Sensational sails with cultural significance

21st Century Cayman is the title of the National Gallery’s latest exhibition and has brought together find artists with local craftspeople and artisans to explore new ways with old traditions. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull takes a tour and reports. Second in a series of articles.

Six artists showing in the latest National Gallery exhibition were given the task of creating a signature piece of artwork directly onto a canvas sail, reminiscent of the sails used in Caymanian catboats, icons of a bygone era when fishing was the main wage earner for local people.
National Gallery Director Natalie Urquart explains the thinking behind this particular aspect of the exhibition: “The premise of 21st Century Cayman was to invite artists to ‘reimage’ our heritage craft within a contemporary context- using traditional materials and ideas in a new way. As curator I had several ideas in mind that I hoped to see realised in the exhibition, working directly with the artists.  It had occurred to me that catboat sails are made of canvas so why not use them as you would a traditional painting canvas albeit in a different, highly recognisable shape? What is more iconic to our heritage then the triangular shape of the catboat sail coming into port under full breeze? I invited six diverse artists to be part of this project and was thrilled with the results – each has tackled the challenge in a very personal way.”
Natalie continues: “The ‘painted’ sails were envisioned as a single large installation piece that could be suspended from the walls or ceiling in such a way that would capture the grace of the original, functional sails. Seen collectively they reflect several boats on the water and appear as if in motion.”
A passionate example of her work, Avril Ward’s sail, titled Cayman Landing, is almost completely taken up by the image of a Cayman parrot, just about to land, its vivid green and yellow plumage ruffled at the exertion.
“I wanted to create an almost surreal image of the parrot coming into land onto a catboat,” she says.
Employing her now trademark method of painting of using the fluidity of lines of paint guide the image (an art Avril terms ‘paint stringing’), Avril has managed to create an energetic scene that cleverly encapsulates a national icon while at the same time has the viewer slightly on their toes with the energy and magnificence of the scene.
A burst of orange and aqua define Renate’s catboat sail, called Warriors of Time, but look more closely and you will note three majestic black frigate birds swooping through the art work, as well as magnificent salmon-pink fish mixed in with the aquatic theme.
“I feel that the frigate birds and fish come together really well in a painting,” Renate says. “The birds are so graceful and always alluring to me and fishing in particular is a real passion. I actually became addicted to the sport last year!” she confirms.
Renate is enjoying using paints that she obtained on a trip to Australia and in particular the corals and greens in the artwork stand out for their intensity, adding great excitement and interest to this exceptional piece.   
Always keen to highlight his spirituality via painting, Randy Chollette does not disappoint this time with a magnificent creation entitled The Kinds of Satwa.
Randy’s artist’s message explains his motivation behind this painting: “In Yoga, the term Satwa represents balance. This piece is all about balance in terms of the coexistence of night and day, of the catboat masters with their craft, of balance of boat on the waves and in the wind. But it goes deeper than that. The freedom the catboat sail represents is what truly inspired the artist.
The freedom that mirrors inner peace; the freedom that feels like skimming across the open sea with no traffic to worry about, just cool breeze. It’s the type of inner peace that he has achieved in his meditation and his practice of Toga as a Rastaman. The peace that we can find in this world is inner, not outer, and this is why he placed a catboat within a catboat in the piece. The same way it takes energy to sail the boat, it takes the proper flow of energy to begin the journey into oneself and find the creator within. There is energy in this work because it seems as if the image is moving, sailing, fluttering in the wind of a sunny day.” 
Mikael Seffer’s Casting Net remains true to his love of using resin to produce spectacular effects in his artwork, with a turquoise, deep blue and red creation that looks as if it belongs to the sea.
“I thought the abstract style would suit the sail and it has created an interesting netting effect that works well with the theme,” he says.
Close to the Bark highlight’s artist David Bridgman’s fascination with Cayman’s vegetation, an interesting close up examination of Cayman’s indigenous Red Mahogany against a carpet of flora, all created in sepia pen and ink. The scene is highly reminiscent of David’s last exhibition at the National Gallery in which he turned an entire room at the Gallery into a forest clad with bluebells carpeting the ground and walls in an England woodland meets Cayman backdrop mix of stunning vegetation.
Miguel Powery’s One of a Kind needs no introductions – a clever study of Cayman’s unique Blue Iguana, happily sunning itself against a sunny veranda backlit with illuminated palms fringing the scene.