Seeing Guyana through another’s eyes at VISION 2018

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‘Regent St. Labourer’ by Nikhil Ramkarran

“I’m not an art person”.

I was telling a friend about VISIONS 2018, a new photographic exhibition in Georgetown, Guyana, and I was surprised at the response. How can anyone not be an art person?

But really, it turned out, they were just turned off by the formality of art galleries and the pressure to walk around an exhibition in a certain way: long, slow strides; chin in hand; musing on lines, shapes and perspective.

Yet glass-swilling connoisseurs of wine, spirits and food don’t stop us eating or drinking, so why should we let art snobs spoil our experience of enjoying art? Be led by your tastes and instant reactions, but be open to trying new things and learning new ways to appreciate something fully.

The photographs at VISIONS 2018 are grouped in themed clusters – arranged by curator Karran Sahadeo. The exhibition brochure explains what each theme is and which photos fall under each grouping.

Somehow I missed that vital piece of guidance and walked around the gallery making my own decision as to which cluster I thought was ‘Association’, ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Vibrant’ and so on.

It turns out I was completely wrong, of course. But it made me engage with the works and put my own interpretation on them, before finally reading the brochure properly and looking through the eyes of the curator to see what they saw.

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From top left: ‘African Belt 1’ by Praharshanie Beharry; ‘Breakfast Gathering’ by Javid Samad; ‘East St. Nurses’ by Nikhil Ramkarran; ‘Macushi Pride’ by Keno George

There’s something about seeing your country on film, a screen or a canvas that feeds the soul. To represent something in art gives it value. This, the artist says, is worth remembering. And that’s why art is a vital part of any society’s growth and development, and worth investment. It tells us who we are in new, magical, unflinching, shocking and beautiful ways.

Photography also takes you to places you may never get the chance to visit and gives you a new perspective on places you’ve been to. I’ve not yet made it the bird races that take place every Sunday in Georgetown, but Meshach Pierre’s photos captured the comradery, brotherhood and focus of this popular sport in just three frames. I’ve been to Kaieteur, but Darrell Carpenay’s swirls of cloud, birds and mist gave the falls new, epic proportions.

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Clockwise from top left: ‘Final Days’ by Kenny Harrinaraine; ‘Ibis Stowaways’ by Amanda Richards; ‘Nature Provides’ by Morris Solomon; ‘Stranded In Time’ by Kenny Harrinaraine; ‘On Home Ground II’ by Carinya Sharples

There are 15 photographers in total (disclaimer: including yours truly), so plenty of eyes to see through. Nikhil Ramkarran has a great eye for street scenes and composition, with his timeless, black-and-white photographs of GT life. Morris Solomon’s close up shots are visceral and almost other worldly in their slivers of vivid colour. Marceano Marine’s ‘Reflection of the Galaxy’ is a beautiful triumph at capturing something I never can: the stars at night. While Keno George’s structured indigenous headwear shots are striking, yet with a kind of sadness to them – despite the titles ‘Macushi Pride’ and ‘Indigenous Way’.

I’ve now been to the exhibition three times and each time I learn something new – mostly from photographer Michael Lam, who organised the exhibition, did a beautiful job at printing the works on display, and is a regular presence at the gallery – welcoming visitors and sharing his vast experience. I’ve discussed works and shared interpretations with others. I’ve heard photographers discuss how to get started in photography. And I’ve cheered the existence of this very different gallery, a welcome addition to the art scene from artists Michael Griffith and Karen Budhram.

What you make of the photographs is totally up to you…

VISIONS 2018 is on display at Oxygen Arts in Industry (round the corner from the Bless the Children Home) from 2-8pm daily through to Saturday December 15, 2018. It is then due to move to Duke Lodge in Kingston. Canvas prints of your favourite pieces can be ordered for $25,000 each, with 10% going to the gallery where you purchased it.

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