The works from Hugh Dunphy's Collection now on show in a small exhibition at the Bolivar Gallery in Kingston, are some of the best of Ras Dizzy's output from around the 1990s. Wild-west marshalls, racing jockeys, market women, exotic birds and fruits all feature in this show that demonstrates his extraordinary talent as a painter and his resiliance as an artist who lived most of his life on the streets. Ras Dizzy's eccentricity and critical stance against society was what made his paintings both lyrical and powerful and, maybe also what made him a marginalized figure in our art world. His unwillingness to adopt the social graces and art world polities meant that even up to his death as an indigent artist in 2008, he was still feared as an unpredictable outcast. As Prof. Carolyn Cooper has noted in her Jamaica Journal (Vol.31, No.3) tribute to the late artist, it is a poor reflection on our patronage of elderly artists and our understanding of self-taught painters such as Ras Dizzy, that we value the art and not the artist. We have educated ourselves to be accepting of their 'intuitive' skills and visions but we have not yet trained our hearts to accommodate them as people. Watch the video.


Courtney Hogarth's Black Earth exhibition at the Olympia Gallery in Kingston is timely coming when relations between Jamaica and China are strengthening and when cultural alliances will help to configure the geo-political shape of our future world. It's unlikely that this artist could have envisaged the extent of China's economic growth or the waning of US and European markets when he embarked on his scholarship to study at China's Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing nearly a decade ago. Now, with a Ph.D in Classical Chinese Painting and Philosophy, and with China on the rise, Hogarth's art can foster relations between our two countries. But for all its cultural posturing, Black Earth is a very intimate exhibition, featuring artworks such as Feelings (2005) pictured here that seem more personal than propaganda. Intimate self-portraits, and abstract watercolour paintings demonstrate the artist's skillful brushwork, while the quality of his paper and beautifully mounted works on silk, subtly nod to his Asian influences and the softly-softly approach China is taking to establish its presence in our hemisphere.


Diaspora artist Albert Chong was present to answer questions at the opening of his exhibition at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston last night. The show offered a selection of the artist's most successful photographs and prints on canvas from years past, as well as new works on tile and an installation featuring a hand cart and palm leaves. Whereas Chong's earliest works were shot through with nostalgia and a longing for 'home', by including his most recent works that are photographic compositions on stone tiles, he showed how his ideals have become less sentimental, more earth-bound, radicalized and edgier. His use of the camera that was once focussed on the self, the intimate, and the personal, has set aside ego to consider a greater good, challenging what the artist considers 'the most pressing issues of our time.' Chong explained how recent works such as Hope Deferred (2011) shown here, reflect his interest in world affairs and America's two unpopular wars. His exhibition, almost retrospective in its selection, offers a glimpse into his life and thought in pictures that embrace both nostalgic idealism and a healthy dose of political realism.


The catalog arrived only recently by mail, although the exhibition took place in Ethiopia during the summer. Yet it is extensive enough to give the viewer an understanding of Jamaican born artist/author Danijah Tafari's recent work and display. Every page brims with the energy of his new technique that forgoes formal photographic representation to capture the play of light and energy in increasingly technology overloaded cityscapes of Kingston, London, Paris and New York. In his personal statement, the artist calls his process 'drawing and painting with light', using traditional medium format cameras. He explains why his recent images such as Ethereal Body shown here, fall outside of mainstream taste and have more often been discarded by professional photo labs that consider them rejects. Yet, Danijah Tafari is drawn to what these single exposure photographs that have not been digitally enhanced communicate about the ethereal and electric auras that pervade the atmosphere around us. The idea of presenting that which is normally unseen, appeals to this artist who has long since been attracted to rastafari philosophy and a deep concern for humanity. The catalogue does not tell us how this exhibition came to take place in Addis Ababa but we sense that these brilliant images and the artist have found a spiritual home in that city of light.


A new book, The Art of Jamaica: A Prelude, written by art aficionado Wayne Lawrence and published by the Jamaican Guild of Artists, allows its artist members to speak directly to their viewing public without the trappings of art criticism or historical analysis. The formula for the book's content is simple, employing Lawrence as an interviewer who translates the ideas of eighteen guild artists into brief illustrated chapters which display their work and tell their life stories. In this way the book's production is a willful act that militates against the role of institutions such as the National Gallery of Jamaica or publications such as the Institute of Jamaica's Jamaica Journal that have traditionally retained the power to document and exhibit the nation's art and to determine which Jamaican artists receive greatest visibility. By self-publishing this book, the Jamaican Guild of Artists has undermined this authority and communicated the independent vision of its artists. And does it work ? – not really. For all its well-intentioned principles, these artist's narratives are weaker and less punchy than their art that often speaks silently but more powerfully against establishment views. Also, the decision to make this book 'A Prelude' initially showcasing living pioneer painters, means that the voices and imagery of younger members of the guild will have to wait for the sequel.

