Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Harold Jiminez

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Jiminez’s work on partition

The Trinidad Sunday Guardian of May 21, 2005 featured a review on a show held at the Southern Art Gallery in Cocoyea, San Fernando. The artists were Ian Attong, George Swanston and Harold Jiminez. The work that caused the writer, Mr.Willie Chen the most reaction was Harold Jiminezs’, and a considerable portion of the article was devoted to the reaction, or revulsion. I went down to South to see what the ruckus was about.

“ His sexually charged paintings, done in erotic obscenity, are no avante-garde aesthetic experience and either stimulate humour or stir up feelings of revulsion and disgust.” ……………..Willie Chen

Quite a weighted statement for works by no means large or obvious. The work from the exhibition was down and a few pieces were still on a board to the back of the gallery. I had not been to this gallery before, and when I entered at first I was struck by the huge body of amateur work on display and by the surroundings itself. The space is just a raw one, nothing particularly remarkable to look at. The lighting not really suited for looking at individual works. One sees more of the limitation than the assets of it, and I had to remember that I was no longer in Kansas, Port-of-Spain. Now, I am not trying to be arrogant about ‘town’, because Port-of-Spain has limitations as well. One cannot go about acting as though town is Manhattan, New York! Yet, there is a distinction between what is seen in Port-of-Spain and what I saw in San Fernando. Many ‘southerners’ buy their art in Port-of-Spain, not in San Fernando, and what the Southern Art Gallery is trying to do cannot be easy. Who are the buyers of these things?

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This article is not about that however, the focus is on this artist and his ability to draw such a reaction from a fellow artist and the writer of the aforementioned review. The Southern Art Gallery space features work by many less known and unknown artists (to us who live in town and believe that everything revolves around town) There is the usual landscape and seascape and when women are painted they are in national dress in less than natural poses. So to come upon simply drawn and then at other times more purposely drawn images of men, some with unhuman heads but naked male bodies, is clearly new. ‘Male nudity’

How many artists draw the male nude? Boscoe Holder has. Stuart Hahn has. But somehow Mr. Jiminez’s nudes make Mr. Chen say things like, and I quote, “ Jiminez’s work portend larger doses of sexual power, an obsession by a servitor of genitalia for the lewd pictorial existentialism to defy the functions of art.” I can see Mr. Chen going into a froth. I now understand the pains Aubrey Beardsley may have experienced with his works in his day.

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Mr. Jiminez also did coloured drawings of flowers and Mr. Chen takes a swipe at that as well; “ Jiminez’s rounded labia whorls of sensual explications are direct invasions of our senses. Images unseen before but here become declarative of vengeance, liberation and playful experiments without perspicuous meaning.” I want to ask whether Mr. Chen is seeing the same work that I am seeing.

In the past Mr. Himinez had shown at the Trinidad Art Society and had run into a problem as well. One of his pieces was denied view at their annual November exhibition. What made this situation unique was his involvement with the Art Society. As a member he felt and justifiably so, that he should have been given an explanation for the rejection of his piece. As I recall it featured graffiti that included part of an expletive. Also here Mr. Jiminez is not the first local artist to use obscenity in his work.

Yet no one provided a reason for the reaction to his work and Mr.Himinez wrote several letters to members of the society to express his frustrations and displeasure. Some time has passed since then and now. Oddly enough, hundreds of thousands of artists the world over would like to have such a review so that their work would stand out from the others around them. I feel compelled to write about Mr. Jiminez because he stands as a relatively unknown artist beginning to come into his own. Reactions such as Mr. Chen’s can take an artist such as himself into a tailspin. Being controversial is one thing and selling ones work another, and in such a small country a dislike of an artists work goes counter to its success, especially when subversion or perversion was possibly furthest from his objective, only the desire to work for its purest sake, his intention.

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Trinidad and Tobago is no different from many places in the world dealing with a huge fundamentalist backlash to art and all media. There is a fear of what is perceived to be ‘overt ‘ sexuality in art and music. Although violence seems to be something that no one kicks up about in the world. No one seems offended by seeing it in every incantation on offer. So Mr. Jiminez has some drawings of naked men, one with covered erection. Indeed who would have known that an erection should cause such an exclamation!

Mr. Jiminez’s work takes on a sort of primitivism that includes nudity. So what is Mr. Chen saying? Is it because it is a modern artist, it is not acceptable? Words like perverse and pornographic factor in his article and I find his view quite hysterical. But maybe I need to look at what he is saying more closely. My views are in the minority and not the majority. I assume that such work is neither shocking nor deserving of such a dramatic reaction. But then perhaps for most Mr. Chen is more in the know than I am at this time. What I do know is that this reaction needs to be challenges and I would declare here that Mr. Chen unwittingly has put artists such as myself in a place where his sensitivity and sensibility must be challenged. – Adele 2005

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1 comment so far

  1. Laurent Torno III on

    Hello, I am trying to contact Trinidad artist Willi Chen. I see a man of the same name is quoted on this website regarding another artist.

    Would Mr. Chen or a representative please contact me to discuss a painting from 1958 signed Willi Chen from the Trinidad Arts Society?

    Thanks & All the Best,
    Laurent Torno III
    laurenttorno3@yahoo.com


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