Curator's Eye II

Many definitions of 'Jamaican art' have been proposed, but it seems to me that whatever might be 'Jamaican' about Jamaican art is, ultimately, undefinable. (In the same way, incidentally, that whatever might be 'Caribbean' about Caribbean art is similarly undefinable.) Given the difficulty, the impossibility of defining Jamaican art, I choose instead to refer to art in Jamaica. And given the fluidity and the elasticity of art practice in Jamaica, to speak of 'Jamaican art' is to unintentionally perhaps downplay the complexities of the island's artistic traditions. Jamaica plays host, for longer or shorter periods of time, to artists born and raised elsewhere, who have chosen to make Jamaica their temporary or permanent home. Likewise, countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States play host ­ again, for longer or shorter periods of time ­ to artists born in Jamaica and artists of Jamaican parentage. Given the seemingly perpetual and multiple movements of people both into and out of the country, it seems to me that Jamaica's artistic product is far too indelibly international and far too fluid in its migratory impulses to be prefixed with something suggestive of well-defined, monolithic, and universally accepted national characteristics. The term 'Jamaican art' suggests a checklist of national definitions that are generally agreed and uncontested. But no such checklist credibly exists. So I choose therefore to refer to 'art in Jamaica', in the belief ­ in the hope even ­ that the term better accommodates the diversity, the fluidity, and the contradictions of the island's artistic traditions.

...Perhaps the single most recognisable touchstone for a number of these artists is the memory of slavery. There are those who might regard slavery as something from the dim and distant past, but for many Black people the world over, and many artists in Jamaica, the experience seared itself on the psyche in a way that few non-Black people could understand or even comprehend…

The above extracts are taken from the exhibition catalogue by Eddie Chambers for: Curator's Eye II Identity & History: Personal and Social Narratives in Art in Jamaica, December 11 2005 - ­ March 18 2006, National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston