Keith Thompson Interviews Navarro Newton
Keith Thompson interviews fellow PJRP winner, Navarro Newton on his exhibition Metanoia.
Keith: What is the reasoning behind your choice of materials?
Navarro: I chose the material of plywood because it’s easy, and because it’s a natural material. I like working with natural materials. Also when you paint on plywood it appears flat, so you can apply more layers and it will show through, whereas with canvas some of the paint will be absorbed so you won’t be able to see the actual brush strokes. They would just seem watered down.
Keith: You have a number of varying styles in the show, some very abstracted images of the slaves on the ships that look like just lines and dots and some based mostly off of texture. Can you elaborate on both styles or all of the different styles displayed in the show?
Navarro: The show is called Metanoia because it’s about the changing of one’s mind, and during the time at Popop it was more about having a space to create and being able to create alongside people that were cool. So during the time there I initially planned to start with the dots and lined works which like you said was inspired by the slave ships.
Between layers and allowing the paint to dry there would be other materials lying around like pieces of canvas that I would get from persons like Angelika, and having conversations with Tessa regarding materiality and capsulizing time, I found that while the dots and lines paintings were drying I would be playing around with used canvases, trying to see how I could create an effect of time through layers, multiple layers using different colors, different materials just to see if I could create that time capsule effect that was happening through the material itself.
Keith: Being with you I know that there was a lot of emotion in the work itself. It’s very emotive and personal to you, I also know that you like to allow the work to speak for itself and also the viewers to project their own thoughts onto the work as well. However I would like to know from your perspective what does the work really mean to you?
Navarro: the work is a time capsule of my experience at Popop but, it also shows how I as a black man growing up in the Bahamas not only feel but relate to my ancestors from a time before mine. It’s like I could never fully experience the pain and the hardships that they went through during that transition period. I can only read from history books, but history books are written by people that are not them. Not from personal experience, but from a second hand and observational kind of view point. A view point that is very clinical and very separate from the feelings that those people would have had. So for me the works just look like a capture, you can clinically look at a period of time without actually being a part of it, but still feeling an emotive response to it.
The show is called Metanoia because it’s about the changing of one’s mind, and during the time at Popop it was more about having a space to create and being able to create alongside people that were cool.
I feel like the viewers that come in, will see pretty colors and they will also see these weird dots and lines that look like people causing a weird confusion that makes them question how to feel about these bright poppy colors and then realizing they are actual people. Will there be a clinical severe opinion of “Oh this is not me, therefore it doesn’t affect me.”
Or will there be a “hmmm how would it feel to be in that stagnated position, that held position for such a long time” and feeling that gap or expanse of time as a viewer in present space and looking at a painting using imagery from a time that you as a viewer could never experience or immerse yourself in, how would you as the viewer feel? I think those are the kind of conversations I’m interested in having at the show and I also want people to have those conversations in their daily lives.
How do we view? When people are watching television shows or dramas about these people suffering, how do we take that suffering and interpret it. Do we interpret it as something distant and not effective to us, or we consider it in our daily interactions with other people.
Keith: Knowing that you are a musician, and looking at the work there is a number of rhythmic patterns, does your music or that vibe influence you’re work in anyway further than what you already have?
Navarro: I usually listen to a lot of ‘world’ music, a lot of different genres of music, but during the time there I was exposed to a lot of your music and your music is very “Black Culture” very afro-centric, filled with modern black people who live in post-colonial societies and who have to cope with knowing that they were brought over on a ship, and how does their existence matter to a modern day world. Is it about progress, or is it about keeping us at bay because there is a loss of culture that happened there, causing us as black people to create a culture out of someone else’s culture.
It’s very interesting because you listen to people like Travis $cott, Kanye West and Schoolboy Q and you hear them crying out these stories about how they are fed up about having to play the nice black guy. They’re more interested in expressing their honest opinions as modern day black men. That kind of played with how I interpreted the work from the start to the work having been already created. I think that from the time of inception to creation there were a lot of influences musically that happened, and those influences altered my interpretation of the art. It made my interpretation a bit different but I think it also enriched the art.
Artwork above by Navarro Newton on display at Popopstudios during Metanoia exhibition
Assistant Curator, Central Bank of The Bahamas
Art student at The University of The Bahamas
Popopstudios Junior Residency Prize Winner, 2016 (along with Navarro Newton & Nowe Harris-Smith)