Artistic Duo Hosts Lighthearted Exhibition

By in News on March 2, 2013

Dylan Rapillard at Popopstudios. Photo by Lisa Wells

Context matters in art – where it is exhibited, whether in a solo show, a group show or a retrospective, how the artwork exists within the daily life of the artist, what exists beyond the gallery’s walls and indeed beyond the boundaries of space and time, all influence a final piece.

In the case of artist duo Dede Brown and Dylan Rapillard, whose individual work can often command a space alone – as seen in the various group exhibitions, such as the sixth national exhibition at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), in which their work displays prominently – exhibiting together allows them to form playful exchanges on a theme while working on individual series. Their fourth exhibition together, “Tickle Me Pink”, which opens Friday, March 8 at the Central Bank of The Bahamas gallery, takes on a noticeably lighter tone than their last exhibition, “Peep Show”. It’s also a testament to the two-year lapse between their much-awaited display, providing enough breathing room to explore new artistic directions.

“After ‘Peep Show’, we decided it was becoming too routine, a show ever year,” says Brown. “So we decided to take some time to develop our work and keep people on their toes.”

“Peep Show” used humor to explore the role of performance in identity, especially in the sexualization of the female figure under a voyeuristic gaze of social media. This time around, humor and playfulness come out in the aesthetics of art creation rather than in social messages – becoming a lighthearted meditation on artistic studies.

For Rapillard, “Tickle Me Pink” is about finding his artistic language. In one set of paintings, Rapillard applied layers and layers of paint, aerosol stencils and more to several primed strips of fabric in increments over a five-year period. In other paintings, he explores pattern and recognizable objects from the Bahamian landscape through painted patchworks that allude to his job as a designer and printer at the boutique Bahama Handprints. The result is a series of tributes to his development as a painter that offer a chance to explore aesthetics rather than send any particular message.

“After ‘Peep Show’, I got tired of drawing portraits,” says Rapillard. “So I think I merged my work at Bahama Handprints into my fine art. I wanted to do something less profound. For me it’s about pattern and there’s a good mood to it and I really just enjoy the simplicity of it.”

“I tend to have a sense of humor and I laugh at things,” he adds. “I guess when I create work it’s because I’m laughing at the stuff – I find it funny; I find life funny. ‘Tickle me pink’ means to laugh and to have a good time, so that’s how I approached it.” For Brown, “Tickle Me Pink” is evidence of pushing her artistic practice into new territory. Immediately following “Peep Show”, she completed a three-month residency in Ipswich, UK, in which she explored the cultural iconography of Junkanoo in Bahamian identity through stunning paintings and costume design.

In 2010, she was also selected to complete a large installation piece in the third and final phase of the Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport Project of a group of life-size flamingoes taking flight. Though the installation involves shaping aluminum into the slender silhouettes of our national bird, Brown is also exploring the flamingo as an object of beauty through painting, producing pieces wherein the central female figure is anchored by a spot color of pink or as a juxtaposition to the bird itself. The result is a series of striking painted studies that command the attention of the viewer through the balance of color and figure.

“The thing is, I used to hate pink,” says Brown. “I was a tomboy growing up and I didn’t want to wear frilly pink Easter dresses so I went through this phase of not liking pink. That continued into my adult life and now I’ve slowly been embracing it and now I love it.”

“I’m working out the colors for the airport pro ject. Flamingoes are not just pink, they are every shade of it and then some,” she adds. “Dylan’s work has influenced me too in the sense that it’s a very free and easy body of work; so I wanted to follow suit in a way.”

Indeed, though the pair has their individual projects and artistic concerns, they cannot escape the inevitable overlap that comes from a close personal and working relationship. Rather than limit the scope of their work, however, Brown and Rapillard use it constructively, creating an environment in which they constantly challenge and push their artistic practices on individual tracks, bouncing ideas and creative criticisms off the other in their studios at Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts. “Tickle Me Pink” offers a glimpse into this exchange that manages to be inspirational and exciting rather than predictable.

“We like to work together,” says Brown. “It’s a lot of working putting on a show so it also helps to work together.”

“It’s more of a practical reason and also I guess I think the work bounces off of each other really well…” Rapillard adds.

“…Without competing,” Brown interjects. “I think our styles are so different. He’ll be on his series and I’ll be on my series, and there may be some sort of overlap in some way maybe because we’re around each other all the time and influence each other, despite our own trains of thought. But we both very much want people to come up with their own interpretation of our work.”

• “Tickle Me Pink” opens at the Central Bank of The Bahamas on Friday, March 8 from 6-9 p.m. and will remain on display for a month during the bank’s working hours, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sonia Farmer,
The Nassau Guardian
Arts and Culture

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