aliceyard

I arrived in Trinidad during the frenzy of Carnival Season. The flight was booked with excited passengers who could not wait to JUMP JUMP down the streets of Port of Spain. After spending some time catching up with artist Christopher Cozier, one of the facilitators of Alice Yard, and his family, I was driven to the space where I would be spending the next two months – where I’m sitting now.

Alice Yard is… a yard – but more so, a space where artists can enter and feel free to create in all their capacities.  The great grandmother of architect Sean Leonard used to live here.  And now he, along with Chris and writer Nicholas Laughlin invite, engage, as well as facilitate collaborative projects with artists locally and internationally.

 

 

 In studio…

 

Beginning Untitled Smiths I turned them into Untitled Mohammeds covering a table found in the studio and incorporating an image of a window I photographed earlier.  Loving the repetition in patterning I’m seeing everywhere in windows and fencing and the way light falls and plays with shapes.

As I’m working in the studio Carnival energy is happening – folks mashing up the place at various fetes… pounding music setting off car alarms.  It’s busy busy busy.  Various bands also come through Alice Yard to rehearse for gigs.  “Sunday – BLACK… Monday – RED… Tuesday – WHITE”. SERIOUS and INTENSE planning for outfitting the band each day.

 

Jouvay!

Monday February 11 – Under morning darkness we headed towards the meeting spot where our Jouvay would begin. At 4am we were marching down the road following the rhythm of the 3 Canal truck driving alongside while JabJabs continuously covered us in paint. Neck, legs, arms, arm pits… inside ears… ahem….

J’Ouvert evolved from the night celebrations of the French plantation owners about 200 years ago.  While celebrating, what was called Camboulay, they dressed up and imitated the Africans working on the land.  After Emancipation, newly freed slaves took over the tradition and imitated their former masters imitating them.  The Camboulay riots caused it being banned then reemerging as J’Ouvert.

 

Cat In Bag Productions

I had the greatest pleasure to experience Cat In Bag Productions. This group of community arts activists strive to foster the traditional, creative and performance aspects of carnival while expressing social commentary.  I was lucky to help out in painting placards, embellishing costumes, playing mas and learning about one of their inspirations and mentors – the fabulously creative and inspiring Carnival Artist and Designer Peter Minshall. The  theme of this year’s Cat in Bag Production was Sink Or Swim.

 

Galvanizing…

I’m very attracted to the galvanized steel walls I see everywhere.  Galvanizing refers to the process of coating steel with zinc to deter rust. These pictures are from various days walking through Port of Spain. This material is also being used indoors in all sorts of ways, as in the modern designs of homes – the updating of bathrooms as there is a pleasure found in the sound of water hitting it.

I like the texture and repetitiveness of its surface pattern and the apparent roughness as paint or additional pieces are added on. A couple of the images in the album are not of these walls but of other surfaces that I’ve been drawn to because of colour, combinations of patterns and surface material like tile.

Playing in the yard…

I’m literally playing in the yard… with elements that make up the Smiths and now the Mohammeds. I’m finding that my time here, folks I’m meeting, stories shared, and the places I visit are inspiring ideas and ways of seeing. A very challenging experience that also allows time to explore.

Among the work in these images are wall sketches, drawings from images I took of people walking through Independence Square and “Accountability”, a piece by designer Marlon Darbeau that I found in the Yard and decided to cover with the Mohammeds (I hope he doesn’t mind). Richard Mark Rawlin‘s work hangs on the walls over the bed where I sleep, so I’ve started to have some fun there too. So, a couple of collaborations unbeknownst to them.

Arriving in Paramaribo

On March 6 I arrived in Paramaribo – the capital and largest city of Suriname.  Suriname is a country in northern South America.  It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.  The Atlantic Ocean is to the north.  I arrived at night and decided to walk around the next morning.  These are pics of the streets close to where I was staying.  Very generally – Paramaribo was a trading post started by the Dutch.  It changed hands a few times with the English until the Independence of Suriname in 1975.  The city is very clean, the influence of Dutch Colonial architecture everywhere.

Artists I met in Paramaribo

After walking around town I met with a few interesting artists.  They talked to me about their practice and how they see their work moving forward.  Sunile Puljhn is a mixed media artist whose work contains images similar to silhouettes of people and some structures that sit on the surface of his dark, “crushed”, yet stretched canvases.  The work shown here is in process. I later saw larger pieces of his at  de Hal – a contemporary art gallery located in Paramaribo and exhibits the work by local artists.

Sri Irodikromo’s batiks are quite beautiful.  She stains, paints and sews together her canvases as well as collages and twists in fabric.  A recent theme of her work focussed on the typical Surinamese woman.  Here she is showing me her work that is being held at Readytex Art Gallery.

Dhiraj Ramsamoedj and I talked about his plastic bottle installation in which the artist collected plastic bottles “thrown out mindlessly”, assembled them in pyramid forn on top of a slab of wood that was pushed out to float on top of the Surinamese River.  He also talked to me about his performance piece “Flexible Man” in which he wears a bear-like suit made out of various cut textiles and situates himself in different environments to represent the flexibility of the Surinamese person who can be represented in so many different ways culturally through physicality and language.  At Alice Yard Dhiradj performed Flexible Man:  ACT 5: Dhiradj Ramsamoedj: Flexible Man.

All 3 artists attended Nola Hatterman Art Academy, an alternative art institution that provides a 4-year program to young people wanting a career as an artist.

Sunile, Sri and Dhiradj were all part of Paramaribo SPAN – a conversation of contemporary art and visual culture in Suriname, February 2010.

