Thursday, 5 February 2009

Between Worlds -Bunty O'Connor

Bunty's show opened at the Art Society in Federation Park on Tuesday night. I had taken these photos before but wanted to wait until the show opened before I posted them. Her work in these pieces is very exciting. Aptly titled "Between Worlds" she explores this theme on many levels. Bunty was, literally, between worlds when she was was working on this collection. With the decision to close Ajoupa's doors came unexpected freedom to express her creativity but it was also filled with significant grief. In her artist's statement she says: "Letting go of Ajoupa Pottery has been the hardest thing to deal with- like a death." She worked steadily on the collection over a period of 16 months beginning with Between Worlds (below).
There is a sense of magical playfulness in the pieces. Many are whimsical with a nod to Trinidad and Tobago's extensive folklore traditions but there is also a sense that Bunty is pushing herself to go below the surface, crossing another boundary to allow the subconscious to bubble up. In the piece below, the back side (not shown) of Between Worlds is a contrasting study in unbridled nature, a la Garden of Eden. The message is twofold; civilisation is but skin deep, an untamed, deeply beautiful world is always accessible through hidden doorways. But it is not necessary to over-analyse Bunty's work. The work is what it is and this is what makes it so powerful. One of the three Actors The Child.

A common theme of peering into doorways, literal or otherwise,allows the work to spread out and deeply exhale. She says "I made them all as they occurred to me and so they document my feelings and experiences during the time of making. Some are tongue-in-cheek, like Tea with the Arabs.......... some funny, and some full of fear like the Gargoyles (Dengue Nightmare). I made this piece while Rory was ill with dengue fever in September - it was cathartic pouring out of all those fearful beasts."

Leaves, trees, and fantastical organic forms carry through the feeling of deep, unexplored territory. Exploring the dense, virgin landscape of Trinidad's lush northern range has obviously made an indelible mark on Bunty's psyche and this emerges in the turn of a leaf or the shape of a tree.

In Ground Provisions (above) the coiled leaf of the dasheen unfurls to reveal playful, but undoubtedly elderly, sprite and the subterranean dasheen is a fat, lovely, earthbaby.

In "Coming Out of Her Shell", the girl/snail captures the essence of the Caribbean, "kiss-me-nah?" attitude that is our home-grown version of a bad girl. But she is achingly beautiful in her vulnerability as she comes out of her shell.

Like many artists, place and landscape are integral to the work. While hiking in the forest, Bunty and Rory visited and camped overnight at the plane crash site of Mikey Cipriani. In the 1930's, the small light aircraft piloted by Cipriani and a friend crashed in the northern range while enroute to Tobago. The death of this charismatic, handsome young pilot captured the nation's attention. Bunty describes the site as a place of serene beauty. "The Place Where Mikey Cipriani Crashed His Plane" is part memorial, part tribute to this as yet un-commemorated spot.

"Homage to Hands" is a commanding piece with an almost Rodin-type feel. Bunty tells the story that she created them to be apart, open and upturned. Rory had a different idea and would entwine them every time he passed by. This little performance art ritual-of-the-hands only adds to the piece.

I have chosen to highlight just a few of the pieces but there are many others that are just as evocative and magically delightful as the ones that I've shown here.
Amerindian Doggy has just joined my pack. I had to have him.

Bunty prefaces her Artist Statement with a quote from STARBOOK by Ben Okri.

"Voice: If you enter through the magic gate, if you walk through the encampment of the tribe.......You will find them carving at wood scuptures in open workshops, hammering at bronze, singing poignant songs in groups, in lovely harmonies. You will see the children making new objects out of rejects, drawing pictures on the ground. You will see the women painting cloth in vivid colours, or creating new forms with jeweld and cowries. practising new dances in the square. You will find the old at work, directing great projects, telling stories to the young, listening to the dreams of maidens."

STARBOOK, by Ben Okri

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I was fortunate enough to meet Bunty and Rory, her husband, while my son and i were in Trinidad less than two weeks ago. We were given a tour of Ajoupa and we got to see all of the things that she was going to show at the exhibition. Amazing stuff. Just amazing. And they are truly lovely people.