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2024 Bermuda Biennial

We Need You

2024 Bermuda Biennial

We invite all Bermudian artists and artists living in Bermuda, to submit work to the 2024 Bermuda Biennial, sponsored by Bacardi Limited. The exhibition, which has been showcasing the best of Bermuda art for over three decades, will be juried by Chicago based Jamaican multimedia artist Ebony G. Patterson and N.Y.C based art fair director Helen Toomer

The Bermuda Biennial aims to showcase the best Bermuda has to offer across all artistic disciplines, from artists of all ages, at all stages of their career, and from all walks of life. We need you to make that happen. 

We welcome varied submissions from artists across the island – and Bermudian artists living abroad – in order to best showcase Bermuda’s people and voices. The 2024 Biennial has no thematic limitations, thus, we welcome submissions on all themes; the resulting show will reflect the voices and perspectives being put forth in contemporary art on the island. 

Whether you are an established artist who has exhibited extensively, an emerging artist or someone who simply enjoys making art in their spare time, we encourage you to submit. 

Applications are now open and will close on January 2, 2024. 

The 2024 Bermuda Biennial, sponsored by Bacardi Limited, will be on display at the Bermuda National Gallery from April 2024 through to January 2025.

Featured image: 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork by Jayde Gibbons (Bermudian, b. 1991) All The Kings Men from the series My Negus for Real (MNFR), 2019. Photography and mixed media. 72 x 96 inches. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. As exhibited in The Bermuda Biennial: A Retrospective.


Why Submit?

We encourage all artists to submit to the 2024 Biennial. Whether you are an established artist, or in the early stages of your artistic practice, the Bermuda National Gallery’s flagship exhibition provides a unique opportunity to have your work seen by internationally recognised art professionals through the jurying process and if successful, showcase your work to a local and international audience.

“The 2020 Biennial catapulted my career, placed me on an international stage, and also landed me my first solo exhibition […]. The power of a thought, of a vision, of a word, is indescribable.” – Gherdai Hassell

The exhibition provides a great first step to working with the Bermuda National Gallery. Many Biennial artists, such as Will Collieson (2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994 Bermuda Biennials) and Sharon Muhammed (2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1994 Bermuda Biennials) have gone on to be featured in large solo exhibitions at the gallery, many more have been included in a number of group shows and have had their work accessioned into BNG’s permanent collection. 


BNG PROJECT SPACE

The BNG Project Space is reserved for former Biennial artists to showcase current series of work, as they continue to develop their craft.

Former Biennial artists who have exhibited work in the Project Space over the past two years includes Meredith Andrews, Abi Box, Catherine Lapsley, and most recently, Gherdai Hassell (pictured above). Mediums range from photography, to monotype printing, large scale installation, and fibre works. 

If you have previously exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial and have a new body of work or concept that you would like to propose for the BNG Project Space, you can email director@bng.bm.


ARTISTS ON THE BIENNIAL EXPERIENCE

“Inclusion in major exhibitions such as the Biennial provides recognition and assists in personal growth […]. 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.”

Dr Edwin M.E. Smith (2020, 2014, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2002 Bermuda Biennials)

“Now that I have this exposure, and with it a heightened sense of courage, I now call myself an artist and know in my bones that I can back it up.”

Judith Aidoo-Saltus (2022 Bermuda Biennial)

“The Bermuda Biennial is a valuable opportunity to publicly share artwork that exists outside local expectation.”

Centipede Art Movement (2020, 2018 Bermuda Biennials)

“The calibre of the Biennial jurors was both inspiring and intimidating. Beyond their credentials, I respect their work.”

Liana Nanang (2022 Bermuda Biennial)

The Jurors

The jurors for the 2024 Bermuda Biennial are Ebony. G. Patterson and Helen Toomer.

Former BNG Trustee Ebony G. Patterson
, (b.1981, Kingston, Jamaica) is an award-winning artist whose multilayered practice in painting, sculpture, installation, performance, and video uses beauty as a tool to address global social and political injustices.

Her work is in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, NC; National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica; Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; among others.

Helen Toomer is a recognized leader in the arts, with over fifteen years’ experience organizing events, exhibitions and residencies. She is dedicated to uplifting women in the arts.

Toomer is Co-Founder of Stoneleaf Retreat, an artists’ residency and connective space in the Hudson Valley of New York focused on supporting women and families. She is also the Founder of Upstate Art Weekend and Director of Photofairs New York, which recently launched its inaugural edition at the Javits Center in New York City.

All submitting artists will be invited to attend a Meet the Jurors evening event and panel discussion at the private Bacardi 1862 Cocktail Bar on Tuesday, January 16, where they will be able to hear directly from Ebony. G. Patterson and Helen Toomer on their experience curating the Biennial.


