Evoking the feeling of island Obeah….

A journey to the dark jungles of Trinidad from the Greater Arctic North

One of the motives behind international artists residencies is for an artist to experience a place much different than theirs, and to also bridge, through their work a cultural exchange that would give a perspective of the place from the visitor’s point of view.

The Canada Council for the Arts offers three professional Canadian artists the opportunity to visit Trinidad and Tobago for two months through their partnership with Caribbean Contemporary Arts. Paul Fortin was one of their recipients for 2006, and the artist was picked from a region of Canada known as Inuvik, Northwest Territories. This Isolated and barren place is located 2 degrees above the arctic circle and the temperature as of this post is minus 36 Celsius. Most likely, Mr. Fortin’s venture to the tropical island of Trinidad was a culture shock, and a visual lesson to Trinidad and Tobago by his stark and bleak installation.

In the InterAmericas space at Caribbean Contemporary Arts, the walls of the gallery have been transformed into a mystical tropical narrative filled with macabre motifs reflecting on death and confinement. Mr. Fortin has used black vinyl as the undercoat to form a filigree of silhouettes that pans the three sides of the space, and his cut-work fortells a story of the grappling uneasiness he may have experienced during his stay concluding that the tropical island is not the paradise it once was.

In most cases, the purpose of producing large installations is to give the illusion of an overwhelming grandeur. You should be able to walk into the space and be totally mesmerized by the size of a piece and leave with an imprint of some sort of visual memory. But not all installations work out that way, no matter how strenuous the artist has worked to convince you otherwise.

A vinyl serpent thebookmann 2007Wrought iron gates, Maracas waves, lurking skulls and a serpent – The artist has painfully cut vinyl into shapes and patterns, and like temporary site specific installations his laborious efforts would be soon peeled away – thebookmann

Footnote: Artists who use silhouettes in their work may be compared with the renowned Kara Walker. This is a tough act to follow due to her sophistication, precision and wit.

See past recipients: Jamelie Hassan, Joscelyn Gardner, Bryan Bullen, Stephen Andrews

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