Jasmine Thomas-Girvan’s first European solo exhibition, “Bathed in Sacred Fire,” just opened at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The show runs from October 1, 2021 to March 20, 2022. Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis (Sour Grass curatorial agency) share details about the exhibition and their multi-year collaboration with Kunstinstituut Melly.
Thomas-Girvan casts lyrical bronze and silver figures with dexterity and treats glass and metals as if these were delicate lines in an automatic drawing. These poetic assemblages often include anthropomorphised characters and depict or readily incorporate natural materials from Caribbean landscapes, including seeds and gourds, palm fronds and feathers, and detritus-turned-treasure washed up from the warming Atlantic.
“Bathed in Sacred Fire” showcases ten works, the earliest going back to 2015 with the most recent including newly commissioned works and sculptures. Thomas-Girvan’s command of craft and her experimentation with techniques intersects with her interest in folklore and myth, as much as contested histories, orality and literature. Her inspirations range from Carnival processions and Junkanoo dances to the literary work of Jamaican Poet Laureate Olive Senior and the multitudinous stories of Anansi, a trickster archetype brought from West Africa to the Caribbean through oral histories by enslaved people, which figures in mythologies, traditions, rites of passage and rituals.
Thomas-Girvan’s home territories move between Trinidad and Tobago in the south and Jamaica in the north of the region, both part of an archipelago in the belly of the Americas, colonised by the Spanish, Dutch, French and British Empires. Through the lenses of migration, the history of enslavement and extractivist economies– different struggles, belief systems, and economies are observed, criticised and re-imagined in her oeuvre.
Having studied textile and jewellery design in New York, she began her artistic trajectory with applied arts. Over the years, the artist increasingly shifted her practice from jewellery to sculpture. Thomas-Girvan has always explored Caribbean cultural histories, this focus becoming more evident as the dimensions of her work grew to imagine, conceptualise and spatialise more textured and intricate narratives.
In her sculpture ‘Real Princess’ (2016), she addresses the complexities and nuances of the transatlantic slave trade and African diasporas. In this cabinet of curiosity, the strategies of colonisation and resistance as experienced by Afro-Caribbean people are made central. ‘Rooted’, (2016) presents an exploration of landscape and cartography alluding to allegory and migratory patterns, common to the mass exodus from post-independent Anglophone countries. ‘Axis Mundi’ (2018) from the ‘Turntables’ series urges a new and deeper listening to ancestral voices; a rotation becomes a tremble, a treasure becomes a nesting. Thomas-Girvan is invested in making new gestures and noises for a future where Black people are self-aware and held in healing.
Thomas-Girvan’s works are presented within the framework of Kunstinstituut Melly’s Solo Duets program, and as part of Gatherings and Passages, a multi-year collaboration with the Barbados-based curatorial agency Sour Grass that aims to foster a more comprehensive understanding of Caribbean contemporary art and culture. Gatherings and Passages is also an opportunity to raise awareness about colonial histories, and experiences of post-colonialism and decolonisation.
Sour Grass is a curatorial agency founded in 2020 by Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis. This venture seeks to work with artists and creative practitioners from the Caribbean and across its diaspora, to build relationships with museums, cultural institutions, collectors, publishers, biennales, and both private and public entities. Sour Grass is interested in alternative arts pedagogy, building discursive programming, and connecting with global worldviews and mythoi, bringing to life affinities and parallels with the Caribbean.
For more information:
Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jasmine Thomas Girvan Website: https://www.jasminethomasgirvan.com/
- Top: Real Princess, 2016. Cedar chest (cedrela mexicana), plexi, mirror, antique crystal, Pig bones, paper, lace doily, wooden hair comb, coconut shell (Cocos nucifera). Image courtesy of Sour Grass.
- Rooted, 2016. Bronze, plywood, macaw feather (Ara ararauna). Image courtesy David Zwirner Gallery, London.
- Terra Preta, 2015. Queen Palm Frond (Syagrus romanzoffiana), Macaw feathers (Ara ararauna), recycled cast iron, bicycle wheel, silk, plywood, Ostrich egg (Struthio camelus), bronze, ribbon. Image courtesy of Sour Grass,
- Proof of Spirit, 2017. Bronze, wood, sterling silver, Rubies, Citrine, fishbone, calabash. Image courtesy of Sour Grass.
- Installation shot of Rooted, in “Bathed in Sacred Fire” at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam. Image courtesy of Sour Grass.