Tristan Ralston

The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands Opens a New Exhibition

Published on Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 by Tristan Ralston

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National Gallery

Synesthesia by William Verhoeven (2016)

Curated by Emé Paschalides and sponsored by the Cayman office of leading law firm, Mourant Ozannes, Speak to Me – Understanding the Language of Art is an unusual examination of art as a language and the visual ‘dialects’ we encounter, from paintings of the past to avant-garde artificial intelligence. The new exhibition opens at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI) on 24 September 2016.

This will be the first time that the National Gallery will utilise online interaction with digital art and QR codes where visitors will be able to unlock information using their smartphones. “This will be an exciting new way for visitors to engage with works of art, learn about artists and experience the National Gallery in a very 21st Century style,” explains the exhibitions curator, Mrs Paschalides.

The exhibition explores whether art is a language and, if so, how do we understand the language of artists. It takes its name from the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) 1991 exhibition, Talk to Me, which explored design and objects and whether things talk to us; openly, actively or in subtle, subliminal ways. Paschalides explains, “The title of the National Gallery’s exhibition, Speak to Me, is a call to facing art and all it expresses fearlessly, with the certitude that there is an idea in each work that real artists always seek to share, and that we should never refrain from finding, developing or even inventing. The show hopes to remind us what art history has demonstrated – that great works do not just communicate at a cultural level but transcend the particular to speak to our common humanity, and help us think.”

Works have been included from private and public collections – from both Cayman and non-Cayman artists. Paschalides has also invited a handful of Cayman artists to create new works, including Wray Banker, Randy Cholette, Nasaria Suckoo-Cholette, Pippa Ridley, Simon Tatum and William Verhoeven to explore how artists communicate, from the traditional language of sign and symbol to the language of abstraction and conceptual installations.

The exhibition invites us to respond in a very participatory and playful way and asks us to respond to it. On one wall, visitors are invited to write down the lines of a promise to engage better when viewing art. Another exhibition highlight is an interactive digital art piece titled, Synesthesia (2016). The artificial intelligence software uses words that members of the public supply to transform a digital composition featuring colours, shapes and sounds. Depending on the mood of one’s words and opinions the work becomes a vibrant or muted addition to the collective composition of glistening spots of colour and brightness on the Gallery’s wall. The audio is dynamically generated to synchronize with the biomorphic forms and becomes a musical counterpart to the work. Depending on users input, the resulting sound and light show can be an exhilarating creative experience.

These light interactive moments throughout the show are countered by serious fare, such as a David Bridgeman’s Last Tango, an imposing and intimidating painting about death, Nasaria Suckoo Cholette’s work, The Women Have Become the Truth, on Apartheid, a crucifixion by Salvador Dalí, and images by Cuban artist Anyelmaidelin Calzadilla Fernandez on the theme oppression. Despite these dark subject matters, redemption is never far off. “We all share the same feelings about our existence and question what being human means,” says Paschalides “and sometimes there are no words to communicate these existentialist open-ended questions. Each piece of art is thus a glimpse into someone’s soul”.

In the end the curatorial choices take an extremely positive position. The title of the exhibition is a call to facing art and all it expresses with confidence and with the certitude that there is always an idea in every artwork, that we should always try to find, develop or even complete.

Mourant Ozannes’ Cayman Managing Partner, Peter Hayden, said: “We are very proud to support the National Gallery. This is a really exciting new exhibition and it’s particularly pleasing that it features work by a number of Cayman artists. We hope as many people as possible get an opportunity to come and see the exhibition.

The temporary exhibition, Speak to Me opens to the public 24 September 2016 and closes 12 January 2017. A special Members’ Reception will be held 23 September 2016 from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM. For more information about special lectures, workshops and family programmes related to the exhibition, visit www.nationalgallery.org.ky.

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