Categories
Performance

The Spoken Word

Tiffany Paynter

Tiffany Paynter describes herself, in the words of feminist writer and Civil Rights activist Audre Lorde, as ‘a black lesbian woman poet warrior.’ The artist, who teaches poetry and creative writing, exhibited God Gap in the 2018 Bermuda Biennial What We Share.

The spoken word poem, which Tiffany performed at the BNG every week throughout the duration of the exhibition, was a response to the repeal of the gay marriage act that took place in Bermuda the previous year.

In the poem Tiffany uses the emotions that it conjured to examine “the Why where science ends and God begins.” She describes it as a medium through which she was able “to weld my joy to my pain and my love to my anger in such a way that made clear that I am a whole and hallowed human.”

In the same year, Tiffany presented the BBC documentary Bermuda’s Change Of Heart for the BBC World Service which investigates the dichotomies between our Christian and LGBTQ+ communities that led to Bermuda becoming the first country to repeal gay marriage.

Ahead of what should have been the second Bermuda Pride parade this weekend (cancelled to help prevent the spread of Covid-19), we caught up with Tiffany to discuss her experience as a gay woman in Bermuda, how the writing of Audre Lorde shaped her and how “when you sprinkle in craft with insight something powerful emerges.”

BNG: In your artist statement for the 2018 Bermuda Biennial you say that God Gap was inspired by Audre Lorde and the “comfort and discomfort experienced in her poems”. When did you discover her work and how has she impacted your own?

TP: When Lorde asked, “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own…” I felt like she was speaking directly to me. Her voice felt like it was mine; sounding out itself from the inside out. It was almost like a new me was being spoken into existence.

I was 18 or 19 when I discovered Audre Lorde in my first year of university at Queen’s. I had planned to become a lawyer and took a Women’s Studies (now Gender Studies) class and one of the assigned readings was Lorde’s Sister Outsider. After I read her essays, something inside me began to shift.

She was fearless, poetic and introspective. Lorde weaved together the spiritual, political and personal in a way that made her truth irresistible. I started to scrutinise my ideas of what life is, was and should be…to hold myself up against the light and delve deeply into what was truly me as opposed to the idea of me I had created to survive. It is because of Lorde that when I write, I strive for that same fearlessness in unveiling my inner and outer worlds.

Audre Lorde photographed by Robert Alexander for Getty Images .

BNG: You performed God Gap at the Bermuda National Gallery every week during the 2018 Bermuda Biennial. What was that experience like?

TP: Despite having the poem memorized, I was nervous every time. Sometimes when I’d get to the gallery there would be people waiting to hear me perform. At other points, I’d just start and unsuspecting people in the gallery would be startled and gather around or stop where they stood and give their attention.

It was always better when people would engage after. The best moment by far was on June 6th. I remember that date because my partner was waiting on the City Hall steps to give me the news that our Surpreme Court had struck down the ruling banning same-sex marriages. It’s hard to explain but that day the words felt more alive to me and I performed that day with so much joy in my heart.

Click the image above to listen to 2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork God Gap by Tiffany Paynter, 2017, a spoken word performance.

BNG: You have described spoken word poetry as an invitation to listen and once said that ideas alone will not change the world, we have to feel our way free. Why is spoken word poetry so powerful?

TP: I don’t think all spoken word poetry is powerful. But great poetry is powerful. I think all great poetry comes from a place or space of seeing or insight. When you sprinkle in craft and mnemonic devices with insight, something powerful emerges. Power isn’t always a tidal wave. Sometimes power is subtle, like the pull of the moon at high tide. Poetry is powerful when it reaches into us and bridges that feeling of disconnection or separateness.

Nothing really reaches as deeply as sound. Spoken word poetry is imbued with this extra potency because sound is potent. That’s why so many creation stories start with it! Whether you believe that Aum was the primordial sound, or a ‘Big Bang’ created the world, or that God said “Let there be light”, there is something to be said about the power of word sounded out.

BNG: In your 2011 TED x Bermuda talk Dare To Dream you perform Daddy, an impactful piece which describes the breakdown in your relationship with your father when you came out. What has your experience been as a gay woman in Bermuda?

TP: My experience at first was very difficult because my parents kicked me out of the house. At 19 I was and felt homeless for a short period of time, before a gay couple took me in. I didn’t actually come out to my parents, my older sister outed me. I felt betrayed both by her and my parents for many years. It was rough at first, not because of how society at large viewed me or treated me, but because of my own family’s limiting beliefs and homophobia. Overtime, after several arguments and difficult conversations, stronger bridges were rebuilt over all those burnt bridges and I feel closer to my family now than I ever have.

BNG: Your 2018 BBC documentary Bermuda’s Change Of Heart looks at the strains between the Christian and LGBTQ+ communities in Bermuda that led to the repeal of the gay marriage act in 2017. Although this has since been overturned, the government plans to take it to the Privy Council. How can we overcome these differences?

