Alim Hosein is an artist, a linguist, a literary and art critic. He is Dean of the School of Education and Humanities at the University of Guyana; Chairman of the GVACE Committee and a member of the Guyana Prize for Literature Management Committee.
By Alim Hosein
The Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition (GVACE) enjoyed a highly successful inauguration in 2012 with one of the largest art competitive exhibitions seen in Guyana. The competition was launched in July 2012 by President Donald Ramotar, after many years without a national art competition in Guyana. Before the GVACE, the National Exhibition of the Visual Arts had been held for many years until it began to encounter difficulties in the 1990s and eventually ceased after many fits and starts, in 1994.
It was some surprise, therefore, that the first GVACE in 2012 attracted 204 pieces. These were mostly in painting (65 entries), drawing (30 entries) and sculpture (33 entries), which have long been the strong areas of interest among Guyanese artists. However, the new category of photography also attracted a healthy number of entries – 52. Textiles and Ceramics did poorly, with 8 and 16 entries respectively.
The GVACE is run on a biennial basis, therefore the next competition is due at the end of this year, 2014. Artists can submit artwork that was produced since the end of the last competition in 2012 – that is, artwork produced between November 24, 2012 and November 13, 2014. This has given artists two years to produce work to submit to this year’s GVACE.
Entries for the 2014 competition will close at 3pm on November 13, 2014. Entries must be submitted to the E R Burrowes School of Art, Carifesta Avenue.
The Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition is open to all artists who are sixteen years and older and who are Guyanese by birth or naturalisation. Of course, proof of citizenship will be required.
The GVACE 2014 will again be judged in six categories, but one important difference this year is that there will be a new category called Fine Craft, while the Textile category will not be offered. The category of Fine Craft seeks to involve those artists who are not traditional painters, sculptors, etc, but who create exceptionally fine work in other media and styles, including mixed media work. By doing this, the organisers are seeking to open the competition to non-traditional artists. By naming the category Fine Craft rather than just Craft, we are trying to signal that a high degree of originality and execution is expected of the entries in this category.
On the other hand, artists will continue to have the opportunity of submitting up to three pieces overall, either in one category or in different categories – eg, two paintings and one piece of sculpture; or three paintings; or any combination of three pieces of work. Those who wish to can submit one piece alone.
The 2012 competition was interesting for the range of artists who entered. While the established artists turned out in force, there were a large number of young and unknown artists. Secondly, these artists came from a wide cross-section of Guyana, including both males and females, many young persons, persons from different regions of Guyana and from different occupations – including prisoners from the Lusignan prison. The works of all of these artists were given due consideration by the organisers and judges.
The list of eventual winners also showed that the established artists did not sweep the field, but that lesser-known artists such as Michael Griffith, Paloma Bristol, Sharon Ramkarran, Nikhil Ramkarran, Akima McPherson and Aneeza Coelho also won the top prizes in their categories.
The organisers also plan to continue the special events surrounding the exhibition. There will be workshops and master-classes for artists, while the public is invited to the Awards Ceremony, public lectures, and of course, the exhibition.
The 2014 GVACE will present a generous array of prizes which includes substantial cash awards. Awards will be given for the first, second and third prizes in each of the six categories. The first prize is worth G$500,000 and a gold medal; the second prize, $300,000 and a silver medal, and the third prize $200,000 and a bronze medal. There will also be the Promise Award for an upcoming young artist (25 years or younger) which carries prize money of G$200,000 and a gold medal. The judges will also be free, if they wish, to give the Judges’ Special Award which is worth $200,000 and a silver medal.
But apart from the prize money, what about those who do not win? The GVACE ensures that all artists are given publicity and have their work permanently recorded in a special Commemorative Catalogue. This catalogue will contain pictures of the entries, and also pictures and a short biographical note on each artist.
We therefore ask all artists to submit two good passport-sized photos, and to fill out some simple forms which ask for information about themselves, their artwork and their backgrounds. These pictures and information will also be used to build a database of Guyanese artists.
These forms may be obtained from the E R Burrowes School of Art, Carifesta Avenue or the Special Projects Unit, Mash Secretariat, Middle Street, Georgetown. Persons in the outlying regions can obtain copies from the Regional Youth Officers in their regions. Entries must be accompanied by these forms.
To make access even easier, copies can also be downloaded from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport’s website, www.mcys.gov.gy. These forms are currently available. The rules of the competition can also be obtained from these sources.
The 2012 GVACE was a resounding success. Apart from the panel of five judges from Guyana and overseas and the large exhibition (which was so large that it was spread across two venues), it also included various educational activities for local artists, including workshops and master classes. There was also a fine Awards Ceremony, the production of a commemorative catalogue, and a special feature to honour the great artist Philip Moore. In addition, all of this was achieved with a good degree of credibility which is necessary for the future development of the competition.
It remains to be seen if the momentum will be sustained in 2014.