History created at Jamaica Biennial

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A report from Jamaica’s Observer.

Mixed-media artiste Jasmine Thomas-Girvan created history last Sunday when, for a second time, she copped the Aaron Matalon Award — one of two main prizes at the Jamaica Biennial 2017 now underway at the National Gallery in downtown Kingston.

Thomas-Girvan, who first won the award in 2012, was recognised for her two installations at Devon House — Parallel Realities: Dwelling in the Heartland of My People, which is mounted in the dining room, and The Real Princess, which can be seen in the sewing room of the historic 19th-century mansion. Both works are said to comment, with exquisite detail and visual poetry, on the epic histories of the Caribbean and its people.

She will receive a uniquely crafted medal, designed and produced by master jeweller Carol Campbell, and a $100,000 cash award.

The Aaron Matalon Award, which was inaugurated in 2002, is presented to the artist who made the most outstanding contribution to the biennial. The award is named in honour of the National Gallery’s past chairman and benefactor, Aaron Matalon, and in the past has been won by Omari Ra, Renee Cox, Norma Rodney Harrack, Phillip Thomas, Laura Facey, and Ebony G Patterson. The award is selected by members of the gallery’s exhibition and acquisition committee.

The Jamaica Biennial’s other prize, The Dawn Scott Memorial Award was this year shared among three artists — Jamaican painters Greg Bailey, for Colonial Legacies, and Alicia Brown, for Exchange, as well as the American mixed-media artist Andrea Chung, for Pure. Chung, who is of Jamaican and Trinidadian ancestry and lives in California, USA, is one of the international artists who was invited to contribute a special project. The works of Bailey and Brown can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica, while Chung’s work can be seen at Devon House in the adult bedroom and bathroom.

This award was created and presented by the New York-based art critic Edward M Gómez and honours the legacy and influence of the late artist Alison Dawn Scott, who was known for her innovative work in drawing and architectural design, as well as in the use of complex, fabric-dyeing techniques to create vivid portraits and landscapes representing Jamaican life. The award is given to artists with works on view in the Jamaica Biennial whose art and ideas reflect the artistic values and principles of Scott.

The Jamaica Biennial 2017 opened last weekend at its three locations — National Gallery West in Montego Bay, Devon House, and at the National Gallery of Jamaica on the Kingston Waterfront — and continues at all three locations until May 28.

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