Open Up Your Eyes and Look Within

October 21, 2018 Features, Trundlers Tales, Worldwide Travel

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These two paintings are from the exhibition of beautiful Jamaican art, Open up Your Eyes and Look Within. The show opens in London on 22 October for four days. Details at the end of this post.

1. Blue Bamboo by artist Christopher Harris, also pictured in the featured image(above) with his painting Mothers

2. Coke Methodist Church 1970 by Sidney McLaren

A Trundler’s Tale

Artist and Curator Charlotte Mortensson shares her passion for Jamaica and its powerful, vibrant art world

My interest in Jamaica started in the same way as it does for so many people – with the country’s reggae music which I’ve loved since childhood. In 2006 my friend and I decided to fulfill a dream and go to Reggae Sunsplash which was being celebrated near Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Seeing those reggae and dancehall acts live was unforgettable, especially as the sun rose hot the following morning and we were still watching artists performing on stage.

It was during that trip that my friend and I decided to take a taxi to Kingston to visit the National Gallery of Jamaica.

We got to the gallery just 25 minutes before it closed, but what we saw was unforgettable. The exhibition, which was of work by self-taught artists, was extraordinarily powerful, full of images and references which I couldn’t fully understand but which I couldn’t get out of my mind. I later learned that much of the work was reaching back to pre-colonial times, back to Africa.

Teacher Teach by Mallica ’Kapo’ Reynolds

I returned to Jamaica on my own as soon as I could later that same year specifically to revisit the National Gallery and to learn more about Jamaican art.

Construction Workers by Vernal Reubens

I’ve since travelled to most places in Kingston visiting galleries and artists and collecting art whenever I can afford it. My fondness for Kingston grows on each trip as I get to know the city more and more. I like people’s quick sense of humour and the very varied architecture. I particularly love seeing the street art which is a great source of pride in many communities.

My interest for the country’s art has taken me to many interesting places in Jamaica, for instance Spanish Town, which has an historical centre of elegant colonial buildings, and Portmore, a vast, fast-expanding modern suburb of Kingston next to the sea.

I exhibited some of my collection last year at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution in north London. The show was part of the official Jamaica55 Independence celebrations. Following on from that, I was asked by the Jamaican High Commission, London, to curate an exhibition for them of their own art collection which is on long-term loan from the National Gallery of Jamaica. This is the first time that most of the work will be seen by the UK public.

The show’s title, Open Up Your Eyes and Look Within, is from Bob Marley’s Exodus.
When thinking about a title for the exhibition the lyrics resonated with me because this art invites the viewer to look below the surface. The song is also, of course, about travel and movement, both physically and spiritually.

If you would like to see the exhibition, which is in celebration of Black History Month in the United Kingdom and Heritage Month in Jamaica, it’s open for four days from 22-26 October, 11am – 4pm and is at the Jamaican High Commission, 1-2 Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BZ. Entry is free.

All images are copyright National Gallery of Jamaica