Two Summer Junior Residents who refined their artistic practice for several months at Popopstudios International Center of Visual Arts are ready for their close-up.
June Collie and Richardo Barrett—both College of The Bahamas students—present the culmination of their artistic studies undertaken during the summer in their show “Fallen Transitions”, which opened this past Thursday at the art gallery in Popopstudios ICVA. Consisting of both video and painting installations, the work nonetheless holds a meaningful exchange about film and individuality.
June Collie’s three short films—“Simon Says?”, “Installation II” and “What Do You Want June?”—as well as her paintings are highly confrontational.
“With my work, I like to get straight to the point,” she says. “That’s why with my video, there is no wasted time on why I paint women with curves.”
Against completely unashamed paintings of voluptuous naked women that conjure up Matisse and Gauguin is Collie’s video “Installation II”, where a young girl cuts out conventionally beautiful faces and features in magazines and puts them over her face to try them on. Collie seems to be criticizing society’s beauty industry and standards, yet her other videos go deeper.
In “Simon Says?”, characters with their faces painted in grotesque corpse masks all perform demands such as “relinquish”, “become”, “endure”, and “discontinue”, turning a popular childhood game into a game of life itself where everyone loses in the end for conforming to a faceless tyrant’s orders.
It is evident though in “What Do You Want June?” that Collie’s own personal experience has informed her work which encourages its viewers to go against the grain—or else go on living dead and unfulfilled.
“I’ve always been nice—I gave and I listened and I took orders,” she says, explaining she went from studying nursing to accounting to business, all in order to become the “normal” person everyone aims to be. It wasn’t until taking an art elective with John Cox that she found her passion lay in art, and made a major life change that saw an upheaval in hobbies and friends as she threw conventional out of the window.
“I learned to be selfish which was a good thing for me,” she explains. “I want to show people through my art that being selfish isn’t bad.”
Indeed, her films encourage that kind of introspection through the shock factor of dark, sexual and grotesque elements—what she calls abstract, but which seem to draw on the surreal as well. Collie says she worked through various media trying to find the right one for her kind of abstract art until she settled on film.
“I want it to look exactly like it is in my head, and in film, I got to show people what I wanted to see. I feel like I can express myself,” she says. “When I work with video, it never feels like work.”
On the other hand, Richardo Barrett, who spent time as a resident at Popop Studios this summer under the Antonius Roberts Award, presents visual artwork that alludes to film in its overall installation.
His most breathtaking pieces are painted and collaged figures suspended in the air from strings secured to both the floor and the ceiling like marionettes some distance away from his elaborately painted backgrounds, which lay flat against the walls of the gallery.
Barrett explains that these scenes are inspired by Revelations 12 and Genesis 3 of The Bible and combine unexpected elements together to create a magical realist twist on modernity. They are seemingly cartoonish, yet sophisticatingly fantastical, drawing upon the work of Tim Burton and Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and their themes of the relationships between lightness and dark, technology and nature, and being caught between two worlds.
“As I began to explore film, I wanted to present my visual work in the way a filmmaker would—like a still of a film, using different dimensions so the eye blurs and focuses on different elements at one time,” he explains.
On another wall lies a row of painted brown shadow figures, while the objects they carry—bags inscribed with recognizable commercial names, elaborate hats—are collaged atop the flat paper surface to become the main focus.
In the same room as Collie’s work, they contribute to the conversation about conforming—his puppetlike characters, after all, allude to an anonymous puppetmaster, and his monochromatic cut-outs seem to be a criticism against the “cookie-cutter” standard as well as obsessions with materialism—however Barrett points out that to him, they encourage messages of acceptance.
“Characters are always the main focus of anything, so I decided to cut them out and when I do that, I think people can see these people are all the same dealing with the same things you are,” explains Barrett. “We are all on this journey of life carrying our possessions with us—that makes us who we are.”
The work displayed by these two up-and-coming artists is promising both in the quality reflected in their work and in the creative media they used to explore their craft, and should not be missed.
“Fallen Transitions” is now on view at Popopstudios ICVA in Chippingham.
By Sonia Farmer
Arts & Culture
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011
(Photos by Popopstudios)