TP: Let’s first define this ‘we’ as humans. It seems like as long as ‘we’ humans have lived on this planet we have created and invested in both subtle and devastating ways of making some human lives more valuable than others. Throughout every century, since before we began counting centuries, we humans have found creative justifications to oppress others.

Most often the oppressed become oppressors and while we feel the heel of oppression on our own neck we fail to ask ourselves, “Whose neck am I standing on?”. It’s a special kind of insanity that we pass from generation to generation, just like we pass down glaucoma. This inability to see. To see our contribution to the same problems we claim we wish would change. We agree to divide ourselves. Muslim – Hindu. Bermudian – Non-Bermudian. Straight – Gay. Black – White. Man – Woman. Rich – Poor.

This need to divide, define and place value on, is so deeply entrenched in human culture that we destroy our planet and ourselves. This is what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we’ll continue to do for as long as we avoid or postpone profound, continuous and enduring self-reflection.

The Bermuda Pride parade captured by @flyinghighmedia via @bermudapride.

BNG: Last year saw Bermuda’s first Pride Parade, 50 years after the Stonewall uprising first sparked the gay rights movement. What was your experience of it?

TP: It was one of the happiest moments in my life because my younger brother and my niece walked with me. Don’t get me wrong the colours, music and energy made it an amazing event. About 5,000 more people showed up than I thought would be there! But if I had walked with 6,000 strangers without a single family member, it would not have meant as much to me. I love my family and I’ve always believed that part of showing love is showing up and my brother showed up. He was a long way out of his comfort zone and that is love. Love needs more parades.

BNG: 6,000 people turned up for the inaugural Pride parade, which equated to 1 in 10 people in Bermuda. What impact has it had on gay rights and the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in Bermuda?

TP: I imagine that leading up to the parade, a lot of families were having difficult conversations around the dinner table and I think lasting acceptance and healing begins in conversation. For instance, leading up to the parade, I witnessed my friend and her mother have a difficult discussion about the other’s version of events surrounding her coming out. And although there were still painful memories and disagreement I felt a shift in her mom. On the day of the parade her mother, father, and brother were there in matching outfits. Her dad even donned a rainbow cape! The impact of that is beautiful and rare.

BNG: What are you working on currently?

TP: At the moment I’m working on my website www.tiffanypaynter.com and I’m trying to memorise a new poem called Ode to Kairos Lover of Dinosaurs. It’s a poem about my godchild and how she sees the world versus how the world will see her. Stay tuned for both of them.

Categories
FILM

An Ode To Mary Prince

Joscelyn Gardner

The story of Mary Prince and her impactful contribution to the British abolitionist movement has been a focal point of Joscelyn Gardner’s work for many years. The Barbadian artist, whose mixed media artworks are rooted in her (white) Creole heritage, explores the influence of colonial and patriarchal systems on Caribbean history.

As we head into the Cup Match holiday this weekend and the emancipation celebrations that it marks, we look back at Black Mary; or Molly ‘Princess Of Wales’, a two channel video installation exhibited at the Bermuda National Gallery in 2016, in which Joscelyn brings to life the story of Mary Prince and examines both historical and contemporary viewpoints of her narrative.

Legislation was passed in Bermuda earlier this year renaming the second day of Cup Match Mary Prince Day in recognition of her pivotal role in the abolition of slavery, both in Bermuda and across the Caribbean. On the eve of this historic moment, we caught up with Joscelyn to reflect on Black Mary and discuss how, through her artwork, she attempts to “speak the unspeakable, retrieving atrocities that lie buried in our collective memory in order to reconcile the past with the present and move towards a metaphorical healing of wounds“.

BNG: When did you first come across The History Of Mary Prince and how did it impact you?

JG: I first read Mary Prince’s 1831 slave narrative in 2002. It is the only extant published narrative by a female slave that relates to the British Caribbean so it was an important document for my research on Creole women from the period. Mary’s story, “in her own words”, is possibly as close as you can come to gleaning what life would have been like for an enslaved woman at this time.

Mary Prince had a series of five different owners over her lifetime before she won her freedom. The hardship that she faced and the torture she, and the other slaves whom she lived with, endured at the hands of her owners is difficult to encounter. Once you have read it, you don’t easily forget it. Her voice made an important contribution to the abolitionist movement in Britain and it has been part of my work for several years.

Black Mary; or Molly ‘Princess Of Wales’ playbook.

BNG: How can art help us to understand and reconciliate the horrors of slavery and its lasting legacy?

JG: It is important that we acknowledge our colonial history so that we can learn from it and understand how its racist ideology has shaped how we think and how it continues to impact contemporary society. Art permits an artist to enter into a conversation with the viewer in a manner that allows the viewer to slowly discover and engage with what is being presented at their own pace. Everyone brings their own baggage to the viewing experience. No two viewers will leave with the same conclusions.

I believe that it is important for an artist not to be didactic in their work, but rather to open up the viewer to multiple viewpoints so that they can reach their own understanding of events. As we know, history is written by those in power. I believe that unearthing other voices from archival fragments can help us imagine what life was like for all subjects in a specific period.

