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Notions of Self is presenting at Tern Gallery until August 30, which showcases the work of four Caribbean artists: Tessa Whitehead, Heino Schmid, Leasho Johnson, and Dominique Knowles. All unique in their multidisciplinary style but evoking commonalities in the ways that the works are perfectly complex commentaries on identity. Jodi Minnis, the gallery manager says about the exhibition, “The underlying theme within the work reveals a sense of multiculturalism that is present when we think about Caribbean identity, and how that doesn’t allow us to be defined in singular, or fixed ways. (...) There is a sense of confidence and certainty in this opportunity where each artist exists as many things all at once.”

This exhibition perfectly mirrors Tern's reason for inception, which stemmed from the necessity for a space to showcase and propel Caribbean artists that exist outside of the commonly Eurocentric focused art world. The artists have studied all over the world but trace back memories to an underrepresented upbringing. Fragmented and dreamlike, Notions of Self transfixes the viewer with endless conceptual possibilities representative of the individual experience. Each artist gives insight into a personal cultural analysis through mixed media renderings of figures, nature, and animals.

The work of Johnson depicts strategically colourful abstractions contrasted with darkness to wax autobiographical on the experience of being queer, black, male, and forming an identity in Jamaican Dancehall street culture. The intention in the somewhat imperceptible figures juxtapose a similarity to the works of Whitehead whose subjects blur boundaries of human and landscape.

Knowles follows a similar path but utilises deliberate brush strokes to portray animal subject matter, with a substantially sized canvas to envelop the viewers into the artist's surreal world. Schmid focuses on the contrast of negative space and deconstruction in the contoured figure drawings whose line work is complementary with Whitehead.

Notions of Self narrates a confident and honest look at lived experiences through exploration of archetypes, memory, and vulnerability. Each artist's distinctive style and independent memories deliver an expressive and moving depiction of self in the neocolonial world.
The group exhibition Notions of Self is now on view at Tern gallery in Nassau (Bahamas) until August 30.

Words
Jade Kearley

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