Defining the role of Art – if any


A typical wall painting in local Bar in Trinidad. The artist makes no doubt about his training, his passion overrides the artistic qualities which may never be debated.

Most recently the question was put to me about process. Is an artist better for having skill or for having opportunity? At first blush, the question may seem pointless. But this has to do with some work that thebookmann and I was sent to review. More and more in Trinidad, the artists who come out of the University of the West Indies, want to have shows. Some of them work together to produce group events and one or two have solo shows. These shows are then seen in the daily papers and sometimes the weekly papers with very little text about the work itself.

In almost every instance the art that is produced from these endeavors are in keeping with work seen before. There is usually the same type of themes and skills. This is quite curious, as the work seen at the National Museum that represents the best of the school year at the University of the West Indies, puts together a better showing of concept and skill of the student body.So why is it that when students graduate, they cleave to the overtly familiar ground? Perhaps it is advice from other artists? Perhaps it is a desire to be safe and to make money after being in school and working in accordance with teachers whose grades they need to advance?

I know that my comments may seem harsh. It may seem as well that I am tarring every young and upcoming artist with the same brush. I am not doing this at all however, I am basing my thoughts on what I have been seeing over the last five years. When I look at what is happening in art all over the world, I am usually stopped cold by what is happening at home and the reason that this is the case is because there is very little personality in what I see locally. I see people playing it safe and not engaging the audience at all. And I am very concerned. With all of that stated, an artist having opportunity to engage an audience and having skills that they want the said public to see, why is it that so little of what is seen memorable? I think the question is largely about skill. What kind of skill are we really seeing? Again, how many artists are pushing out and beyond their comfort zones to produce something that goes against the expected? How many artists have the commitment or the desire to really explore what they think they want to say?

Artists at their best should set the standards that the public by experience will want to see. Why isn’t this happening in art in Trinidad and Tobago today? – Adele

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