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An expression of history through ‘Other Lives’

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Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation, Carol Roberts-Reifer (l) and Ambassador of the Argentine Republic to Barbados, Gustavo Pandiani (c) in conversation with the artist Nick Whittle about the piece Ancestors (2017)

Way beyond the purist discussion of technique, texture, theme and talent there is a conversation, a moment of reflection and a lesson in the exploration of self that is how Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), Mrs. Carol Roberts-Reifer described the effect of Other Lives on those who will walk through the doors of the exhibition.  There is a visceral connection to the artist, the work, its intent and impact on the viewing audience, she added.  Other Lives, is an exhibition of work by Nick Whittle, opened at the Queen’s Park Gallery last Sunday, January 13, 2019.

Mrs. Roberts-Reifer expressed honour and delight at being invited to deliver the feature address at this opening event, not simply because of her role as CEO but as an ardent but quiet fan of art and as someone who has a vast collection of Whittle works.

Alberta Whittle reading the Kamau Brathwaite tribute

“I am generally fascinated by those who possess talent so great and deep and accomplished that they get to express themselves in their chosen art form. Visual artists, dancers, musicians – all artists, artistes and artisans really – I envy them silently – the closest I’ve come to playing anything is playing the radio…,” Roberts-Reifer quipped.

Nick is skilled at making us pause and think and sometimes even feel a bit uncomfortable or on edge through his work, because he has dared to express himself, he has dared to take on a topic and say, state, express, what we wish we had the fearlessness to do. His latest exhibition, the CEO added, fell perfectly into the schematic of his previous showings.  History meets a perennial hot topic, meets passion and emotion, meets a jolt to the senses and intellect, all soothed by the generosity of the host – the artist.

Four Women at Three Houses Spring (for Edna), piece created by Nick for his mother-in-law seen taking a close look at the final masterpiece

The history of slavery is carefully laid bare before us in ‘Other Lives’ through a series of poignant yet stark juxtapositions: pain and prosperity; peril and purpose; black and white; confinement and space; our past and our present; trauma and triumph – it is all movingly captured in the gallery space.

In her address, NCF CEO Roberts-Reifer walked those in attendance through a few of the dominant, probing themes in the exhibition that challenged her to take a look at our story, the bitter topic of slavery and like her, to envision a soothing of the soul and the promise of peace.

She invited the audience and those coming to view the exhibition over the next few weeks, to insert their own thoughts and interpretations expressed in the form of questions, and to commit to finding their own answers as they engage with the themes and truths in the Exhibition – Other Lives.

Evidence (2018) is a provocation into understanding the historical and ongoing ramifications of gender-based violence

To view it just as art for art’s sake or for purely aesthetic pleasure is to do the artist and you, his audience, a great disservice, the CEO concluded.

Nick Whittle is the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for most Original Work, NIFCA 2018. He is a Caribbean Master, CARIFESTA XIII Barbados 2017; he was awarded a Frank Collymore Literary Award for poetry and is co-author of ‘Art in Barbados: What Kind of Mirror Image.’  Nick was also a member of the National Art Gallery Committee between 1998 and 2008, the former Head of Fine Arts at Queen’s College and past President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union.

The Exhibition – Other Lives, is open until February 28th at the Queen’s Park Gallery from Tuesday to Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

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