As an artist with a postcolonial feminist perspective whose family history is rooted in the Caribbean, I am specifically mining history for the voices of both black and white Creole women of the colonial period. By confronting the harsh realities of slavery and its legacy, we can reach a better understanding of how black lives have been unfairly shaped by this racist system of exploitation, and by extension, appreciate how white privilege has been ingrained in contemporary society.

The 3D stage is based on a 19th century toy puppet theatre.
Detail of the replica was made for the installation.

BNG: The set for Black Mary; or Molly, Princess of Wales is based on early 19th century toy puppet theatre. What attracted you to this as a medium?

JG: I often draw on 18th and 19th century print history in my work since the printed image was a primary means by which Europeans inscribed and circulated their cultural beliefs. The 19th century toy theatre appealed to me on various levels.

Firstly, these miniature theatres were very popular in the early 19th century. Often, the plays staged in them enacted stories from exotic and distant lands that were filled with emotion, terror, and horror, but nevertheless ended happily. The stories would be told through song. Around this time, printed ephemera from these plays included images of the play characters, as well as sets, prosceniums, and playbooks. Wealthy people would have a miniature version of a theatre built, and children would read the playbook words and manipulate the characters as drawing room entertainment for the adults. By the 1830s, these toy theatres became more commonplace and the plots often involved anti-slavery sentiments. It therefore seemed to be an ideal medium through which to ‘stage’ Mary’s narrative.

Secondly, the idea of the ‘performance’ of identity is one that interests me. In his book titled The Repeating Island (1992), Antonio Benitez Rojo writes that “in the Caribbean, we are all performers….. we all try to act the roles that our skin reads out to us”. Colonialism dictated a hierarchy based on skin colour and we have (blindly) adhered to this over centuries. In the Caribbean, ‘performance’ of identity was very pronounced in the colonial period. The Creole population outfitted themselves in European costumes, mimicked European manners and customs, and paraded their worldly goods on the stage of thriving colonial port cities and plantation Great Houses, all the while feeding Europe’s prosperity on the backs of enslaved Africans who suffered brutal conditions in the construction of this wealth. They were essentially colonial puppets feeding into a racist ideology for economic gain. In the toy theatrical, Black Mary, the white Creole actors are silenced while Mary relates her narrative.

On yet another level, the toy theatre functions as a palatable way of presenting this cruel history to a contemporary audience, by concealing the horrors within an operatic performance which is appealing until one recognises what is being said. In some ways, the toy theatre functioned as a subliminal teaching device, encouraging children to ‘act out’ societal norms, thereby reinforcing them. In Black Mary, our heroine plays with her doll, imaginatively dramatising the actions of others upon herself as part of her narrative.

View of the audience at the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: The audience is used to express a variety of points of view across different time periods, genders and races as Mary narrates her story. Why did you choose to use this as a device and how did you approach the script?

JG: The individual responses from the ‘audience’ (the portrait heads) have been largely drawn directly from records of two court cases – Pringle v. Cadell and Wood v. Pringle – that were held in 1833 following the publication of Mary Prince’s narrative. The publisher (Mr. Pringle, secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society) accused Mr. Cadell (publisher of Blackwood’s Magazine) of libel for having slandered his and his family’s reputation in a harsh review of Mary’s narrative. Likewise, Mr. Wood, one of Mary’s owners named in the narrative, accused Mr. Pringle of bringing his name into disrepute. During the second case, Mary’s owners, as well as other people who had known her during her time in Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, Antigua and London, testified to her character.

Snippets from these opposing testimonies are presented as retorts to her story on the stage; some accusing her of heinous lies and others claiming her to be an honest and upright character. The contemporary viewpoints offered are taken from interviews with various historically knowledgeable residents of Bermuda who I met with while on a research trip to the island in 2015. I also attended a panel discussion held by CURB in which Dr Eva Hodgson spoke, and used some quotes from this source as well. Other viewpoints came from the controversy surrounding the publication of a Bermuda tourism brochure in 1994 which stated that the island “had a relatively benign system of slavery.” I hoped that the interjections provided by these disparate voices (from different age groups, genders, races and periods of time) would cause the viewer to interrogate questions around slavery’s legacy.

As we know, history is a construction and it changes according to the voices that document it. I provided a bench in the exhibition space between the audience video and the toy theatre video so that viewers could potentially react and add their own voices.

Theatre print sheets for Black Mary.

BNG: How long did the project take to develop?

JG: This was a very complicated project that unfolded over three years. I conducted research in London in the summer of 2013 (through a Canada Council for the Arts Grant) where, among other things, I researched toy theatres and theatrical productions at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Here, I was able to examine the copper plates used to produce the etched backdrops and paper cut-out characters for the theatres, as well as the miniature playbooks.

Back in my studio in Canada, the costumes for the (live) actors were all made from sewn and sculpted paper and the printed backdrops and stage props were created by making copper etchings in the traditional manner and then weaving reproduced text elements from Mary’s original published narrative into the images. I constructed a toy theatre using these elements so that I could reference it for the video.

