The National Collection

This month, Artists Stanley Greaves AA and Akima McPherson refer to their Conversations on Art, which will come to a close with the 24th installation next month.

Stanley Greaves: It has been an interesting exercise so far commenting on works from the National Collection. For me it was like visiting longtime friends. One can only hope that commenting on the works will have encouraged viewers to make more use of the Collection as well as in visiting exhibitions and attending talks by artists. Visits by schools should be encouraged, and having someone knowledgeable to engage with students would be one way of creating more understanding about what  artists are about and providing support later on.

National Art Gallery, Castellani House

Akima McPherson: The exercise has been interesting.  I’ve had a chance to revisit favourites and been challenged to look more closely at works that were not within that category to see and speak to merit. It’s easy to look at a work and quickly make a judgement of ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ but when you’ve got to find something unbiased to say – at the very least so as not to negatively influence another, looking becomes a very different experience. Ultimately, I wanted my comments to cause folks to have enriched experiences with the works. Like you, I hoped more would engage with the National Collection.  I admit I also wanted people to realise that art comes from thoughtful individuals and that one could have thoughtful engagement with artwork. I think too often, and I suspect you will say this is due to education, people speak of art and craft as in the same category and thus art gets devalued as being imagery to excite the eye and no more. Consequently, when the artwork’s aims are beyond exciting the eye their messages fight for audiences and engagement and against being reduced.

SG: I do share your sentiments especially regarding the absence of the boundaries between art and craft. Craft has unchanging traditions where art is an activity of exploration. I did suggest the formation of a category “fine craft” for those working beyond traditional ways of working. This does not in any way deny that fine technical execution applies to both. Visual education is a term I use to describe what should be taught in schools and other institutions because the advent of electronic equipment makes use of a lot of visuals in various forms from graphs, symbols, images of all sorts. At a public lecture I once stressed the primacy of the eye in the development of the mind. An educated eye will allow us to more appreciate the wonders of nature as well as manmade structures and objects.

AM: In terms of Visual Education distinctions need to be made between ‘art’ and ‘craft’ and ‘fine craft’ makes sense. Additionally, in that context the following questions should be explored: What is art? Who is the artist? What do the terms ‘art’ and ‘arts’ refer to? Artist vs artiste? The evolution of the modern concept of art. And these can be explored with depth relevant to the age of students from Caribbean Examinations Council level to university. I’m happy to say the University of Guyana (UG) has such a course exploring these and more substantial ideas like values of art/the arts from the perspectives of Plato and Aristotle and Tolstoy. Majors at UG also spend a year exploring modes of interpretation ranging from Formalism to Feminist art criticism to Marxist art criticism. This is the type of content we should also be getting out of Castellani House.

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