New way – New work

Posted in Debate, Opinion by Adele Todd on May 8, 2008

When there is no establishment system to buck, and other systems are ignored, what happens to art in Trinidad and Tobago?

Are any ‘elders’ grooming younger artists to succeed them? Or are they making works as standards set only for themselves?

These are some of the questions that come to mind when I contemplate the art scene in Trinidad and Tobago. To even say Trinidad and Tobago is actually unfair, as work in Tobago is not really discussed at all, and if so, it is done in a very polite and dismissive way. For a Tobagonian artist to be taken seriously, they have to come to Trinidad, and more importantly, to ‘Town!”

Of course there are artists who set up systems to continue a visual language, like Makemba Kunle who has started Studio 66. The closing of CCA7 (Caribbean Contemporary Arts) was a loss of an establishment that gave less known, more avant garde artists a place to call home.

Part of the challenge of art in Trinidad and (Tobago) at this time, has to do with the basic challenges of making art at all. It is undoubted that whether the artist is very commercial or very contemporary, the issues that crop up are usually the same. How am I going to make a living with this work? How am I going to set myself apart, while setting standards!

I have heard that a very successful contemporary artist has wanted to paint people and animals for years, but dare not, because they just woun’t sell!

Tessa Alexander just did a daring look at crime in Trinidad, and her watercolour paintings were not snapped up like her decorative pieces of India. Why should an artist be pigeon holed for having a conscience?

There are artists who paint birds and want to branch out (no pun intended) and artists who do large abstract works and would love to paint people, yet are restrained by the climate of the art selling game.

Perhaps what should happen is a special yearly show of the very best ‘alternative’ work by artists. Maybe then, we can see another, more creative side to art on the island.


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