Playing at Nola Hatterman Art Accademy

breezebuilding

I’ve never seen the construction of a building using bamboo.  I took this shot as we drove past, catching the window rims in the corners however the images did inspire me to use the breeze block image of the Christopher Cozier in Development project.  I wanted to leave something in Paramaribo – at Nola – before I left.

 

Arriving in Moengo – Marcel Pinas and Ann Hermelijn

Moengo is located about 2 hours east of Paramaribo. A lot of mining was done here for its large reserves of bauxite.  If feels very much like an African village here.  Children laughing, roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing.  Beautiful sunsets.  So peaceful really.  These pics are of our arrival into Moengo and a party that we attended for a person who died and would be buried the next day.  All the women carried with them plaid fabric.

Marcel Pinas and Ann Hermelijn are working together to “re-enhance” Moengo after it had been devastated from The Homeland War – a civil war that happened between 1986 and 1992.  With the purpose of lifting the spirt of the village and bringing pride back into the people of Moengo, they continue to work on arts based projects that involve the community, and invite artists who visit from all around the world to also develop projects that become part of the landscape of Moengo  These artists also workshop with children and help with the various projects that Marcel and Ann have developed.

Marcel Pinas is a descendant of the Ndyuka Marrons.  The civil war wiped out his birthplace. A former student of the Nola Hatterman Academy of Art then Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, Marcel’s work consists of monumental sculptures, installation and video that focus on the preservation of culture.

French Guiana

We drove to the town Albina from Moengo then hopped on a boat to French Guiana where we visited Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire Saint-Laurent du Maroni – a prison turned gallery.  I did forget that it used to be a prison as the space has a nicely rustic feel that is very cool and that I love.  The ceiling is very high.  Marcel and Ann can be seen in the picture of our return trip back to Suriname.

The Market in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana

The market looked so delicious.  The colours were just crazy I wanted to bite into everything. I’m also attracted to repetition and enjoyed taking these shots of the fruit and veggies in bundles and piles.

 

The Moiwana Monument

Marcel Pinas created this monument as a memorial to the victims of the 1986 Moiwana Masacre, Marowjne, Suriname.  On our way back from French Guiana we stopped and walked through this monument that soared above us.  Each tablet represents one of the over 30 victims, their names carved on the front.

For more information on The Moiwana Monument I found this link.  Just click the translate button.

Art throughout Moengo

These are some of the work produced by artists who did residencies in Moengo.

kibir a kulturu… kibii wi koni

These are some images of work by Marcel Pinas. My trip to Moengo ended with a peak inside his exhibition space.  All of his work maintains his focus to “preserve the culture, preserve our knowledge”.  The culture and knowledge of the Maroons, he being a descendant, is the core of all is work.

 

Reading and discussion by Krisantha Bhaggiyadatta

On March 15th Krisantha Bhaggiyadatta read from some of his poetry and had an open discussion with guests of Alice Yard.  Responding to his poem Curfew Babies the images on the panels hanging at the entrance of the Yard were of  people who I photographed walking through Independence Square.

The evening was interesting as Kris shared his poetry and sparked conversation around colonialism and concepts of race, he expressed his observations of similarities and differences between Sri Lanka and Trinidad, and he was also able to tell us how his poetry is received in Sri Lanka.

It was nice reuniting in this way with someone I knew during York University days about 15 years ago.  I feel lucky to have been here in Trinidad the same time as Kris and his lovely partner May.

 

Mohammeds walking the wall…

It has been a week since I returned to Toronto from spending  over 2 months at Alice Yard in Trinidad and Tobago.  The images below are of work that I completed while there that contributed to the final installation on April 4th.

A mixed media mural of Mohammeds, acrylic, china marker and gel transfers, travelling across the gallery wall then being confronted with, and encircling an image of a bikini wearing Carnival reveller now covers the wall of the small gallery space located on site.  Until they paint over it at least.  While playing mas with friends I learned about the political directions that some bands delved into while enjoying the energy of Carnival – I played with the mas camp Cat in Bag Productions and they did this – while others joined bands free from political positions or message delivery and instead focused on jumping up and having a good time.  It’s all about individual choices but can become very emotional for those who wish to folter the traditional elements of carnival and long for creative and innovative performance throughout the streets of Port of Spain.

Mohammed stands…

The Mohammeds designed to be cut out of aluminum to make stands.

Drawing Mohammeds…

I created a series of Mohammed drawings, some using aluminum stencils and transfers of the phonebook pages.  All drawings will soon be posted in the work section of this site.

 

Exhibition and talk...

On April 4th I gave a talk and exhibited the work I produced during my time at Alice Yard.   The following images show the exhibition evenings April 4th and 5th.  Some pictures were taken by Rodell Warner.

Panels that were first exhibited during Verse to Converse hung at the entrance.

In the room where I was staying I placed furniture pieces covered with Mohammeds.  I had also drawn and painted on the walls. Artist “collaborators” included Marlon Darbeau (the Accountability piece) and Richard Rawlins (the bench and wall).

I found this cage in the Yard and secured some of my stencils inside that cast a shadow on the wall.

The Mohammeds, cut out of aluminum were placed throughout the Yard, travelling out of the gallery space of the wall mural.  These images were taken from the two evenings.  The aluminum stands, all gathered in the room at the end of the evening contributed to an interesting room installation.  Experimenting with light was important to the experience.

The studio turned into an exhibition space for my drawings and a presentation space for my talk.

Alice Yard Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago | | Projects