Omar Donia, commissioned by Susan Mains
Fondamente Zattere 417, Dorsoduro
Grenada, the small island in the Caribbean, is participating for the second time to the Venice Art Biennale. The Bridge refers to a global dialogue, both in Grenada and in Venice, that becomes the bridge between civilizations and connects and unifies people. The pavilion on the Fondamente Zattere will therefore not only feature 3 local artists (Jason deCaires Taylor, Asher Mains, Milton Williams), but also 5 international artists (Alexandre Murucci (Brazil), Khaled Hafez (France), Rashid Al Kahlifa (Bahrain), Mahmoud Obaidi (Canada), Zena Assi (Lebanon)). The environmental concerns related to the marine ecosystem are a common source of inspiration for the local artists. The theme has been set by curator Omar Donia. If you are keen to know more about him and his relationship with commissioner Susan Mains, you can read about it in my post ‘The balancing act of the curators of the Art Biennale 2017’.
The headliner artist is Jason deCaires Taylor, who is known for his underwater sculpture parks. He puts life-size sculptures at the bottom of the sea (5 to 14 m depth) to create his installation. These sculptures become an artificial reef, thereby creating new habitats and supporting the marine conservation. The works are constructed using pH neutral materials. The impact of the water and the subsequent surface changes create a continuously evolving piece of art. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see these underwater installations yet, but the pictures are mind-blowing. The colours are amazing, and the size of the installations is really impressive. You immediately want to put on your diving suit. I certainly look forward to see more of it in Venice.
Asher Mains also uses the sea, and more specifically the sea fans of the reef, as the inspiration for his Sea Lungs series. He paints large, multi-layered Caribbean people on huge canvases. The lungs of the figures are created by the shadow cast from the actual sea fans. His creative process involves photography, three-layer hand cut stencils, spray paint, the sea fans, then finally light directed to cast shadows. His canvas is the rip stop used in the sails of the sailing vessels. It is a highly intensive hands on process, which can take months to complete. You will be encouraged to walk in and among the figures, so you can feel as if you are in the water with them.
Milton Williams likes to collect everyday objects from all over the world. He will create an installation of some of these objects for the Grenada pavilion. The display of sardine tin lids for instance makes a statement as to the globalisation of food. Milton Williams asked co-workers, friends, family but also his Facebook followers to collect lids and send them to him. The many collaborators make a social statement of our world-wide interaction.
“Venice is magical city where art survives in every corner, in every stone and in every new contribution to the scene.”
Omar Donia, curator
Jason deCaires Taylor
Jason deCaires Taylor is a sculptor, environmentalist and professional underwater photographer. Born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother, Taylor graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in Sculpture. His permanent site-specific works span several continents and predominately explore submerged and tidal marine environments. His multi-disciplinarily sculptural works explore modern themes of conservation and environmental activism.
Over the past 10 years Taylor he has created several large-scale underwater ‘Museums’ and ‘Sculpture Parks’, with collections of over 850 life-size public works. His installation of the world’s first underwater sculpture park, situated off the west coast of Grenada in the West Indies, is now listed, as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic. He has received numerous sculpture and photography awards and was awarded 2014 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy, described as the Jacque Cousteau of the Art world.
Asher Mains was born on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean where he lives and works. From a family of artists, he has been a traditional painter for many years—since he was a young teen. This exploration into mixed media installations is a recent iteration of his practice and was first seen at the Trio Bienal in Rio di Janeiro Brazil in 2015. Mains recently completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Practice with Transart Institute, Plymouth University in the UK. He is a teacher of art at St. George’s University in Grenada, and also is the director of a fledgling art school in Grenada.
Milton Williams (°1955) is an artist from Grenada in the Caribbean. His work centers on collections of everyday objects he finds in his world travels. Making art is one active way of liberating his creative mind and imaginings. It is a path to present his experiences and observations in a form that invite critical insight from outside; insight that contributes to his own growth. The gathering, creating and completion of each work, frees him a little more to see new possibilities in art, as he travels around our world.
The Grenada pavilion is located along the Fondamenta Zattere in Dorsoduro, along the Giudecca canal. The space is owned by the Venice Institute of Science and used to be their book storage for rare manuscripts, as the space is equipped with the necessary filters and protection from acqua alta.
Once you have visited the pavilion, take your time to discover some of the other beautiful areas in this sestieri. You can find some inspiration in my post ‘Dorsoduro: An amazing tour of intriguing architecture’.
Viva Arte Viva
In line with the ‘Unpacking my library’ project of La Biennale di Venezia, the book which inspired Asher Mains is ‘The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World’ of Lewis Hyde. Khaled Hafez, one of the international artists in the pavilion, prefers ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey.
The team of Grenada has also created a video for the ‘Artists Practices Project’.
Review by The Venice Insider
The pavilion of Grenada makes you dream about a holiday on a tropical island. The underlying message, which focuses on the environmental concerns related to the marine ecosystem, is however less positive. You are welcomed to the pavilion by the sardine tin lids of Milton Williams, flapping in the wind of the corridor.
The most beautiful part of the exhibition is the first room with the art works of Asher Mains. The white canvases with the painted figures and the sea fans are really stunning. You can’t stop looking at them, especially when the wind blows into the pavilion and they snap. Make sure to take a look at the backside of the sails to see these sea fans. You will then be even more intrigued when you admire their shadows through the canvas.
In the next room, Jason deCaires Taylor shows his underwater museums through 2 white statues, i.e. ‘clean’ versions of his statues at the bottom of the sea, some pictures and a movie. I am very fond of his work and the way he gets his message across. The set-up is relaxing and gives you an impression of the magnitude of his work, but it cannot be compared to the real underwater museums. However, it certainly motivates to book a diving trip for your next holiday.
With their second participation to the Art Biennale, Grenada made it to my list of top 8 pavilions which convey a strong message. This list will be published in the coming weeks.
Katia – The Venice Insider
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017’. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: © Jason deCaires Taylor)
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