Not ‘tourist’ art in new exhibition of Jamaican artists at Highgate Gallery

A report by Jenny Desborough for London’s Times.

Just in time for Black History Month, art-lovers will have the rare opportunity to see a unique branch of art which challenges the viewer and brings power to the independence of a nation.

Highgate Gallery’s new exhibition brings light to the work of Jamaican artists during the Intuitives movement, which sought to show more than just “tourist” art and pretty beach scenes, but the work which helped shape the Jamaican national cultural identity after the country was declared independent in 1962.

Before that point, much of Jamaica’s artistic community took only European and North American-style art seriously, as a legacy from the colonialism from which they were soon to be freed.

Dr David Boxer, who was director and chief curator of the National Gallery in Jamaica for more than 35 years, coined the term “intuitive” as a way to show how the artists he exhibited, who were outside the European style of working, were not guided by fashion or establishment, but by a pure and sincere vision, coming from their intuition rather than based in artistic theories or movements.

The five artists on show at the gallery were for the most part, self taught, and were all born and have lived their lives in Jamaica in varied and exciting ways, with their working reaching far and wide to the Caribbean, America and Europe.

Christopher Harris, one of 14 selected exhibitors in the prestigious Young Talent V Competition at the National Gallery of Jamaica in 2010, was encouraged to draw from an early age by his father and much of his work connects to his Ashanti forefathers, which contrasts with the work of Kingsley Thomas, a former journalist who often sculpts and paints with references to his stories.

Leonard Daley’s work is partly surreal in its telling, with Dr Boxer calling him “one of the truly great natural painters of the century” at his one man show in 1999.

Evadney Cruickshank’s work is almost narrative in the painting, as she draws from her sense of humour and the daily life in her rural community, covering everything from street dances to clearing up after hurricane damage, while Ras Dizzy first came to attention in the 1960s as a Rastafarian poet, and whose poetic insight was written on the reverse of each colourful work.

The exhibition opens on October 13 at Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution, 11 South Grove, London N6 6BS Visit for opening times.

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