The recording of the video footage and sound was done in several locations. Some of the still characters (the white family members and dog) were filmed against a green screen at Chapin Studio in Canada, and the main character, Mary, was filmed against a green screen at Andrew Hulsmeir’s Studio in Barbados. All of the sound was produced at Canefield Studio in Barbados, where sound director and operatic composer, Stefan Walcott is located and where the main actress/singer, Melanie Jean-Baptiste was based. The ‘audience’ video was also filmed in Barbados. All of the sound and video footage was edited in Canada – the animated toy theatre video was created in 3D animation using the live footage and still printed images in a simulated 3D space, and the audience video was assembled using a collage approach.

In all, over 40 people were involved in the production of this work! It was a considerably draining but rewarding experience. Everyone who worked on the project devoted their time and talents in the service of this important message.

View of the Black Mary installation at the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: What are your lasting memories of the exhibition at the Bermuda National Gallery?

JD: I was extremely pleased that the BNG invited me to exhibit this work in the heart of Hamilton, especially since Mary Prince had recently been named as a national hero in Bermuda. It was heartening to see the public engaging with the video installation, although I was not in Bermuda for very long once the show opened. I was fortunate to be able to speak to viewers during a public discussion about the work that was held at the Bermuda National Gallery that week. This was memorable owing to the interesting feedback and active discussion. I was also pleased by the educational material provided by the gallery so that school children could be encouraged to interact with the work.

Click HERE to explore more work by Joscelyn Gardner.

Categories
2020 Bermuda Biennial

In Colour

Naimah Frith

The bright colours and bold stance of Whining Queen greet you with confidence as you enter the 2020 Bermuda Biennial. Taking up an entire wall of the Humann Gallery, Niamah Frith’s fabric and chalk pastel portrait, which the artist describes as “an examination and celebration of the black feminine body, a site of resistance, power and resilience” sets the tone for the exhibition which provides a crucial platform for Bermuda’s contemporary artists.

The artwork, which the recent graduate created as a final piece for her BA in Fine Art, marks her first time exhibiting in the Biennial and pays homage to both the crafts passed down by the women in her family and the sense of freedom she found in working with textiles. “This work takes apart and puts back together the politics of my culture, femininity and the things that have been handed down to me as truths” she explains.

We sat down with Naimah, who is currently teaching the Bermuda National Gallery Art + Tech Summer Camp programme alongside education officer Louisa Bermingham, to discuss the Biennial, breaking free of the constraints imposed by a traditional art education and why she has wanted to teach art since she was six years old.

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork Whining Queen by Naimah Frith, 2019.
Fabric and chalk pastel. 72 x 48 in.

BNG: Could you please tell us about the background to Whining Queen?

NF: I made the artwork last year in my studio class during my last semester at the Nova Scotia College of Fine Art (NSCAD). Before taking the studio class, I had been in other drawing classes where the focus was on traditional mediums such as charcoal, oil painting and acryclic. I had a really hard time connecting with the class. It simply wasn’t doing it for me. So I asked one of my teachers if I could do something else and call it drawing. That started out with wire and led to a sculpture piece using wool, which was where fabric came in for the first time.

BNG: What drew you to use more tactile mediums?

NF: I like working with my hands. I always have done. I guess that drawing is also a way of working with your hands but I enjoy seeing something come off of a page, to have the chance to mould it and shape it. To feel. The approach in the drawing class was incredibly precise and it felt too prescriptive. It gave me a good foundation to build on and go outside of but I found it very frustrating. My classmates were very good at taking such a figurative approach, which I admired, but I wasn’t interested in capturing things in the same way.

Being from Bermuda, I also had a different language in colour. I’ve always been drawn to bright and bold colours and I was a bit embarrassed about my colour sense at first. I felt like I wasn’t doing it correctly as the other works were very muted. I come from a very bright place where everything is colour! I had to figure that out how to translate that which took some time.

I continued to make things with other materials in drawing class and then I went on to studio classes which was where I first started experimenting with fabric. That was fun. I liked the challenge of it. I loved being able to take two very different textiles and transform them into something that made sense together. I enjoyed using materials that wouldn’t usually be appreciated and incorporating them into my artwork. I really enjoy (fellow Bermuda Biennial artist) Gherdai Hassell’s work for that same reason. Her artworks are so vibrant and I admire how she incorporates a lot of different ways of making art into a single piece.

Detail from Whining Queen by Naimah Frith.

BNG: Have you always sewn?

NF: Before I started sewing the fabric in the way I do now, I used to create sewn portraits. I would draw the face on a canvas which I would then sew, incorporating scraps of material to create the portrait. It was a very time intensive process and not conducive to art school as you move so quickly through projects!

I don’t think I’ll go back solely to that way of working but I do think that there is a place for it in my practice. Back then, the sewing was the main focus of the work; whereas now the fabric takes centre stage and the sewing compliments it. Both ways of working use the same materials and mediums but I’ve switched their importance.

BNG: Do you think of Whining Queen as being part of a larger body of work?

