“Smallman: The World My Father Made” and “The Solitary Alchemist” at Jamaica’s National Gallery’s Last Sundays

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme continued last January 25 with the screening of two films, Smallman: The World My Father Made (2013) and The Solitary Alchemist (2010). Visitors had the opportunity to view the main exhibition of the Jamaica Biennial 2014.

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition will run until March 15 and can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica, which houses the main exhibition, with satellite exhibitions at Devon House and National Gallery West in Montego Bay and one project, by Bahamian artist Blue Curry, on the streets of Downtown Kingston.

The exhibition features Jamaican artists, both local and from the Diaspora, and for the first time, specially invited artists from elsewhere in the Caribbean. One of the National Gallery’s largest and most popular exhibitions to date, it has already received significant acclaim as a landmark exhibition, which provides exposure to the diversity of contemporary art from the Caribbean region and its Diaspora and serves as a platform for new development.
Among the artists in the exhibition are the winners of the 2014 Biennial’s two awards: the Aaron Matalon Award winner Ebony G. Patterson (at Devon House); and the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award, Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, whose work can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

The films screened on January 25, Smallman and The Solitary Alchemist, were both directed by Mariel Brown whose documentary film, Inward Hunger: The Story of Eric Williams, recently won the Best Local Feature Film jury prize at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, and has been screened in London, England; Kingston, Jamaica; Florida, USA and Port of Spain, Trinidad.

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Smallman: The World My Father Made, a short film, tells the story of John Ambrose Kenwyn Rawlins an ordinary Trinidadian of modest means. He was a great father, grandfather and husband; an obedient public servant. Yet the most vivid part of his life was lived in a small workshop beneath his house. In there, at the end of his workday, he made things.

From simple push toys to elaborate 1/16th scale waterline battle ship models and dockyards, miniature furniture and dolls houses, he painstakingly constructed everything from scratch, sometimes spending upwards of a year on a single model. The film is an exploration of the worlds both real and imagined that Kenwyn Rawlins made, as remembered by his son Richard Mark Rawlins, who is also one of the specially invited artists in the Jamaica Biennial 2014.

The second, feature-length film follows jeweller, Barbie Jardine a Trinidadian native trained at England’s prestigious Royal College of Art. Jardine moved back to Trinidad in 1974, where she developed new techniques in working with traditional and indigenous materials, and evolved a personal narrative style for making wearable works of art.

Thirty years after returning to the Caribbean, and in spite of having her work purchased by a major metropolitan museum, Jardine questions her life and career decisions and longs for greater recognition as an artist. Resentful and angry, she wants something more and when an opportunity to create a new piece for an exhibition in Scotland presents itself, Barbie is both nervous and hopeful.  Will this be the chance to finally carve out her space in the world?

As is now customary, admission to the National Gallery and the film screenings will be free on Sunday, January 25 and free guided tours of the Biennial and gallery-based children’s activities will be offered. The gift and coffee shop will also be open and contributions to the donation box are welcomed. Donations help to fund programmes such as the 2014 Jamaica Biennial exhibition and our Last Sundays programmes.

The Jamaica Biennial exhibition at Devon House will be closed on Sunday, January 25 but can be viewed at its regular hours, Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Biennial exhibition at National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which features Renee Cox’s Sacred Geometry series, is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.

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