Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan's Art Resonates

Published in The Sunday Gleaner,  December 23, 2012

Her art is as unique, graceful and petite as she is. And it speaks. Yes, it speaks. Jasmine Thomas-Girvan's pieces, which use a unique combination of materials such as bronze, wood, brass, aluminium, pearl, silver, and even silk, are truly works of art which carry messages taken from a variety of Caribbean situations.

Her most recent exhibit, Resonance, featured at the Hi-Qo Art & Framing Gallery on Waterloo Road, does just that. With a keen focus on faces and hands, which she describes as "the most expressive parts of the human body", this master artist cunningly intertwines language and human form to create symbolic and illustrative pieces that carry weight in literal presence as well as figurative meaning.

Pieces such as 'What We Have Done And What We Have Left Undone' - a specimen featuring a wooden man with tongue extended, on which is inscribed 'I do not recall' - serve as cutting-edge social commentary that also elicit humour. The man holds a machete in his hand and is about to cut out his own tongue. In his pocket is a measuring stick, on which is inscribed, 'Truth and lie nebba drown'. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, this was the first piece from the Resonance collection to be sold.

Art lovers will also appreciate Thomas-Girvan's precision and attention to detail. The time and thought invested in each piece is obvious from the miniscule inscriptions on pieces such as 'The Message', which itself carries a compelling message about where truth and light can be found ('Open your eyes and look within'); or 'The Upper Room'; or 'Mariposa Negra', a bronze and wood offering which features a woman with hands folded, completely covered in butterflies.

A somewhat sad, yet powerful, section of the exhibit is 'Give Us Vision'. Here, Thomas-Girvan bestows medals of honour upon three of her heroes - Jamaica's John Maxwell, Trinidad and Tobago's Angela Cropper, and Cuba's Operation Milagro, with a notation stating, 'For valour beyond the call'.

Outstanding exemplars
Explaining the importance and necessity of this gesture, Thomas-Girvan speaks passionately about John Maxwell's phenomenal contribution to Jamaican journalism, and says she thinks it is appropriate to recognise this in Jamaica's 50th year of Independence.

She speaks of Angela Cropper's "dedication to causes that protect the environment", and describes the quiet strength of a woman who endured many hardships but refused to be broken. (Cropper died on November 12 of this year).

Then, she explains the awe-inspiring beauty of Operation Milagro, a medical programme initiated by Cuba and Venezuela which restores sight to persons suffering from visual disabilities. She expresses admiration for the Cuban people who "have a vision about social responsibility like no other group".
It is obvious that Thomas-Girvan, who was born in Jamaica, is a holistically Caribbean artist. Jamaica features prominently in her pieces - from the Anansi jewellery series to the frequent use of the calabash in her artistry. "It is very important to reinforce our Caribbean and Jamaican identity," she says, explaining that the Anansi series celebrates the "beauty and intelligence" of one of Jamaica's most wily folklore heroes.

But she does not leave her new home, Trinidad, behind. Her frequent use of birds, she explains, is mainly due to the fact that these creatures are now a big part of her daily life. She also loves the imagery of birds: "Soaring to realms that humans only dream about, birds symbolise flight, defying gravity, and are incredibly beautiful." So into her art they go.

As Maria Casserly explains, Thomas-Girvan's work is influenced by the moments the artist encounters everyday. And since this is the case, we can only wonder where next these moments will lead her, or what her next body of artwork will be. One thing is for sure, with art lovers everywhere, this jeweller-cum-sculptor's work will resonate.

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