Elodie Cage-Smith: “Rising from Ashes”

By Philbert Gajadhar

“From Ashes We Rise” is the latest in the series of exhibitions from the University of Guyana’s Creative Arts Division located in the Department of Language and Cultural Studies. Philbert Gajadhar is a foremost national Guyanese artist and a lecturer at the University of Guyana. He is a former Head of Department. The exhibition opened at The National Gallery of Art, Castellani House, on May 28 and it continues until June 16, 2018.

Usually at this time of the year, after end-of-semester examinations—the lull after the storm—exhibitions from the University of Guyana (UG) come with a clash of palettes; who’s good, who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out. The buzz this time is over the experimental work done by young women artists and the fact that the University of Guyana is becoming the happening place for art that attempts to deal with the complexity and tensions of societies in transition.

If one were to point out some features that distinguish the works of contemporary Guyanese artists, one would mention the renewed interest in folk motifs and a certain self-consciousness about form and representation. The young artists in this exhibition are taking a new look at the very concept of abstraction, the essence of an object or a thought or a feeling; if it means an absence of figure, then it is an exploration of both a presence (which is not seen but felt) and an absence. Added to this is the element of self-scrutiny, a post-modernist accent as against a modernistic rigidity, a denial of the ulterior aim or virtue in art, and an abandonment that brings the student artists close to their individual ideas and thoughts.

Of the eight artists representing the University of Guyana, Elodie Cage-Smith, final-year student and our featured artist, stands apart both by her seniority and her choice of medium and themes. The others are younger, with Keeta Robertson, Chelsea Ramotar and Rayann Darrel in their third year of studies; Keisha Beharry and Alvina Naughton in their second year and Shaquana Cummings and Akeena Mendonca in their first year…..