NF: It’s the beginning of a series, in the same way that each of the other pieces are part of a series that led me here. They are all women; usually mother figures, working women. This figure would be a younger, freer woman. I’m very drawn to and inspired by motherly women in my life and I tend to make art about them. My family also has a history of craft making, specifically women’s craft, which has been passed down to me. I’m currently working on more pieces as a response to Whining Queen. I never saw her as just one thing. Just one piece. She has a lot more women to accompany her on her journey.

Being back in Bermuda, I don’t currently have access to the same selection of fabrics that I did in Canada, which is difficult. It has made me change the way I work. I used to plan my piece by sketching it out, planning the colour scheme and earmarking specific fabrics which I would then source. Now, I have to start with the fabrics that are available and make it work from there. I have turned to collecting personal, used, fabrics since I can’t select exactly what I want at the moment. This adds another layer to the work. Each piece of fabric has its own life. Its own story.

Whining Queen fuses textiles and drawing with chalk pastel.

BNG: What was it like to be able to work on a bigger scale at college? Was it quite freeing?

NF: I was actually really scared. It was very nerve wracking. I felt like I should have been comfortable but I wasn’t. Up until that point someone else had always had full control of everything that I had been doing – the size, the subject, the material. When you are at school you are limited by the materials and the space available to you. You only have your desk to work with. Then you get to art college where have your own studio space. You can make all the mess you want. You can go as big as you want. Suddenly everything was up to me.

Even now, teaching the BNG Summer Camp programme, we’re telling the kids what materials to use and that constrains how big it can be. Which is needed. We need rules in life. But when that is gone the freedom can be quite overwhelming. That was definitely a challenge for me when I got to art school. But it was a good struggle to go through. I was able to figure it out and it made my work stronger. I had to find my own voice.

BNG: You have been working as a para-educator at Dellwood Middle School this past year. What’s next?

NF: I would like to be an art teacher. I’m going back to school in September to do my MA at Kean University in New Jersey. It’s a dual programme with a focus on both teaching and fine art. I get my teaching certificate and then go on to the masters where I get to deepen my artistic practice.

I have wanted to be an art teacher ever since I was 6 years old. I had a brilliant art teacher in primary school, Miss Friday at West Pembroke, who taught me in P2. Her classes were so fun! I have wanted to be an art teacher ever since. I remember being very struck by her and wanting to teach art, not just make art. The classes were so fun to go to and we would explore different materials. I enjoyed the freedom of the art class. There was no right or wrong answer. The answer was whatever you wanted it to be.

Students work with textiles to create their own artworks inspired by Whining Queen.

BNG: You’ve just finished teaching the first week of the BNG Art + Tech Summer Camp. What has that been like?

NF: Teaching the summer camp has been a learning experience for me. The students have an amazing sense of freedom that we often lose as we get older. They are very open to trying different things. They are not confined by the rules, which is very different to the way that I was taught in art college.

The students are teaching me to be a little more forgiving in my own art making process and I’m also teaching them the same thing. They can be hesitant about whether or not what they are making is good art. I don’t want them to have that mindset as it can really hold you back. They need to understand that there is no such thing as good art. That was a huge challenge that I had to face when I got to art college. I worried that I couldn’t draw like my classmates. That I couldn’t paint like them. Eventually, I came to the realisation that my classmates couldn’t make a piece the way I did either.

It’s been exciting to see the summer camp students grow in such a short span of time. At first, getting them to draw on a larger scale was a challenge. They were used to working in a small space whereas now they have the whole gallery to themselves. They have been looking at the works in the Biennial, many of which are large in size. We have been encouraging them to make a mess of things and bring it back together into something new – it may be beautiful, ugly, whatever it is. But it is their own.

Mixed media collage by Grace Flannery, age 14.
Mixed media collage by Ellianna Goonewardene, age 14.

Click here to learn more about the Bermuda National Gallery Art + Tech summer camp programme.

Categories
BNG Kids

Art + Tech

BNG Summer Camp

The students in the Bermuda National Gallery Art + Tech Summer Camp have just completed the first week of the 2020 programme. For the first time, the students have been given exclusive access to the BNG, which remains closed to the public during the week. This allows them to immerse themselves fully in the exhibitions which serve as a starting point for their projects.

The students have been exploring a wide range of art making processes under the direction of education officer Louisa Bermingham and 2020 Bermuda Biennial artist Niamah Frith, with assistance from Lara Hetzel, a recent graduate and artist who specialises in film and photography. 

The engaging programme, aimed at students aged 11 to 14, focuses on a variety of art making skills – from traditional techniques such as drawing, sculpture, printmaking and textiles to digital technologies such as stop motion animation and digital drawing, often fusing the two together.

The programme is almost full but there are a few spaces left for August. Book now to avoid disappointment and take advantage of this unique opportunity.

The cost is $200 per week for BNG family members, $250 per week for non members. Bursaries are available, to enquire please email education@bng.bm.

Please note that due to the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, booking is limited to one week per student.

Week 1 students: Anna Stephenson, 12; Ellianna Goonewardene, 14; Sarah Haziza, 11; Serena Goonewardene, 11; Reese Morby, 12; Grace Flannery, 14; Lia Smith, 12 and Anne-Camille Haziza, 12.

