The Guyana Visual Arts Competition has made a good start

By Alim Hosein

Alim Hosein is a linguist, lecturing in the Department of Language and Cultural Studies in the School of Education and Humanities at the University of Guyana.  He is a critic of literature and the fine arts, a commentator on cultural studies and an artist who has produced paintings and published drawings.  He has served as Head of the academic department at UG and in many other capacities at a national level, including at  Carifesta, the Inter-Guianas Cultural Festival, the National Drama Festival and The Guyana Prize for Literature.

The Guyana Visual Arts Competition is a new event, but is a resurrection of the National Exhibition of the Visual Arts which ceased nearly two decades ago.  This is also an expansion and a development of the nature and scope of that event, which was primarily an exhibition since there was only one prize, competed for by painters and sculptors alike.

By the time you read this, the judging process in the first Guyana Visual Arts Competition (GVAC) would already be underway. The judges have three days to complete their task, so the process will be completed early in the coming week. Five judges, two from overseas – one is a Guyanese – are judging the entries received.

The judges will have a huge task since the competition, which was launched at the end of July this year, has received a healthy response, with over two hundred entries coming in.

Entries have been received from various parts of Demerara, from Berbice up to the Corentyne, from Linden and from Essequibo.

Similarly, there is a good age spread among the entrants, from the cut-off age of 16 years to age 75. And both male and female artists have entered pieces.

While the designers of the competition had allowed artists to submit work that they had done up to five years ago, many of the entries show recent dates. The competition has six categories of entry – painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, photography and textiles – and entries were received in all of the categories.

After the judging, an awards ceremony will be held on December 14 at the National Cultural Centre from 7 pm. The public is invited to this event at which the prize winners will be revealed.

After the awards ceremony, the entries will open for public viewing at Castellani House (in collaboration with the Board of Castellani House) and the Guyana National Museum (in collaboration with the management of the National Museum) from December 15 until December 31. Because of the large number of entries received, two separate exhibition spaces had to be used.

A special feature of the awards ceremony will be the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of one of Guyana’s outstanding artists.

Another special feature of the competition is the public lecture which will be given on Wednesday, December 12 at 5 pm at the Umana Yana. The theme is ‘The Jury Is Out: Problems in Interpreting Caribbean Art‘ and it will be given by Ms Therese Hadchity, distinguished Barbadian Art Curator, Critic and Cultural Researcher. The public is also invited to this event.

The competition has exceeded its committee’s expectations by attracting over 200 pieces, including entries from most of Guyana’s top artists, and it would be difficult to pick the winners.

Well-known local artists such as Winslow Craig, George Simon, Gary Thomas, Carl Anderson have all entered works, but there are also many newcomers and other artists who have also submitted excellent pieces that will give the more established artists a stern challenge.

This is a very good start, at least as far as numbers go. Apart from the alternating watercolour and drawing competitions mounted by Castellani House, Guyana has had no national exhibitions of artwork of this magnitude since the end of the National Exhibition of the Visual Arts in 1994.
The GVACE, by assembling such a large and varied body of artwork, will also provide a good picture of the state of Guyana’s art.

Some persons believe that Guyana’s art is still rooted in traditional painting and the free-form sculpture of the 1980s, while others argue that progressive moves have been made over recent years. It is also felt that these two arts – painting and sculpture – are the dominant arts in Guyana.

One good result of pushing the entry cut-off back five years is that it allows a better historical perspective to track the development of art in Guyana and provide answers to such questions.

With the number of entries and the quality, the mounting of the exhibition, and the public events, the Guyana Visual Arts Competition has made a good start which it will be looking to build on in the coming years.

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