How To Apply

The Bermuda Biennial, sponsored by Bacardi Limited, celebrates and promotes the best of contemporary Bermuda art.

We invite all Bermudians, residing in Bermuda or living overseas, and foreign nationals who have been resident on the island for at least 6 months during the preceding two years (January 1, 2022 – January 1, 2024) to submit up to five (5) artworks.

Artists may submit as an individual artist, a collective or in collaboration, and can be at any stage in their career (emerging or established). Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.

Submission requirements:

  • Artwork must have been completed between January 1, 2022 – January 1, 2024.
  • Artwork cannot have been previously exhibited.
  • Artists are invited to submit a combined total of up to five (5) artworks. Each one will be judged individually.
  • If a single artwork has numerous elements, that are integral parts of the same artwork such as a diptych or triptych, then it is considered as one artwork submission.
  • Artworks can be in any medium, including but not limited to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles, performance, digital, film and installation.
  • There is no specific size limit.
  • Artists are also invited to submit proposals for site-specific projects located in and around the Bermuda National Gallery and within the City of Hamilton. 

Applications are now open online and close at midnight on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

Categories
Exhibitions

New Exhibitions

Opening Soon

Thedoors to the gallery are currently closed as we install two new exhibitions. BNG will re-open to the public on Saturday, November 13. We are planning an exhibition opening for BNG members on Friday, November 12. Details will be shared next week. Keep an eye on your inbox! 

The Bermuda Biennial: A Retrospective, which opens in the Watlington Room, presents a selection of artworks produced for the Bermuda Biennial which have been collected by the Bermuda National Gallery over the last three decades, providing an insight into the evolution of contemporary art in Bermuda.

In reflection of the diversity of both materials and ideas for which the Biennial is known, there will be a wide range of media on display. As Dr Daniel Rosenfeld, co-curator of the 1998 Bermuda Biennial and former Academy Professor of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, wrote in the exhibition catalogue that year, a Biennial is unique in its approach as “a type of exhibition which questions our assumptions about the nature and limits of artistic expression.”

Flotsam and Jetsam, a photographic exhibition by Meredith Andrews, opens in the BNG Project Space. Produced by Bermuda National Gallery in collaboration with Keep Bermuda Beautiful (KBB) to celebrate the launch of a public consultation process on the proposed ban of single use plastics by the Bermuda government, the exhibition is a stark reminder of the cost of modern living.

In 2020 KBB cleared 22,250 pounds of litter and illegally dumped waste from locations across Bermuda. Here, Meredith Andrews turns our attention to intrinsic everyday items – a broken hair comb, a lost football and forgotten toys – reminding us of the short life span of these plastic objects and the implications of using them and discarding them.

It is estimated that one third of all plastic waste ends up in nature where it will never fully break down. These striking collages, each one made up of items that the artist has collected along Bermuda’s shoreline, create beauty out of chaos and bring to the forefront the ramifications of the 21st century’s throwaway culture.          

Categories
FILM

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

Categories
2020 Bermuda Biennial

Interview: Dr Edwin Smith

Transience

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 education@bng.bm.

Categories
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.

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2020 Bermuda Biennial

Biennial Jigsaws

BNG Puzzles

To celebrate the digital launch of 2020 Bermuda Biennial we have produced online jigsaw puzzles of both Gherdai Hassell‘s large scale collage Interactions Bermuda and Antoine Hunt‘s mixed media artwork This Is Not A Home.

Click HERE for the Interactions Bermuda puzzle (shown above).

Click HERE for the This Is Not A Home puzzle (shown below).

Categories
Art In Isolation

Creativity In Confinement

Finding Comfort In Chaos

Jon Legere is a Bermudian mixed media artist who works with video, paint, collage, photography and sculpture. He has shown in numerous galleries globally and his collaborative video installation “TURNS” with mentor Margot Lovejoy was part of the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York City.

His 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork A Shell Is A Façade, which marks the artist’s fifth inclusion in the exhibition, looks at the enigma of language and how this can be used to both reveal and conceal information.

Jon lives and works in New York City where he is currently sheltering in place. We caught up with him to discuss life in lockdown in one of the cities most affected by the pandemic and how he is using art to make sense of the situation.

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork: A Shell Is A Façade, 2020. Installation, video, wall stencil. 50 x 50 inches.

BNG: How long have you been sheltering in place and how are you using this time?

JL: I think today marks 43 days. It’s been a wild ride. We have a ten month old beautiful baby girl, a rambunctious seven year old who’s had to learn how to use a laptop overnight for remote classes and a little Havanese puppy. All contained within a nine hundred square foot apartment in Brooklyn. But we are all healthy and staying somewhat sane so no complaints. 

BNG: How has this affected your studio practice?

