Fourth national drawing competition
Some things old, some things new... Arts on Sunday
By Alim A. Hosein
Stabroek News
November 3, 2002

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The judges’ awards of prizes for the Fourth National Drawing Competition, sponsored by the National Bank of Commerce and Industry, reflect a mix of conservatism and exploration. The first and third prizes were awarded to solidly conservative works, while the second prize went to a modernist, more daring piece.

Corailas and Eddoes by Josefa Tamayo, which won the First Prize, is a good example of drawing in its traditional role, delighting through the artist’s ability to create in two dimensions the various textures, shapes and forms of real objects. Tamayo is good at this, as her display piece, Croton, also shows albeit in a livelier, more engaging manner. In Corailas and Eddoes, a work in coloured pencil, the corailas and eddoes stand by themselves in a virtually empty setting, and the tonality of the work is low-key. The posing of the objects in open space gives the work a vacant feel, while the low tones give the work a mood which is too quiet and uninspiring.

The Third Prize went to Merlene Ellis’s Chip Sugar Cake which is similarly in the vein of the traditional still life. However, although the composition of this work is by no means daring, it is more complex than Tamayo’s and also more lively in its execution. This work does not attempt the flawless surface finish of Tamayo’s work, but its more vigorous treatment opens it more to the audience.

The exactitude of Tamayo’s work makes it appear to be flawless and so a bit aloof, whereas Ellis’ piece excites the eye and mind more with its more complex arrangement, mix of media, and spirited treatment.

On the other hand, the Second-Prize-winning Christine and Christian by Alex Joseph is a more contemporary effort which evokes mass and texture rather than faithfully reproducing them. This work does not depend on colour for its effect, but is executed in black and white (charcoal and white chalk). Nor does it try to achieve pictorial representation. The shapes and forms of the human figure are hinted at, as are the textures. The soft feel of the work adds to the mood of tenderness surrounding the woman and child.

The blend of traditional and new is continued in the special prizes which were awarded: a Special Prize in the 16-18 year category to Travel Blackman’s Active, a drawing of a sitting young man posed against drapery, the Judge’s Special Mention to Garfield Gillis’ almost surreal pencil work After The Destruction, Honourable Mention to Peter Chester’s careful pen drawing Morning Glow, and Special Mention to Chekama Skeete’s Awakening.

Around the edges of this dominating mass of traditional work and derivations are the pieces of artists such as Kevin Ali and Shawnton King, whose work in their present state will not gain them prizes, but who take a different approach. King uses cubism in pieces such as Dance of a Lifetime, but clumsily and not with enough care, while Ali’s crayon The Dancer is an abstract work which is sufficiently different from the other work on show to be worth interest.

Of note is Chekama Skeete’s small, intense pieces such as his Awakening. These pieces, which call to mind the visionary drawings of the nineteenth-century English poet William Blake, create a mystical dream world and all show good drawing techniques. In composition, theme, and use of drawing, Skeete’s work adds a different note to the exhibition. The balance of dark tones and bright colours, and the small sizes, give the pieces a jewel-like quality. The danger for Skeete to avoid is that of becoming exotic.

The entries of the young artists are always pleasing to see, and their efforts show commendable drawing skill. However, in some of these entries, there are hints that these young imaginations are already being oriented towards picture-book compositions and themes.

The judges’ awards reflect the exhibition as a whole. While there are attempts at exploring newer techniques in drawing, most of the artists are influenced by the traditional virtues of verisimilitude and well-finished pieces. Most of the work on show focuses on traditional themes and treatments: still life, faces, people, and nature on the one hand, and the usual shading and colouring techniques on the other. Also noticeable is the use of traditional media:

various kinds of pencils and crayons. This is in keeping with the trend of past exhibitions.

Most of the entries are picturistic - reflecting the use of drawing to create pictures, with few pieces that showed the use of drawing as a way of creating new images, or exploring an inner world, or suggesting a different approach to reality, or space, or time, or to the art of drawing itself.

The exhibition also included a special display-only section featuring the works of Maylene Duncan, Alex Joseph, Chekama Skeete, Josefa Tamayo and Carl Anderson, many of which offer good lessons for the other artists to study.

They could note, for example, how Duncan adds both colour tonality and social colouring to her work, how Joseph creates shapes, tones and flesh textures with numerous crosshatchings, how Anderson suggests time and movement in his work, and so on.

The exhibition continues to November 9th at Castellani House.