Cayman Traditional Arts in conjunction with The Gallery at the Ritz-Carlton continue their long standing relationship by recently unveiling their latest art exhibition titled My Cayman. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull speaks with each of the artists in turn to hear how they have interpreted their own views of Cayman into art.
My Cayman artists are some of the best established and best loved in the Cayman Islands – Charles Long, Jo Austin, Randy Chollette, Maureen Lazarus, Chris Christian, Avril Ward and Carley Jackson, and each have interpreted the theme in their own unique manner using subject matter, medium and form viewers can readily identify as each artist’s very own. There are 61 artistic pieces at this latest exhibition and so all are encouraged to visit and enjoy the unique art on display.
The evolution of Maureen Lazarus
Upon entry into The Gallery you cannot help but take a quick intake of breath as you admire the latest work by Maureen Lazarus. Having watched Maureen’s talent unfold like a newly sprung flower over the years I was entranced by the spectacle before me. Maureen is well known for her accurate and colourful depictions of Cayman’s flora with bold images of coconuts and sea grapes adorning many a lucky wall in homes and offices throughout the islands. However Maureen has taken a big leap forward with this new collection, creating the actual forms of leaves and sea grapes which jump forth from the wall in a bid to greet the viewer.
Maureen explains the background to her evolution: “I have been searching for the next step in my art and I was sitting at home surrounded by old copies of the Caymanian Compass newspaper after having completed a children’s charity project. I spread the newspapers out in front of me and suddenly thought it might be interesting to paint the papers, sandwich them together a bit like papier maché, dry them out in the sun and see what type of medium is then created.”
Maureen says the end result was stiff card-like material which lent itself perfectly to slight moulding. She cut out shapes of the foliage that she depicts in her paintings and that formed the basis of her new artwork. Each piece of material that she used in her sculpture/paintings is the result of an entire edition of the newspaper sandwiched together. Maureen says she then used children’s hair bobbles to create strings of sea grapes to hang against the foliage. The browns, greens and purple hues that she employs, tinged with light highlights, complete the overall realistic effect.
The end result is a stunning collection of work that records the movement of Maureen’s thoughts from the traditional paint work on canvas to the initial build up of more sculpted pieces (“I was too timid there!” she says) to the full blown sculpted three dimensional that are the culmination of a tremendous amount of thought and work.
“I really love the direction my art is taking me,” Maureen states. “This latest collection has been a great deal of fun.”
Randy Chollette’s inimitable style surfaces prolifically in his My Cayman collection. He calls it his ‘mirage’ style and that is an apt description: the painting is broken down into small segments that breathe life and energy into his work in the format of a mystical mirage. ‘Circa 1938’ is a good example of this style of Randy’s work, as he explains: “I think my mirage style is my favourite. I love creating these paintings because they have so much texture and colour and are real therapy for me as I produce them.”
Randy does not come across as the type of individual who actually needs therapy as he is a gentle, spiritual soul who you cannot imagine ever getting rattled, non-the-less he says his painting is a “massage of the mind”.
“The lines that break the painting into fragments represent the void all around us that is filled with the spiritual world. Call them what you will – God, Allah, Jah – we all have different names for the ultimate spirit but it is ever present and moving all the time just like nature moves constantly,” Randy confirms.
‘Underworld’ is another brilliant example of Randy’s mirage style. As you would imagine, it is a depiction of life under the ocean with a spectrum of aquatic blue, green and brown hues that draw the viewer in for a quick adventure under the sea.
“I’ve always wanted to create a painting of fish in this style,” Randy states. “I think we can learn a great deal from the ocean and compare us to the waves and the Creator to the ocean. Life is like the waves being pulled in various directions by the Creator in a cyclical motion.”
Randy says exploring the ocean artistically is a poignant reminder of a childhood experience when he had a deeply spiritual moment under the sea as a boy, falling under the ocean while surfing.
“I just felt myself sinking and sinking without surfacing. I don’t remember being afraid; I just remember feeling very peaceful in this whole new world under the sea.”
In ‘Blessed Day’ Randy explores the fun times he had as a child growing up in Cayman with huge Royal Ponciana trees dominating the landscape which Randy fears are reducing in numbers nowadays.
“Change is good because it brings prosperity but I still cannot help but think back to the times when life was so much simpler and happier,” he muses.
“I remember taking time out as a child to simply roll around in the grass or lie down in the grass and look up at the sky as the clouds raced past. We used to enjoy life in those days.”