After examining his winning piece the 2011 Annual Art Competition at the Central Bank in the open category, viewers knew they would be in for an otherworldly solo exhibition by Jackson Petit a year later.
His winning painting, “Beautiful Monsters”, flipped the competition’s theme of “So So Beautiful” on its head by finding beauty in unexpected places – now, in “Beneath The Surface”, Petit has taken his prize of a major solo show to push this exploration into uncharted territory.
“I felt validated when I won and also challenged to produce a great body of work,” said Petit. “I immediately went out and bought the supplies for this show with the competition prize and it was great to have that time and space dedicated specifically to a show instead of working out of pocket.”
In his new world, his subjects commit to nothing – they are neither man nor beast, neither beautiful nor grotesque – but rather hover in a liminal space of Petit’s making, hypnotic through their very existence.
For Petit, the exhibition was a chance for him to explore magical realism through his work, and the pieces do indeed offer a glimpse into a parallel reality or perhaps an ongoing reality beneath the surface of our own – apparent in the repetitive imagery of masks.
“I think with this particular show, I may have resolved the themes I always look at in my work,” said Petit. “We don’t all see the world the same. The world could be imagined, could be real, you don’t know – but there’s something magical in that, and you have to make that imaginative leap.”
“I’m focusing on the idea of what is below what you see,” he added. “I’m always interested in the process of how I achieve the final layer of work – to bring that final image to life you need to acknowledge the layers under it without which the final piece wouldn’t exist.”
Indeed Petit is at home in his painting medium, presenting a show that does not offer a glimpse into his mixed media and video work but rather his skill in brushwork. In their imagery and technique, the paintings pay homage to Bahamian art legends as well as Haitian art and culture, negotiating Petit’s own cultural duality in a subtle way.
“Work by John Beadle and Brent Malone really inspired the way I approach the canvas, apply paint and color,” he said. “But really I just like creating images. I get excited about creating something from nothing. I like the struggle in that too – the issues you find to resolve in the process of creation. You learn a lot about yourself.”
Petit hopes viewers will have the same experience examining his strange but beautiful masked creatures with their deep connection to the earth, shifting their perception a degree or two in the way famous magical realists before him have successfully achieved.
“It’s all about how we exist in our environment,” he said. “We sometimes take for granted how we move through our spaces so I wanted to bring attention back to that, our connection to life.”
“I hope when people see the show they can experience something different and feel inspired by its themes to nature and their surrounding spaces,” he adds. “I want to open people up to a different perception.”
“Beneath the Surface” opens at the Central Bank Art Gallery on Thursday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. and will be on display during banking hours until September 28.
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture
Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012