So high was the quality of artwork submitted to the Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition (GVACE) that the judges required an extra day to decide on the winners, Chairman of the organizing committee Alim Hosein has said.
The GVACE is a biennial event organized by the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture, Youth and Sport and is said to have replaced the National Exhibition of Visual Arts which had a long history in Guyana before it ran aground sometime in the 1994.
Chairman of the organizing committee Alim Hosein in a recent interview with Stabroek News explained that before the introduction of the GVACE in 2012, Guyana had been without a National Art Competition for almost 20 years.
Offering insight on the 2017 edition of the GVACE, the chairman reported that 216 entries were received from 92 local artists, all of whom represented different spectrums of Guyanese society
These entries were made for the categories of painting, drawing, ceramics, fine craft, sculpting and photography.
“We had 92 artists entering this year’s competition; imagine in a small country like Guyana we had 92 persons and these are housewives, farmers, fishermen, computer technicians, teachers, data management people all spectrums of society creating art,” Hosein related.
Interestingly enough, he reported that of the 92 persons who entered the competition, more than a quarter of that total had been persons 25 years and younger, most of whom also happened to be women.
“We have different representations of art; we have traditional kinds of work to modernistic kinds of work which again opens so many boundaries,” the chairman added.
Also worth mentioning was the fact that this year’s competition was the last for renowned Guyanese artist Stanley Greaves, who at the age of 80, won first prize in the painting category for his piece “Rupununi Agates”; he is also one of the oldest participants in this year’s competition.
“Stanley has been creating art since the 1930s and so I believe that it goes without saying that this competition features people from different aspects of Guyanese art. Another veteran to have participated in this year’s competition was Ras Iah who is one of the pavement artists; so you see we feature artists from the pavement right down to the likes of Stanley Greaves; from young people from to old people; from Port Kaituma to Crabwood Creek,” Hosein said.
The chairman said he has seen an improvement in the quality of work produced by artists as well as their presentation of their pieces. “Out of the 216 pieces we received, it is amazing to note that only two of that total number did not meet the required criteria to be considered for the competition,” he added.
Further, Hosein said, it was refreshing to see artists continuing to experiment with new mediums as was the case of Shimuel Jones, who used screws to create a sculpture of President David Granger which he named “Chronicles of H E David Granger,” as well Michael Khan who won first prize in the Fine craft category for his piece “Rumination III- Green Initiative.”
But while this year’s entries suggest that not much sculpture was done, Hossein said he found that artists are now trying to understand and experiment with fine craft as well as paintings especially since the latter portrayed more modernistic artwork.
He was also very happy to report that a number of “powerful” pieces had been submitted for consideration in the Photography category, where Nikhil Ramkarran was awarded first prize.
“We see the competition as part of national development, as part of nationhood; we don’t see it as just a competition to recognise artists,” Hosein added.
Other notable entries were Campton Bobb who claimed first place in the drawing category with his photorealistic drawing titled “An Orphan’s Dream”, Oswald Hussein with his first place sculpted piece “Silence” and Vandyke David for his winning ceramic piece, “The Egyptian Pot.”
Walking away with this year’s promise award were Jeramana De Freitas and Laron Gulliver.
“It was really a serious consideration of work done by the judges… The two Trinidadian judges were especially impressed with the work that they saw,” the chairman said, before noting that the quality of work was of such a high standard that the panel had requested an additional day to make their final decision.
In addition to the competition and exhibition, there were also several developmental workshops and public lectures that featured international artists including Bernadette Persaud who had been inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame for Excellence 2012.
Cash prizes of $500,000, $300,000 and $200,000 were awarded for the first, second and third places in each category as well as, gold, silver and bronze medals; the winners of the Promise Award also received $200,000 plus a bronze medal each.
Judging was done by a panel which included Trinidad artists Kenwyn Critchlow and Anna Serrao and three locals, over a period of four days before winners were determined.
The exhibition, which will run until August 19, is open to the public and features art work on all floors of the National Art Gallery at Castellani House.