Categories
In The Studio

Studio Tour

Christina Hutchings

Step into the studio with Christina Hutchings. Located at home in Bermuda, it is a working space split into two rooms: the first centred around a large drawing table where she conceptualises the work and develops it through detailed drawings; the second for painting, where she completes the artwork, led by colour and material.

The artist gives us a behind the scenes tour, providing an intimate look at her materials and a unique insight into the process behind her striking mixed media artworks which span collage, painting, sculpture and installation.

BNG: How often do you work in your studio?

CH: I am in my studio every day. My work time varies, depending on the state the projects in progress. The most important task I do is to keep a watchful eye open for any delightful interactions between the materials around the studio.

BNG: What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?

CH: A typical day in the studio starts first thing in the morning with a glancing check on how any ongoing projects look. If there are errands and supplies to get, I usually do those in the morning and early afternoon. I find that my most productive time in the studio begins around 4pm and runs late into the night. I sometimes read and sketch in sketch books rather than working on a project while I am in the studio.

BNG: How have you set up your studio and why?

CH: My studio spaces occupy two rooms. One room holds my drawing table and lots of architectural scales and triangles. This is where I do scale drawings, plan large pieces and work on smaller collages. This first room is also filled with nicely designed wooden boxes that contain old projects or are art projects in their own right. There are small canvases, objects, small pieces of wood and metal on the wall. These are accidental compositions; often, they will inspire new pieces.

The second room is more like a painter’s palette with painting supplies, hardware, tools, miscellaneous pieces of Plexiglas, metal, wood, and colourful things all around. With all the colourful things around, an accidental juxtaposition of something will catch my eye and inspire a new art work, always a happy occurrence.

BNG: How have you been spending lockdown? Has this been a particularly creative time for you?

CH: During the lockdown, I have worked on a drawing series titled Missing People – Public Spaces. These drawings are large and made with black and white gouache and acrylic paint on paper. What I have found interesting about the process is that the images of empty spaces have evolved organically out of the drawing and erasing process.

BNG: What are you working on at the moment?

CH: At the moment, I am working on three pieces: a plexiglass and metal collage for the new Bermuda airport; a drawing series called Missing People – Public Spaces and a large 6 ft x 12 ft. assembled collage on a wooden framework. The framework supports a grid of aluminium rods and various other shapes and materials. It is an experimental piece.

Follow Christina on instagram at @christina_hutchings

Categories
2020 Bermuda Biennial

Christina Hutchings

Art And Architecture

An instinctive eye for colour and composition combine with a meticulous attention to detail in the work of Bermudian artist Christina Hutchings.

A distinct discipline informs her fine art practice, gained from many years spent working as an architect in New York for cutting edge designers Peter Marino and Henry Smith-Miller.

Christina, who now focuses solely on her artwork, takes a studied approach to conceptualising and developing an idea through drawing whilst allowing herself to be led by an intuitive sense of discovery and experimentation.

It is a dichotomy apparent in her work, which ranges from collage, painting and sculpture to installation, all many layered and marked by sleek materials and striking colour combinations.

We spoke to Christina about her 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork, the intersection of fine art and architecture and how, for her, one has always informed the other.

2012 Bermuda Biennial artwork After the Nolli Plan by Christina Hutchings, 2011. Painted string, coloured tape, kite stick fastener. 16.75 x 12.75 in.

BNG: You studied both fine art and architecture and went on to work as an architect in New York for many years, all the while maintaining a fine art practice. Why was it important for you to dedicate yourself to both disciplines concurrently?

CH: It was important to me to dedicate myself to both architecture and art because of my interest in the ways these two creative disciplines influence each other. When I was younger and making career choices, I was not confident that my artwork would provide a way to support myself. This was a disappointing realization. As a practical person with the goal of supporting myself, and because I had a natural interest in architecture due to having a relative in the field, I chose to study architecture at graduate school. In my mind, this would build upon and enrich my undergraduate fine arts education and equip me with a way to earn a living.

In addition to the practical aspect of this decision, there was a more important factor. I knew architecture and art are intertwined creative disciplines, and it was important to me that I work at excellent, highly creative architecture and design firms to gain comprehensive and creative work experience in the architectural realm. Throughout, it was the artistic side of myself that I brought to the projects I worked on, and which allowed me to expand my skills and understanding while gaining the discipline that informs my work habits to this day.

2010 Bermuda Biennial artwork Bermuda Map by Christina Hutchings, 2008.
Pencil, string on paper. 60 x 100 in.

BNG: Did your architectural projects inform your artistic practice and vice versa? In what ways?

CH: Yes. My artistic practice and architectural projects most certainly did influence each other, and have continued to do so in many ways. My working experience at firms of architects whose work I admired greatly, such as Henry Smith-Miller and Peter Marino Architects, gave me the formative experience of being part of a talented team. Our job was to take a concept and through drawing and building models, we would allow the concept to become a built space. We would draw and draw, making gorgeous sets of drawings: plans, elevations, sections, grids, details, selections of colours and materials to the extent that the idea of the project could become a built space. This process of drawing to develop and discover the idea is key to my art practice.

