Our inaugural National Gallery West exhibition, “Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art”, opened as part of the Centre’s official opening function on July 11 2014. Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art was an abridged version of the acclaimed Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition which was shown at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston from December 22, 2013 to April 27, 2014.
Some of the art in this exhibition was intended as religious art by its makers and includes some of its main exponents – such as Kapo, Osmond Watson, Carl Abrahams and Everald Brown – but artists have also been drawn to the subjects of religion and spirituality from a more secular point of view, for instance as part of the search for iconic Jamaican subject matter. The exhibition also included examples of work that uses religious iconography as a metaphor to address other non-religious issues, whether personal or social. Given the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic roles of religions and spirituality in Jamaican history and life, it is indeed impossible to separate religious, spiritual and secular concerns and much of the art in this exhibition was deeply political, in that it questions and actively challenges racial hierarchies and power dynamics, including those that obtain in the dominant religions.
Other featured artists in this exhibition included Ebony G. Patterson, Edna Manley, Ralph Campbell, Albert Artwell and Eugene Hyde.