and decision-making under lack of knowledge and ‘convexity’. 

Apart from my family, I really have two passions in life – the mathematics of rare consequential events and art.  There is a saying that, in science you want to understand the world and in the business of infrequent events you want others to misunderstand the world. In my opinion, in art, you want to experience and share with others something about the human condition.  

BNG: Have you always made art?

AH: I have always had a deep connection to art.  For me, an artist is someone who has something new and consequential to communicate with the audience and, at times, in ways that have never been done before. I have attempted to develop a body of work that is closest to the way I perceive the world around me.

My main motivation is the exploration of the aesthetic representation of wild randomness.  How do you generate different meanings and images to different viewers?  While doing so, I also have had opportunities to revisit art themes from the past, to nurture a dialogue with artists through their work.

BNG: This is your first Bermuda Biennial. What does it mean to be a part of the exhibition?

AH: I am very honoured to be part of the 2020 selection and sharing the walls with such a talented pool of artists.  The theme Let Me Tell You Something, inspired by the great Tony Morrison, connected to my experimentations with art.  I should also mention that, thanks to the Bermuda National Gallery, I have met over the years many artists whom I admire, including William Collieson, Edwin Smith, Graham Foster, Jacqueline Alma and Chesley Trott, just to name a few.

BNG: Your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork is very prescient. When did you make it? What prompted it?

AH: The triptych was composed over a fourteen-month period culminating in December 2019.  For a long time, I had been struggling to find the best support possible for this type of work.  I experimented with various medias including works on paper, sculpture and computer-animations, before resolving to use mixed media on canvas.

BNG: Wild Randomness looks at the lack of predictability in outcomes – a very real situation which we now find ourselves navigating. Do you have any words of advice from your studies into this state?

AH: What we are currently experiencing is a severe unforeseen chain reaction of dependent events triggered by a virus outbreak. It is a kind of connect-the-dots situation.  It started with a local triggering event – a virus outbreak – that has in turn generated a healthcare crisis, first locally, then regionally, then globally. This in turn has generated an economic and financial crisis that may in turn be generating a political and conflicts crisis.  These systems also interact with each other via feedback loops to worsen the overall impact on our lives, activities and economies. 

The effects will be far reaching in scope and in time.  Circuit breakers (virus weakening or disappearing, stoppage of international air travel, quarantine/isolation, vaccine…) are key to stopping this chain reaction.

A previous catastrophic event that belongs to this class of cascading phenomena is the 2011 9.1 magnitude earthquake that impacted Japan.  The earthquake generated a tsunami that then caused the flooding of the buffer electrical systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant which in turn resulted in a significant nuclear accident.

I would argue that global climate change belongs to that class of cascading events and is a significant challenge for the future of the planet.  I often refer to global climate change as the mother of all cascading phenomena or in mathematical language as a “Factorial Cascading Event”.

BNG: Wild Randomness is a triptych. Can you talk us through the three pieces and what they represent?

AH: I am hesitant about “explaining” the three pieces, as I would like viewers to develop their own interpretations and images. But as you asked me, I will provide some insight.

On the left side –

This piece makes reference to those events that rarely occur but that result in significant impact.  If you look closely you will notice oscillations similar to what you would see on a seismograph used to record an earthquake.  The red “lollipops” are a tribute reference (a clin d’oeil) to a magnificent gouache by Alexander Calder that you can see in one of the ballrooms of the Hamilton Princess Hotel.

Centre piece –

I invite the viewer to read a few lines of numbers on the canvas and experience the kind of vertigo one would experience on a roller coaster. This piece presents a large number of computer-simulated numbers from complex algorithms used to model the emergence of extreme events (hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics…).  The vast majority of the numbers are small, reflecting our day-to-day experiences, when nothing really intense occurs.  But rarely, you get to see a huge spike appearing out of nowhere.  This one occurrence will account for 99% of your total experience.  An analogy I like is going out at sea in the hope of seeing whales.  The vast majority of the time you keep waiting and nothing happens; suddenly you see the tail of a whale for just 10 seconds.  That very moment will be the most precious memory you bring back home!

On the right side –

My intention was to use a basic chart to summarize data, the type of charts we all get to look at and use in our daily lives, on social media or at work.  Certain viewers who have looked at this piece mentioned that they feel some sort of repulsion triggered by the violence of that very negative red bar which was preceded by a long, positive and stable experience.  For many of us, this piece will resonate with the on-going crisis.  This piece is also my contemporary interpretation of a genre of still-life paintings developed in Europe in the 17th century paintings called Vanitas, filled with symbols of death, that reminded the viewer of the fragility and briefness of life.

The three pieces together compose a window into the world of wild randomness.

Wild Randomness (Triptych), 2020, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 36 x 2 in.

Artist’s Statement:

Randomness, the lack of absolute predictability in outcomes, is inherent to the human condition. One can make conjectures or rely on the most sophisticated predictive tools available, yet no one can tell with certainty what tomorrow will be made of.  My body of work evolves around the investigation and aesthetic representation of Wild Randomness, which corresponds to situations in which a single event can have a disproportionate impact on our individual and collective lives. 

Wild Randomness is the domain of non-linearity, discontinuity, abrupt change, instability, divergence, cascading effects, feedback loops, crises and dislocations.  It is a domain where the more data and information you collect about a subject of interest, the less you understand it.     

I consider myself a collector of wild randomness, designing elaborate mathematical models to generate and record millions or even billions of simulated extreme behaviors data samples.  I invite the viewers to experience for themselves the vertigo of navigating through random wild data, and to generate their own images which are of infinite variation.