Further, while in Peter Marino’s office, when their art department was busy, I was delighted to be asked, on occasion, to paint gouache renderings of projects showing the finish materials, furniture with designated fabric, and renditions of the artwork the clients had purchased for the space.

However, as much as I enjoyed the creative, artistic side of working in architectural design, the advent of computer aided design and drawing in AutoCAD, and a declining reliance on hand drawing, began to make the architectural work less enjoyable. There was no longer a connection for me with the hand, intuition, and the sense of discovery through drawing. It was during this time of increasing change that I began to consider that I could take a chance to be an artist.

2014 Bermuda Biennial artwork Horizon Line Room (maquette) by Christina Hutchings, 2013. Painted wood. 8 ft x 15 ft x 9 ft.

I want to share two examples that I think convey how I connected art and architecture from my earliest days in architecture.

The first, a landscape design drawing assignment completed in 1980, is an example of art influencing architecture. A Braque paper collage is the compositional inspiration for this landscape design project drawing.

Top: Landscape design drawing by Christina Hutchings, 1980.
Above: The Braque artwork that inspired the design.

The second example is a 2012 collage, titled Henry’s Office, which is inspired by memories of my work experience in Henry Smith-Miller’s office. The shapes making up the collage are references to a pivoting red wall in his office, a pale yellow colour often used in his projects, a nod to the modernist aesthetic which Henry’s office practiced and a piece of yellow trace similar to what we always used for sketching in in the office.

Henry’s Office by Christina Hutchings, 2012. Mixed media.

BNG: You returned to Bermuda in 2008 to concentrate on your fine art practice. Does your background in architecture continue to be a big influence for you?

CH: My decision to commit fully to my fine arts practice took a long time to arrive at. The decision evolved and ultimately won out over the practicalities of making a living as an architectural designer. My decision to return to Bermuda to live coincided, happily, with that decision. My background in architecture has been, and will always be, a major influence in my work.

I have come to believe that one of the most significant influences of my architectural background is the realization that the concept and its development through drawing are the two most important commonalities between art and architecture. The concept determines the form, and drawings are the visual diagrams of the concept. For my art practice, the concept could be something like the title of the work, and drawing is how I develop the concept.

Another important way that my background in architecture has influenced my artwork is that I have recently started making large installations and collages. These installations require plans, elevations, detail and sectional drawings in order to figure out how they will be assembled. The starting point always begins with drawing grid lines, thinking about centre lines and systems of proportion. In all of my art projects, considerations of space, colour, materials, composition, and references to art and architectural history are part of my process.

Collages, and sometimes paintings, feature details made with hardware materials which are considered for their aesthetic value as much as their functional value.

2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork Out Of Air by Christina Hutchings. Polished aluminium, scuba tanks, plexiglass, fluorescent lights. 108 x 25 x 14 in.
Preparatory work for 2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork Out Of Air by Christina Hutchings.

BNG: Your work ranges from collage, painting and sculpture to installation. A single piece will often incorporate several of these elements. How do you decide which materials to work with and why when working on a specific project?

CH: I use different materials – either for structural reasons, if a project is large, or for metaphorical purposes – to help tell the story, or idea, behind the piece. For example:

In the Biennial 2016, with the theme being It’s About Now: Memories of The Present, I made a large piece called Double Take.

In this piece, I use the 12-ft fluorescent light, which is centred and situated vertically between the two almost identical anchors, to represent the instant that an object we look at (one anchor) becomes a memory of that anchor, (the second anchor).

2016 Bermuda Biennial artwork Double Take by Christina Hutchings, 2015.
Ropes, anchor and fluorescent light. 96 x 40 in.

BNG: Your pieces are very thoughtful and meticulously planned. How to you approach and then develop a concept? Taking your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork as an example.

CH: The theme for the 2020 Biennial is Let Me Tell You Something. After considering the theme, I titled my piece FAST TALK. The concept for this is the speed of our words when we tell each other something using our digital devices. Our words travel at lightning fast speeds in the vast networks of digital submarine communication cables below, and by satellites above, as they carry our telephone and internet traffic to and from Bermuda, and between continents, as we communicate with the rest of the world.

In formal terms, FAST TALK is a drawing and collage combination made with ink lines, layers of Plexiglas, metal rods, an aluminium angle and wood. I use ink and metal lines and a selection of transparent overlapping materials to help tell the story. These rods and ink lines represent the undersea cables and the data traffic within. The disc and white rod connected to it represent the satellites above transmitting our conversations.

2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork FAST TALK by Christina Hutchings, 2019.
Ink on paper and plexiglass. 17 x 13 in.

BNG: You have exhibited extensively at the Bermuda National Gallery. How has your relationship with the BNG informed your artistic practice?