JL: I’ve always been comfortable with chaos so long as I could figure out a way to contain and make sense of it. I haven’t cracked this one yet and that’s the hardest part for me.  So I’ve been trying to develop new mini routines which give me a sense that I’ve got a handle on things. 

BNG: What are you making and why? 

JL: One of those tasks was to organise the flat files in my studio in Greenpoint. I started arranging all of these old drawings, collage clippings, photo copies, notes, photographs, love letters and tape rolls out onto the floor. After examining all the fragments holistically I wanted to stick what I was seeing on the floor to the wall. So I just threw them on the wall with push pins, tape, glue and didn’t care what was exposed or hidden. Stepping back they are like maps. Topographic diaries of life prior to quarantine.

Banker Street, 2020. Paper, tape, acrylic, spray paint. 50 inches x 65 inches.

BNG: What creative projects were you working on when the crisis hit and how have these been affected by the pandemic?

JL: So many projects so little time. I was invited for a few weeks residency in Italy this fall which is now on hold. I keep seeing photos from the chateau where the residency is on instagram and it feels like a dream. I think it’s good and healthy to dream into the future.

BNG: How do you think the art world will be changed by this event when we go back to a (new) normal?

JL: The world has already changed and adapted and I don’t think there will be any going back. But this is the case with or without a global pandemic, we are constantly evolving. I think during times like these it’s just more noticeable because it’s happening in such an accelerated real time. 

BNG: What is inspiring you at the moment?

JL: Humans. How malleable they are to adaptation and their resilience. 

Aphabeta limited edition hand drawn poster, available exclusively at BNG.

To accompany the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, Jon Legere has produced a limited edition hand drawn poster. Each is one is numbered and signed by the artist. These are available exclusively from the BNG for $50. If you would like to reserve one please email programming@bng.bm.

Categories
Art In Isolation

Interview: Charlie Godet Thomas

Art In Isolation

Art connects us and reflects our stories. As we collectively shelter in place across the globe, many artists are using this time of enforced isolation to make work that responds to the pandemic and the abrupt changes that it has brought to daily life. 

Charlie Godet Thomas is a British/ Bermudian artist whose work includes writing, painting, assemblage, photography, sound and video. His 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Short Poem (Threadbare) marks the sixth time that the artist has been included in the exhibition.

We caught up with Charlie to discuss the autobiographical nature of his practice, the intersection between words and the visual arts and how the pandemic has inspired a new body of work. 

BNG: You are currently living in Mexico City. How is the pandemic affecting day to day life over there?

CGT: There are several restrictions in place, but they are not as severe as in other parts of the world. A major issue is that so few people in Mexico City have the luxury and stability to be able to remain at home. Many of the trades here rely on a steady stream of people in the streets – food stands, open air markets, shoeshine stalls and what have you are still operating. Only yesterday, a Marimba was set up outside our block, it was played for about an hour, so we haven’t witnessed the dramatic changes which seem to have taken place in other major cities.   

Mexico City

BNG: How has the current situation affected your artistic practice?

CGT: I’m not using my studio at the moment, but as many of the shows and projects I was working on have been postponed indefinitely, there is thankfully no pressure to do so. Part of being an artist is realising that any parameters given to you are an opportunity to focus in on what they will allow, or to see how those parameters can be subverted. I have very few materials at home, so I have focused primarily on my writing, I am currently putting together a proposal for a publisher, a collection of poems which would be paired with works from my series Illuminated Manuscripts. I am also working on small scale sketches in paint, mainly in my notebooks. They might later manifest into works but essentially they are just a way of thinking through some of the thoughts and feelings that come with living through a large scale global pandemic.   

Charlie Godet Thomas
Song of Concern (Unfinished Floating World), 2019
Acrylic on paper, wood, coloured pencil, pins, light fitting, cut plastic water bottle. 
214.5 x 152.5 x 2.5 cm
Photographer: Jonathan Bassett
Image courtesy of the artist and VITRINE

BNG: Your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Short Poem (Threadbare) is a wood cut print that takes inspiration from home-made posters. What attracted you to this as a device?

CGT: I have always been interested in any format where language and imagery meet, be it in illuminated manuscripts, graffiti, subtitles in films, foam funereal letters, in signage or in advertising of different types. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that my dad was a copywriter (who wanted to be a writer) and my mum an art director (who was an artist). Everything pointed to the fact that I would inevitably sit awkwardly between the written and visual arts. When I made Short Poem (Threadbare), I was looking closely at those home made posters that you can rip a phone number off of, the idea is so simple but ingenious. It’s a very sculptural approach to using a two-dimensional piece of paper, and I have always had an interest in the relationship and interplay between two and three-dimensional media.  

BNG: Did you put the posters up across the Mexico City?

