Season of Renewal is an exhibition of art works from Trinidad and Tobago gifted to Jamaica in celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence. The gift is significant one, with a handsome catalogue comprising 72 works selected by Andy Jacob that no doubt cost a great deal to prepare and transport between our islands. Mounted in the UWI Museum, this gift also allows University of the West Indies an opportunity to show-off its new exhibition space that is part of the Vice Chancellery. It would seem like an ideal diplomatic exchange to have our premiere regional university host this exhibition dedicated to Caribbean partnership.
From a viewer's perspective however, this important exhibition including artists such as Leroy Clarke, Kenwyn Crichlow, Pat Bishop, Carlisle Harris, Che Lovelace and Steve Ouditt could have benefitted from greater curatorial input regarding space and planning. UWI's Museum encased with glass, will no doubt be fine for showcasing its historical artifacts and memorabilia but as a gallery space it is lacking in walls and sufficient square footage to mount an exhibition of this scale and diversity. As a result, the thematic aspects of Season of Renewal such as its historical vs. contemporary distinctions or its different range of media were lost to visitors. Art works such as Clarke's An Ancient Sun or Ouditt's Blur BS (2006) were placed in the lobby and estranged from the rest of the exhibition. Odd juxtapositions such as Sybil Atteck's portrait Seated Lady (c. 1950) sharing the same wall with the shirt jack from Chris Cozier's Relic (1992) made for ironic commentary on the art of the pre-independence era. Meanwhile, installations such as Richard Rawlins Chinese Workers (2012) or Cozier's similarly themed Made in China (2010) (shown here) that ordinarily require significant viewing space, were tucked behind screens or generally misplaced.
A great deal has happened in the art worlds of Trinidad and Tobago as well as Jamaica since our independence, and one can only imagine how much better this exhibition might have looked with more time and space to accommodate it. Opportunities to consider these advances are rare and after fifty years we can celebrate that we have the wherewithal to make such exhibitions happen. After fifty years however, it would be good to think that we could also share these mutual gifts with national pride and greater artistic sensitivity.
View the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago's slide show.