Each painting tells a story based on Jamaica’s churning entertainment industry. A fast paces fame machine fueled by controversy and raw ambition, it oversees dramatic triumphs and equally dramatic falls.
The Stylish Moves series is made up of paintings in acrylic and ink on paper depicting specific dances created by dancehall choreographer Latonya Style, who I have also collaborated with to create a series of how-to instructional booklets titled Stylish Moves.
American culture has always influenced the island of Jamaica, just as in turn Jamaican culture has influenced American culture, through fashion, dance styles and music. The Bulls Eye series of paintings explore the coming together of these two very different cultures through large scale romaticised cinema poster like images taking inspiration from vintage comic book imagery and dancehall culture.
Paying homage to stories told to me by my grandparents and parents about childhoods spent eagerly anticipating the arrival of the latest comic book imports from the US, the series references a short run comic from the 1950's titled Bulls Eye by comic artist team Simon and Kirby, the comic followed the adventures of a western sharp shooter who also went by the name Bulls Eye.
The Dancing Words series illustrates popular dances that have developed alongside the genre of Jamaican dancehall music. The images combine line drawings of repeated figures illustrating the moves and hand painted text giving the title of the dance.
Jamaican dance styles have been influencing pop culture since the introduction of skanking in late 50's when rocksteady and ska music came onto the scene. The emergence of dancehall in the late 70's followed suit with fast moving riddims and lyrical stylings that allowed dancers and choreographers to become an important part of the business of dancehall. The new style was led by Jamaica's god father of dance, Bogle. Soon artists like Elephant Man and Beenie Man were writing lyrics that introduced new dance moves. With almost every new tune there were new moves to perfect. Many of the dance moves like the bogle, willie bounce and dutty wine have crossed over to main stream pop culture around the world especially within the Hip Hop scene. Today Jamaican choreographers like Latonya Style and Kimiko Versatile and dance crews like black eagles and elite team to name but a few, continue to enrich the genre with their creativity.
Jamaica Project explores the way in which modern Jamaica expresses itself through its dancehall and party culture. The result is a combination of purely text-based work alongside sexually suggestive graphics inspired by imagery that surrounds the scene. The work shows a culture where women are highly sexualised within a very male dominated dancehall and party scene. An interesting commentary on the dichotomy of Jamaican women's place within society, which often sees women in roles of both breadwinner and sex object.
My painting style is directly inspired by the traditional Jamaican artisan skill of hand painted signage used in advertising. As you travel around the island there are hand painted signs on walls, bus shelters and entire sides of buildings with a variety of messages ranging from what goods you can buy at local stores and advertising for local businesses to directions and adverts for local go-go clubs. But, like everywhere else, with cheap production costs modern digitally produced advertisements are fast becoming the dominant form of written and visual communication. Enabling a transformation in the way the culture is shaping its messages and portraying itself to the world. My hand painted style is a homage to sign painting which may one day become a thing of the past.
Combining my technique with messages surrounding Jamaica’s party scene opens a dialogue between the fast paced world of the new and an often rose tinted version of the old. Jamaica’s dancehall scene which has come under fire in recent years for its inflammatory lyrics is an integral and often controversial part of Jamaican culture offering escapism and entertainment to a population that experiences hardship on a daily basis.