The National Gallery’s latest exhibition features a fascinating glimpse of Cayman past and present.
Shane Arquart, the man behind the instantly recognisable ‘Dready ‘character, has a fascinating exhibition now on at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
Called Things that Exist only in my Fading Memory the exhibition is a colourful 360 degree panorama wrapping around the gallery’s Dart Auditorium. Measuring 105 feet long by seven feet tall, the work depicts various Caymanian landmarks both past and present, from the current Pedro/St. James Castle, the aptly named ‘Smurf houses’, to The Glass House and the former Holiday Inn, all in Shane Arquart’s instantly recognisable bright artistic style.
Look closely and you’ll see Dready and his friends, the Trustafarians, throughout, riding a scooter, travelling in a Smart car, or leaning against Lover’s Wall. One guest has aptly described the exhibition as a “roomful of happy”.
The panorama in its original form is a seven-foot-long piece of art. For the exhibition, it has been stretched and re-sized to wrap 360 degrees around the auditorium’s wall as one continuous piece of work.
The artwork is the culmination of years of work. Indeed, Shane describes it as organic in the sense that it is ever changing and evolving.
“I did a version of the panorama originally for an exhibition at The Ritz-Carlton,” Shane said. “This version included the West Bay fish fry, Miss Lassie’s house, Pedro Castle, The Glass House and the Mission House. It was around the same time that I chatted with the National Gallery about doing a show with them.
“Along the way, the National Trust asked me to do a panorama featuring Mr. Arthur’s house, which was really well received. Then Marcus Cumber asked me to add an Island Air aircraft to the artwork. During the opening of the National Gallery, I added the gallery’s building elevation to it. It was then suggested to add Sunset House, the scooter and so on. It just started to grow.”
Over the years, Shane also started to add a number of buildings that he recalls from his time growing up in Cayman as a young boy, changing the name from the Cayman Islands panorama to the exhibition’s current title.
“I was here in Cayman as a boy in the very early 70s. My father lived here and I returned to live in the early 90s so the art is made up of Cayman memories from those days,” Shane explains. “It had changed a lot, but a couple of things had stuck in my memory. For instance in the middle of the art is the National Museum, but as it was when it was the courthouse because I have a memory of my step-grandfather, the then chief justice, standing at the balcony in his court gown and wig.
“There were buildings that I wanted to add, but I couldn’t find images for, such as the Beach Club and Hampstead Ltd.”
The artwork currently features images from Grand Cayman only, however Shane hasn’t ruled out the Sister Islands. “They might come in. It really depends on what moves me. Another element to add at some point is Camana Bay. It is quite a significant landmark, so it would be interesting to put that in at some point.”
The world of Dready
Shane’s ‘Dready Art’ is whimsical, bright, and simple, with the aim of capturing the West Indian sensibility with a humorous twist.
While the Dready character is the iconic centre of Shane’s work, Dready Art has evolved into a style of art which continues to embody the essence of the original character – cool, modern, fun and colourful.
The world of Dready is now a growing and ever expanding enterprise for the Jamaican-born artist. What started out as some colourful artwork for postcards and T-shirts five years ago has now developed into a range of works which adorn a number of walls of the art-loving community across the Caribbean.
Dready will be launching in the UK shortly with a Caribbean-themed restaurant chain called Turtle Bay.
A permanent home
Shane, along with the National Gallery, is currently looking for a permanent home, or sponsor, to house the artwork.
“A lot of time, work, and money went into the making of this, and it would seem a shame for it to be disposable,” Shane said. “We’d like to see it displayed in one iteration or another on a continuing basis, whether it’s the whole show or a majority of it for posterity.”
For those who wish to view – or purchase – the original panorama, the seven-foot-long canvas hangs in the gallery’s shop. The original panorama is limited to a series of 15. Individual elements of the panorama can also be purchased through the artist.
The exhibition runs from 6 March to 30 April at the Dart Auditorium, National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.