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Kelley Knowles - Colouring Outside The Lines

10/13/2010 2:53:00 PM
"Who would have known such artistry could be created from a plain wax Crayola crayon!" This was Kelley Knowles' "Aha!" moment regarding the medium that has recently become the focus of her attention and not only yields colour, but also provides the form and substance and, in fact, the very raison d'etre of her first solo exhibition. 

It is a maiden exposition which demonstrates much promise and the birthing of an individualism, which, if taken at the flood and encouraged, can one day create a space for Ms Knowles in the pantheon of Bahamian art.

There are two pieces, especially, that could well be auguries of a passion and commitment that could lead to greatness, if these buds of a unique voice are nurtured to full bloom.  

The title of Ms Knowles' show (October 1-11, 2010), "No Acrylics! No Oil!, demonstrates the honest forthrightness and desire for self-determination that has been characteristic of the works of several emerging Bahamian artists of late. Fresh from the prestigious art schools, which have had the good sense to admit-nay, even solicit-young Bahamians into their august precincts, they are willing, like our nursery hero Humpty Dumpty, to defy the conventions and reshape the world to suit their special communication needs. For this brave first effort, Kelley has all but retired the acrylics and cast out the oils that have long defined Bahamian art.

An alumna of the distinguished Pratt Institute, New York City, from which she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, Ms Knowles explains the reasons for the divorce from the twin tyros of Bahamian visual arts and her engagement with a medium of which most of us have asked little more than to stay decently within the lines of our shaky prepubescent artistic sallies. 

"Fascination with both self exploration and self limit ministered in the creation of this body of work. I began the collection with no expectations at all but those of myself. The medium crayon was secondary to the work's conceptual content and value. It did not take me long to realise the true beauty of works with crayon," Knowles said.

"In order to build and reconstruct, I first deconstructed and manipulated the crayon from its original form. I love the idea of stripping an object of its importance and principle to create originality. Process became imperative to the creation of each piece. I cut, grated, crushed, melted, carved and glued the crayons to achieve the results I desired."  

"No Acrylics! No Oil"! fills the ground and first floors of Knowles' two-storey studio space. Those entering the gallery will be immediately arrested by "Papa", the huge portrait of her paternal grandfather, whom the family recently lost. Those who knew Conrad Knowles well will find it highly appropriate that he still functions as host of the event. Defined by an old world gentility and gracious speech, Conrad nevertheless dominated any gathering in which he found himself because of his always evident pride in being Bahamian, irrepressible good humour, wide knowledge and gift for telling a good story.

Also on this floor, many will be impressed by the evidence of the intense effort that would have gone into the creation of "Extravaganza" and "Nassau Grouper", but a close examination will lead to a greater appreciation for "Celebrate!" on the opposite wall. Here one begins to discern more painterly energy and deeper meaning.

On the floor above, Knowles mostly abandons the substance of crayons for sculpting and draws mostly on their colour in the manner of paint. In contrast to the ground-floor displays, these works depend more on standard figuration and, here, the artist's declared goal is to capture motion, rhythm and expression. The pieces that stand out from this lot are "Get Low" and "Pretty Brown Eyes", which best realise her intent. As with the pieces downstairs, here and there one can see areas that are still at the beginning of the artistic journey.  

As the old Bahamian aphorism says, "last man, best bone." We come now to the two small canvases that are, in this writer's opinion, the stars of the show. Like old money, the two "Hope for Haiti" paintings hang so quietly at the turn of the stairs onto the landing, they might, at first, be missed by those to whom the tour of an art exhibition is a contest of speed consumption rather than a sensual exploration to capture and savour nuances of line, texture, shading and feeling.

Ms Knowles said that the works are her reactions to images of earthquake-devastated Haiti and the plight of Haiti's children. With remarkable perceptiveness for one so young and full of life, Knowles saw not just loss in their faces, but incipient joy and hope. 

Kelley Knowles, with an almost hushed awe, has learned and acknowledges the mystical in the production of art, a marriage between the demands of good training, personal inspiration and skill and the inexpressible-the spiritual that steps in and lifts a work beyond the humdrum and sometimes speaks instantly to one's inner being. Maybe the "Hope for Haiti" works should be a little hidden away; their worth must be teased out and courted. Here are two shy but lovely maidens-not brazen, hotly-coloured hussies, whose easily attained wares as quickly pall and sometimes appall in the brave new world of contemporary art. 

Knowles notes: "The most intriguing part of working with the crayon was that each crayon determined the work's final result. It was impossible to control each crayon exactly the way I wanted. I realised I wasn't in control of the material; the only thing I was completely in control of was the content. I grew a love for the acceptance of imperfection in each piece. Distinctively individual, "No Acrylic! No Oil!" has opened a new chapter in my life." We believe that it has. We look forward to seeing this young Bahamian artist grow.
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A Classy Night at the Fort
2/2/2010 3:45:00 PM
Nassau, Bahamas - A classy night at the Fort: That’s what is in store for Nassauvians on Friday night, February 5th when the Bahamas Humane Society holds it’s B-Humane launch: “A Night with the Arts”, generously sponsored by the Swiss bank: Lombard Odier.