Sculptures, paintings and textiles join in an insistent chorus of `Unity and freedom’
by Raschid Osman
Guyana Chronicle
March 23, 2003

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`In the Line of Duty’ is the name of the exhibition now on at Castellani House on Vlissengen Road, and this does seem a bit odd.

The exhibition is all of a piece, with sculpture and painting and textiles constituting an articulate and highly emotional hymn to unity and freedom, and this with the underpinning of a coruscating panorama of pain and despair.

But Desmond Alli, head of Guyana United Artists, explains that the group's latest showing is also a paean to the many who have suffered and are suffering in our society, many of them coming to grief in the line of duty.
Of course, it is the sculpture that dominates at the exhibition. Not only because of their overwhelming physical mass, but also because of the emotional brio the sculptors manage to draw from their wooden medium.

The centre-piece is Alli's Regional Integration, a quadrangle with four totems at its cardinal points, and a more imposing central one, each carved with Alli's unique geometric motifs which lend an angular strength to the work.

The totems that mark the quadrangle ride on the backs of alligators, representing Central America, North America, South America and the Caribbean, while the central one is more ornate, bristling with pre-Columbian motifs, and in the mind of the artist, the ideal outcome of the unified regions.
The experienced Gary Thomas makes a fine showing. His Masks are evocative masterpieces, ceremonial and highly symbolic of a culture that is richly textured and just screaming to be understood.

All this is expertly sculpted in Samaan and Mahogany, and leaves the viewer with the distinct impression that here is a way of life that bristles with resilience and awesome survival instincts.

Linden Jemmot's Gandhi captures the humility of its subject. There is a tensile strength in the lean upper torso, with the nether parts heavy and cloddish, fixing Gandhi firmly on the ground, a figure that cannot be easily moved.

In contrast, Jemmot's Pan-man is intense and muscular, playing on his ping-pong with a stolid determination, and it must be that the song we could only guess at is as overpowering and as full of life as the musician is.

And then there is Jemmot's Armageddon Warriors. This is a frenetic tableau, the men in heated though fixed struggle, arms and legs extended every which way. In the melee, there appears to be a dominant warrior that holds the outcome of the fracas in his hands. He is just a bit more delineated than the others, and it could be that he is the one who will emerge victor, if ever the players are released from their frozen milieu.

In `In the Line of Duty’, the paintings and sculpture are held together by ethnic swathes of batik and tie-dye fabrics, the African motifs, adding to the insistent chorus of unity and freedom composed by the artists with much feeling.

The exhibition continues until March 29.

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