The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present the 2012 National Biennial exhibition, which opens to the public on Sunday, December 9 at 11 am. The Honourable Lisa Hanna, M.P., Minister of Youth and Culture will be the guest speaker.
The 2012 edition of the National Biennial is the sixth since this exhibition succeeded our Annual National Exhibition in 2002. In its current form, the National Biennial consists of an invited section, to which artists with an already well-established track record are invited by the NGJ to submit work, and a juried section, which is open to all Jamaican artists and all artists living in Jamaica and selected by a panel of judges representative of major stakeholders in the local artistic community. This year, eight new artists were added to the invited list, namely: Jasmine Thomas-Girvan. Marvin Bartley, Oneika Russell, Michael Elliott, Michael Thompson, Amy Laskin, Marlon James, Storm Saulter and we are very pleased to note that all new invitees are participating in the exhibition. The panel of judges for the 2012 Biennial consisted of Annie Paul, Jonathan Greenland, Stephen Facey, Phillip Thomas, Storm Saulter, Enola Williams, and O’Neil Lawrence. The NGJ’s Exhibitions Committee Chair Tina Spiro and Executive Director Veerle Poupeye both observed the proceedings.
To qualify for inclusion in the Biennial – and for this exhibition to be representative of recent developments in Jamaican art – works of art must have been created in the last two years. At present, the Biennial format is being reviewed, in preparation for its conversion in what we hope will be a multi-site, international Kingston Biennial by 2016, and some modifications have already been made: the definition of “Jamaican artist” was expanded to include artists of Jamaican parentage – previously artists had to be resident in Jamaica or Jamaican born. This was done in recognition of the significant role played by the Jamaican Diaspora in the development of what can be considered Jamaican culture, which is itself an increasingly diverse and transnational field.
The 2012 National Biennial thus features 126 works by 86 artists, of which 50 were invited while the other 36 entered through the jury system. Many of the participants are well known while others are newcomers and most are based in Jamaica, although several overseas-based Jamaican artists are also represented. The biennial comprises work in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, collage, illustration, assemblage, installation, ceramics, photography, video, animation, and textiles and reflects a healthy diversity of themes, styles and approaches, from the conventional to the experimental and, inevitably, the controversial. The strong representation of digital photography, illustration and video is noted and welcomed, since these new media are an increasingly important part of the cultural landscape, but it is heartening that there are also many works in more conventional media and genres. The National Biennial is, after all, an exhibition that embraces technical, conceptual and aesthetic diversity and innovation but also honours the traditional and, throughout, adheres to high standards of quality and integrity.
Artists participating in the National Biennial qualify for the prestigious Aaron Matalon Award for the best entry by a single artist and may also be considered for acquisition awards. The Aaron Matalon Award is granted by the NGJ’s Exhibition and Acquisition Committees and will be announced at the opening of the National Biennial on December 9. The 2010 Aaron Matalon Award was won by Laura Facey and her winning work – the mixed installation Plumb Line – is featured on the cover of the 2012 catalogue and used in promotional materials.
As is now customary, the Biennial also incorporates small tribute exhibitions to artists who have been awarded Musgrave Medals in the past two years and we thus honour the 2011 and 2012 Silver Musgrave Medalists in Art: Omari S. Ra (Silver, 2011); Bryan McFarlane (Silver, 2012), Ebony G. Patterson (Bronze, 2012).
The National Gallery wishes to thank Sherwin-Williams for a large donation of paints which allowed for the full repainting of its exhibition galleries.
The 2012 National Biennial will be on view until March 9, 2013 and can be viewed during the National Gallery’s regular opening hours: Tuesdays-Thursdays: 10 am to 4:30 pm, Fridays: 10 am to 4 pm, Saturdays: 10 am to 3 pm and every last Sunday of the month: 11 am to 4 pm. The Gallery is closed on the other Sundays and on Mondays and Public Holidays.
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