‘Notions of Self’ explores Caribbean identity, experience

Installation images of "Notions of Self."
Amanda Coulson; Courtesy of TERN

TERN Gallery, a new gallery in Nassau, Bahamas, presents “Notions of Self,” a multidisciplinary exhibition presenting the work of four contemporary Caribbean artists — Jamaican Leasho Johnson, and Bahamians Dominique Knowles, Heino Schmid and Tessa Whitehead — on view from June 10 – Aug. 23, 2021.

According to Jodi Minnis, TERN Gallery manager and curator of “Notions of Self,” the exhibit reflects on selfhood and identity within a neo-colonial world.

“The works on view reflect on the commonalities of identification markers that exist within the Caribbean, and the constrictions or possibilities for expansion that influence each artists’ creative process,” Minnis said. “The title also alludes to the deep and meditative ephemerality asserted in the mixed media works, giving evidence to the highly complex realities of Caribbean identities.

“The underlying theme within the work reveals a sense of multiculturalism that is present when we think about Caribbean identity, and how that doesn’t allow us to be defined in singular, or fixed ways,” she added.

“As Caribbean artists, there is often room to expand, contract, contort and re-present ourselves as necessary,” Minnis continued. “Within ‘Notions of Self’ there is a sense of confidence and certainty in this opportunity where each artist exists as many things all at once.”

As a group show, Minnis said “Notions of Self” plays at both individuality and multiplicity, allowing each artist to be all of who they are at once, sharing a common thread of courage, vulnerability and honesty.

“All utilize rudimentary sentiments of drawing and painting, blurring the lines between abstraction and figuration,” Minnis said. “The ambition of Schmid’s contour lines in his figure drawings is contrasted by the often idiosyncratic slouchiness of his subjects, who are broken down to their most essential beings.”

She said Whitehead’s work presents a window onto the wild woman archetype, where figures merge with their surrounding landscape.

Knowles represents the generational evolution of Bahamian abstract art, following the groundwork laid by Schmid and Whitehead, Minnis said.

But, unlike the latter’s work, where human and landscape are unified, in Knowles’ work. it is the human-animal connection that is emphasized, Minnis said.

“With brushstrokes that replicate the action of grooming a horse, Knowles conjures the presence of the animal in the work, while its often-ambitious scale subsumes the viewer into his manifested realm,” she said.

Like Knowles, Minnis said Johnson approaches autobiography in his work, which is comprises various media, “tackling the topic of masculinity as depicted in Jamaican pop culture and where the body is also often consumed within the landscape that becomes a safe space for self-expression.”

Minnis said TERN, which opened its doors in December, recognizes the need for world-class contemporary art spaces to bring Bahamian artists to local and global acclaim.

Amanda Coulson and Lauren Holowesko, together with Minnis, debuted TERN, creating a space of opportunity that had previously been absent in the often-Eurocentric art world.

“TERN offers a platform for Bahamian and Caribbean artists to find international success, setting pathways for young and emerging artists to access careers in the arts beyond the prior realm of possibility,” Minnis said.

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