Visiting Curacao's  Kura Hulanda Museum  devoted to slavery should be compulsory. It's a specialist museum with collections that focus on the African slave trade and the fate of displaced blacks once transported to the New World. Beginning with a small display that documents man's earliest civilisations, the viewer is invited to meander through galleries that move through time and space telling the story of Europe's intervention in Africa; the establishment of the triangular trade in sugar, cotton and human chattel, and the attrocities that attended the Middle Passage crossing from that continent to the Americas. Collections are rich with historical artifacts as well as life-size installations that invoke the horrors of bondage. In later galleries devoted to the 20th century, viewers come to see how resistance to slavery and Jim Crow oppression were directly tied to the emergence of political movements such as Marcus Garvey's UNIA and Stokely Carmichael's Black Panthers. Finally, the display ends with exquisitely curated modern spaces filled with African artifacts that emphasise Africa's heritage and a culture that its African Diaspora can be proud of. The Kura Hulanda Museum provides an education that no one should miss – an alternative to Disney World – that shows how we are all implicated in this history of wealth and woe. View more pictures from the museum


Jamaica lost one of it most generous art collector's today. Guy McIntosh the owner of Frame Centre Gallery and one of the finest collections of contemporary Jamaican art has died just a few months after making a major donation from his collection to the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Much about Guy McIntosh's early life predisposed him to Jamaica's modern art movement. He grew up in Westmoreland in a family already involved with woodwork, making furniture. Initially, he too learned cabinet-making in his adopted father's workshop, but once he came to Kingston in his late teens, he recognised that he could earn a living from framing art. Initially, he framed work for burgeoning collectors such as Dorit Hutson, Pat Rousseau, Vin McMorris and A.D. Scott but eventually the establishment of a small workshop on the premises of the newly formed Contemporary Art Gallery, meant that he would establish friendships and his own working relationships with artists such as Barrington Watson, and Karl Parboosingh, and recent JSA graduates Gene Pearson, Jackson Gordon, Cecil Cooper and Kofi Kayiga so much so that even after the CAG dissolved and he set up a workshop on Constant Spring Road beneath the studios shared by Barrington Watson, Keith Curwin and George Rodney, these artists continued bringing their art to him. The support of other collectors such as Maurice and Valerie Facey and a stint as Manager at Noel Ho Tom's HiQo Gallery finally encouraged him to re-establish his own business on a more formal setting with partners and a bank loan. In 1972, he incorporated the G. McIntosh Frame Centre, that would become the prototype of the Gallery and work shop later opened in Tangerine Place.


The National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition 2011 opened last week at the National Gallery of Jamaica. It is a popular show that because of its diverse youth and adult entries in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and video from across the country normally enjoys the support of a cross-section of Jamaicans. Originating from a national competition established after Jamaica's independence, the exhibition has had mixed fortunes over the years, often reflecting periods of buoyancy or malaise according to what is happening in the country. This year's event is underwhelming, with 354 entrants, one third of whom are new to the competition. It lacks the support of seasoned artists whose works normally serve to underpin the display. Yet, it does present an opportunity to see the work of independent artists not normally reflected in NGJ curated exhibitions such as Ann Ventura whose painting Firmly Rooted is shown here. Additionally, unlike the National Biennial that is the NGJ's own juried show, The National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition is supported by artists who more readily consider themselves amateurs. Perhaps this too explains why the show, mounted in the temporary exhibition space on the ground floor, seems little enhanced by galleries that normally display work to advantage. Instead, entering the exhibition from the lobby, other works in the  NGJ's permanent collection overshadow the competition's submissions. Of course this disparity begs a question about the relevance of the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, but its historical popularity and political support will ensure that it survives, despite its current mediocrity.


Although better known as an abstract painter of nature, Hope Brooks has never been shy about including political content in her work; dealing with subjects such as the US bombing of Afghanistan Tings cuda wurs (2001), human rights Justice Denied (2010) and Confessions of a Policeman, 2010 or environmental issues such as Painting for the Planet Earth (2011). In her latest solo show, People and Their Stories: Then and Now! at the Mutual Gallery, Kingston, she turns her attention to race and issues related to history, nation and identity. Using the head as a recurring image she compulsively demonstrates her preoccupations with slavery as part of the colonial story that has tied Jamaica to both Africa and Europe.

In her typically unrelenting way, Hope creates a family of images that is not portrait painting in a conventional manner. Instead, Hope explores the human condition in its most existential sense, carefully meditating on the nature of our being, beyond nomenclature, physicality, or social hierarchies. In this year 2011, declared by the United Nations as the International Year for People of African Descent, Hope Brooks' Benetton coloured heads remind us that Africa is the cradle of humanity and that our concern with that continent and its diaspora, is a concern for the self and each other.

In spite of the cancellation of Kingston on the Edge this year's city urban festival, The National Gallery of Jamaica went ahead with its open house Dialogues in Space, featuring dance, improvisation and fashion performances. The programme began with the work of two dancers Safi Harriot and Zita Nyaradi who blended their creative movements to the live sound of a drum and guitar. The gallery's normally tranquil lobby became a stage for the two artists who dominated the space with their open fluid forms. At times the routine seemed a little clumsy but this might have even been intentional as this awkwardness was absorbed into the push and pull of the choreography. Peter Chin's performance added to this sense of improvisation, he offered a multi-disciplinary performance that referenced 'the dance he might have given' had the urban festival gone ahead all the while stressing that he preferred to play with the uncertainty of the present and the frustration of time. He told us that he wanted to give us everything and tell us everything about what had brought him to that moment even as he interacted with the audience asking them repeatedly 'how much time do I have left?' His fifteen minutes of hesitation, humour, sound poetry, recitation and dance kept the audience guessing as he explored concepts related to embarrassment and transcendence and even departure. In contrast, fibre artist Jehan Jackson's fashion display was minimal. Her five models placed on pedestals held their poses like mannequins shifting only occasionally to display a new attitude and aspect of their garb. Titillated, the audience moved closer, themselves becoming part of the optimistic mood and art on show proving that improvisation trumps poor planning and pessimism, any day.