CH: The BNG in all aspects of its role as an art institution has been an important influence in my life, for which I am very grateful. The programming, the exhibitions and the art collection have had a life changing effect on me. I am honoured to have been a part of the gallery’s public programming and exhibitions, both as an audience member and as a participant.

2018 Bermuda Biennial artwork Shipping Box With Working Drawings, Materials And A Model for Exit by Christina Hutchings, 2017. Mixed medium. 2 x 27 x 17 in.

Tour Christina Hutchings’s studio here

Categories
BNG Members

Membership Benefits

Reciprocal memberships

As a registered charity, the Bermuda National Gallery relies on community funding for exhibitions, education programmes and day to day operations. Please show your support for the arts by becoming a member today.

Members enjoy free access to BNG exhibitions, discounts on special events and educational programmes, as well as exclusive invitations to exhibition openings.

Alongside the standard membership benefits, both Contributing Members and Directors Circle Members of the Bermuda National Gallery enjoy reciprocal membership at over 1,000 museums across 5 countries through the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association.

Reciprocal institutions range from arts and history museums to botanical gardens, children’s museums, science centres and more. Click here to make the most of your BNG membership and plan your next trip. 

Click HERE to become a member of the Bermuda National Gallery. 

Reciprocal museums include the Perez Art Museum in Miami (top), the Drawing Centre and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in New York (above). 
Categories
FILM

Update: Voices Of The Pandemic

Watch The Teaser Video

Voices Of The Pandemic is a project by artist and filmmaker Milton Raposo, founder of Method Media and former deputy chair of the Bermuda Arts Council, which explores life in Bermuda amid the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on our communities. His previous projects include FABRIC: Portuguese History In Bermuda and Osbourne’s Day Out: North Rock Tank to North Rock.

The making of the film, which is part of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial programming, continues as the pandemic persists across the globe. 

As we enter Phase 4 of the reopening of Bermuda and the community braces itself for the impact of the arrival of the first tourists in almost four months, we take a first look at the documentary and the tales told so far

Click HERE to watch the preview. 

Voices of The Pandemic examines life in Bermuda amid the Coronavirus outbreak. Top: A deserted Front Street at the height of the rush during the lockdown restrictions. Photograph by Milton Raposo.

Categories
2020 Bermuda Biennial

Best Of Bermuda Awards

Winners On Display At BNG

The winners of The Bermudian‘s 30th annual Best of Bermuda Awards, which were voted for by the public, have been announced. Congratulations to 2020 Bermuda Biennial artists Jayde Gibbons who won Best Photographer and NOBODY for Best Visual Artist

See works from both of the artists in Let Me Tell You Something, the2020 Bermuda Biennial which is on display at the BNG until the end of this year. Jayde’s striking black and white photography montage All The Kings Men provides an intimate look at brotherhood in Bermuda while NOBODY’s     I-ANK-Forget is bold digital collage that calls for public art as a means of protest. 

The Bermuda Biennial, organised by the Bermuda National Gallery and  sponsored by Bacardi Limited, is a critical platform for Bermuda’s contemporary art community. The exhibition, which is now in its 14th iteration, continues to represent the excellence of local contemporary art and brings Bermudian artists the opportunity to engage in an internationally juried process.

Browse the 2020 Biennial exhibition catalogue HERE

All The Kings Men by Jayde Gibbons, 2019. Photography and mixed media. 72 x 96 in.
 I-ANK-Forget by NOBODY, 2019. Digital print. 48 x 48 in.
Categories
Community

Welcoming You Back

Reopening the BNG

On the 16th March BNG took the unprecedented step of temporarily closing the gallery. We have been working hard behind the scenes to get the gallery ready for reopening and we look forward to welcoming you back this weekend.

The gallery will be open on Saturday, 4th July, exclusively for BNG members who can enjoy a private tour of the current exhibitions with BNG trustee Mitchell Klink who brings a unique understanding of local and global contemporary art that is sure to engage.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity! Become a member today and join us on Saturday. The tours, which are limited to 6 people, will take place every hour on the hour between 10am and 2pm and must be booked in advance. Click HERE to register.  

The gallery will then open to the general public every Saturday as of the 11th July, from 10am to 2pm. Admission is $5 for adults, free for BNG members, seniors, students and NARM members.

The gallery will remain closed during the week, allowing students in the BNG Art + Tech Summer Camp, which runs from the 13th July to the 28th August, to immerse themselves fully in the exhibitions which will serve as a starting point for their projects.


The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff remains our highest priority. With this in mind, we have put the following precautions in place:

  • Social distancing measures will be observed in the gallery, with a maximum capacity of 24 people at a time. 
  • Increased in depth cleaning measures have been put in place. 
  • Temperature checks will be taken as you enter City Hall. 
  • A hand sanitising station will be available as you enter the gallery. 
  • A plexiglass screen has been installed at the reception desk.
  • Staff and volunteers will observe strict Covid-19 protocols. 
  • Masks are to be worn by customers and staff. Bespoke BNG masks are on order!

Artwork: Fortissimo by Vaughan Evans, 2008. Lino relief print on BFK reeves paper. 19 x 29 inches. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of the Artist.