Although the Jamaica Biennial 2014 has now closed, curator and art writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson comments on an ongoing project by Bahamian artist Blue Curry, PARADISE.jpg. Here are excerpts:
[. .. ] This has been a recurring theme with PARADISE.jpg. People ask the same question over and over: “But what is it?” As Blue and his motley crew of volunteer assistants (themselves young artists and art students) went from site to site, slathering wallpaper glue on abandoned buildings and painstakingly moulding the poster to crumbling facades, people came from everywhere to ponder the strange image. Some thought it was preparation for something else, “Are you going to paint it?” Others approved of the intervention, “yeh man, pretty up di place.” Even if they weren’t sure what it was, “likkle colour.” Several offered advice: “Yu nu si se dat nu do good?” or “Wha kinna glue dat? Dem foreign glue naa go work pon dem dutty wall.” The public installation sessions became a little game, what input will be offered next?
Blue first exhibited the image that became PARADISE.jpg as a part of an installation at Vitrine Gallery in London in September 2014. There, the poster stretched across the gallery’s store-front windows, a backdrop for sculptures comprised of interlocking hair combs collected in Barbados and India that seem to float on their plexiglass stands. In an interview with Varala Maraj, the artist traces the piece’s origins:
The image is one that I have culled from the internet as a low resolution jpeg that was blown up to make it into a wall poster. It may have originally been taken in an identifiable place but after undergoing a great deal of manipulation to remove all traces of civilisation it is now just an infinite horizon over the ocean. It is the sort of blank canvas than anyone can now imagine their tropical fantasies through – whether that is the marketer framing their product with it or the person who has this as a desktop image on their computer. It’s a generic image of paradise but an impossible paradise and one that as you get closer to it is noticeably un-sharp and of compromised quality.
Since it was in the store-front, the work was open to the public 24-7. Blue welcomed the access to new audiences:
Ninety-nine percent of people won’t enter the traditional white cube gallery space to see your work because they feel intimidated. So here, people consume it as they walk by, they can stop and they can look, study it as they talk on their phones or smoke cigarettes, they can visit several times and there’s no intimidation. [. . .]