CGT: I did, because I like to draw attention to things which feel overlooked, but which deserve to be studied more closely. The block print I made meant that the essential function of the poster, to convey and distribute information about a service, was removed. My intention was that the removal of information would allow the format could be considered without distraction. Interestingly, some of the tabs from the bottom of the posters were removed, so people were still performing the action expected of them. Absurd, but funny and unexpected.    

Charlie Godet Thomas
Song of Concern (Ventriloquised Selves), 2019
Acrylic on paper, wood, coloured pencil, pins, light fitting, cut plastic water bottle. 
214.5 x 152.5 x 2.5 cm
Photographer: Jonathan Bassett
Image courtesy of the artist and VITRINE

BNG: This is your 6th Bermuda Biennial. How has your inclusion in the exhibition over the last 12 years impacted your career as an artist?

CGT: It has had a huge impact. I was still studying my Bachelors degree when I was first selected for the Biennial in 2008 and it gave me more confidence in the direction I was going in with my work. Much further down the line now, I can see the development of my work through the prism of the biennial which is strange, it’s rare to have the opportunity to see such clear incremental shifts. I have also met some wonderful artists and curators through the Biennial, the Bermuda National Gallery have supported me in innumerable ways to date, none of which would have come about without my inclusion in the Biennials. 

BNG: You work across many different mediums – painting, poetry, photography, sculpture, film and sound. Your most recent works, including those made in isolation, mark a return to painting. Why is this?

CGT: I painted from a very young age, but because my mum was a (brilliant) painter I felt that I wanted to explore other avenues away from what felt like her specialism, if only so that I could return to it from a different angle at a later date. I have always had a painterly approach to all aspects of my work, so I don’t see it as a return as such, but it has become more prominent in my practice in the last couple of years. One of the practical reasons for this is that when I moved to Mexico City, I didn’t have any materials and the easiest and cheapest things to get hold of were paints and paper, so writing and painting took centre stage. 

Charlie Godet Thomas
Study for OXXO / OH NO, 2020
Acrylic and pencil on Fabriano paper
34.8 x 24.6 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and VITRINE

BNG: Study for OXXO / OH NO, was the first piece that you made in isolation. Could you please talk us through it?

CGT: This came from an evening when I passed my local OXXO convenience store and saw it full of people eating together and chatting. I had friends in Europe under total lockdown, so COVID-19 was really concerning me. At that time here however, the government were playing it down because they were worried about the effect it would have on the economy. That scene really troubled me, and in my head I kept exchanging the name “OXXO” and the words “OH NO” until I had to get them out on paper. OXXO are the biggest chain of convenience stores in Latin America, so it felt like a good vehicle to express my frustration at what I saw as an impending disaster. 

Charlie Godet Thomas
Study for The World Curling at its Edges, 2020
Acrylic and coloured pencil on paper
29 x 21.5 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and VITRINE

BNG: Your most recent work, Study for The World Curling at its Edges, elegantly sums up the current situation. Could you please tell us about it?

CGT: This was a notebook sketch of an empty restaurant interior, it allowed me to play with text, with the mirror script “CLOSED” on the outside of the windows. Oddly in September I had made two large scale works which depicted an empty office and an empty supermarket which have taken on a new significance now, I suppose the sketch came off of the back of those works. Also, the caption “Pretty Vacant” seemed appropriate, after all, who doesn’t like The Sex Pistols.  

BNG: What else are your currently working on?

CGT: I had just set up an upcoming series of projects under the name No Soy Basurero, that were going to be held in my studio, but which have had to be put on hold. I had programmed in some really exciting artists: Georgia Horgan (UK/Mexico), Carla Lamoyi (Mexico) and Wendy Cabrera-Rubio (Mexico). Whilst they aren’t going ahead at the moment it has given me more time to refine some of the details and give more consideration to how the programme will work once it can go ahead.   

With my own practice, I am working on a commissioned work from the series of sculptures “Cloud Studies”, these are weather vanes which make use of the trope of the personal storm cloud which is often found in cartoon strips. One of these works was just shown in Regent’s Park, London, as a part of Frieze Sculpture and this commission came as a result of that exhibition. I’m looking forward to seeing how the piece comes together. It’s a much more collaborative approach, working with fabricators, architects and structural engineers which is something new and exciting for me.

There are a few other projects which I am a part of, but I need to wait patiently for the world to start turning again before they happen. 

Charlie Godet Thomas
Detail of Cloud Study (Partner Dance), 2019
Installation view, Frieze Sculpture 2019
Photographer: Steven White
Image Courtesy of the artist and VITRINE

Find Charlie at www.charliegodetthomas.com and www.vitrinegallery.com

Categories
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 www.Bryanritchie.com and @bryanritchie4617

Categories
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.