New gallery seeks to nurture artists, audience

One of the pieces on display in the ongoing exhibition at the Oxygen Art gallery, which was recently opened by artist Michael Griffith to shine a light on local artists. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

When the Oxygen Art gallery opened its doors to the public at the start of the month, it was the culmination of artist Michael Griffith’s desire to showcase his work. However, Griffith intends for the space to be much more as he hopes it will serve to both encourage local artists as well as the appreciation for their work by the Guyanese society.

“The genesis came from me not wanting to be the person who did work and just have it put down; art should be on display. I wanted to work and I wanted to produce what complimented it best… a space where I can showcase my work,” he told Sunday Stabroek.

Working with an investment of almost $1 million since February, he has now made his vision a reality at 44 Industry Front, East Coast Demerara.

Griffith, 32, is a husband and father of three who chooses to describe himself as also being a “work in progress.” He is also a 2010 graduate of the E.R Burrowes School of Art, who holds a Certificate in Painting and Drawing.

Stressing the importance of art, Griffith expressed hope that this venture inspires other artists to take risks, and that in the years to come the space is expanded and becomes synonymous with Guyanese art. “It will be a vital part not just to adults but to children and their understanding of what art is and the importance of art in our society. [The] Guyanese public need to be aware that art is not something that only the upper class can enjoy or find an escape in,” he said.

“The objective is to put forward art in a context that it is not usually seen in; it will be a mixture of visual arts, literary arts, all kinds of art,” he said, before sharing his interest in collaborating with other artists to achieve just that.

At present, there are a total of 30 pieces belonging to Griffith and seven other artists—Christina Izbaşa, Aelisha Garnett-Williams, Sandra Laroque, Chelsea Ramotar, Karen Budram, Rehanna Marks and Keisha Beharry.

The pieces, Griffith explained, form part of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, which is being held under the theme, “Creating a place for art in Guyanese Society.” The exhibition is expected to run until September 15th.

He noted too that if all goes well, he hopes to have another exhibition up and running in the coming month. Towards this end, he has since met artists who have indicated their interest in collaborating.

Commenting on the response thus far, Griffith described it as being “fairly satisfying.”

“I didn’t expect a set of people to just come and rush it but I have a lot of people who have contacted me concerning location; apart from the opening night, we’ve had about nine to 13 persons coming… The main objective right now is to put the location out there,” he said.

Detailing the story behind the name of the gallery, Griffith said it came to him one morning while he was meditating.

“The name up until I left university was ‘Portraits and More’ and I was getting into the whole spirituality thing and one morning while I was meditating for some reason the name just kept coming back to me. I found it to be a distraction. I kept thinking about it during the day, about how important oxygen is and how important art is and I kept drawing all of these comparisons and by the end of the day I was convinced that Oxygen Art was going to be the name,” he explained.

Meanwhile, in response to the question of whether he thinks the gallery will be sustainable, the artist said, “If by no other means, I will maintain and sustain it. I don’t see any other option for me in terms of career paths, so if not for anybody else, it will be sustained for me.”

The gallery is open from 2 pm to 8 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. Admission is free.

For more information, persons can visit Oxygen Art’s Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/ MichaelGriffithsArt/  or contact Griffith via email at michaelgriffithsart @yahoo.com  or telephone number  +592  691-5356.

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