As if the first WhoOosh!! Art Exhibition in 2018 did not amaze the public enough, the Waitukubuli Artist Association (WAA) conjures yet again, a feeling of nostalgia through WhoOosh!! 2. The event features 24 artists, among them guests from Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Germany. Since the usual art gallery venues remain limited in their operations WhoOosh!! 2 took the form of an online exhibit.
What better way to start the new year than with a digital amble around a once-coveted national treasure now adorned with artwork? And – from the comfort of your own home.
The venue, the remains of a hurricane-ravaged Anglican Church, set the perfect scene for the exhibition’s theme – Hurricane. A theme that provides an opportunity for artists to give a fresh spin on a topic usually associated with pain and loss. WAA did a fine job of explaining the significance of the venue as well. At the very beginning, viewers have the option of learning more about the cultural value of the Anglican Church from Marica Honychurch – an artist and head of the Society for Heritage Architectural Preservation and Enhancement (SHAPE). The artist, though brief, expertly combs through centuries of the church’s existence while pointing out the key, noteworthy moments. It was a unique touch. And I hope for future art exhibits (virtual or otherwise) that this will be a constant feature.
The ruins provide a steady stream of stimulation. The fresh vegetation, for one, pushing through the rubble of what was once a cornerstone of Dominica’s identity, is a stark reminder of the possibility of new beginnings in the midst of, and after a catastrophe. It is also the motivation behind many pieces including Maria Rewired by Carol Sorhaindo – a Dominican artist whose work is deeply inspired by nature. “The fact that the growth [of plants] took over a lot of the damaged buildings was part of the inspiration,” she confirmed.
The experience is immersive and is both emotional and spiritual. Though sometimes tricky to navigate, the entire thing feels real and admittedly better than anticipated. Viewers can steer their way around paintings, photographs, and sculptures while listening to ‘live’ classical music.
The lead creative behind the design is Michael Lees – a photographer and videographer popularly known for his documentary on Hurricane Maria – Uncivilized. His involvement from inception to coordination and finally execution aided greatly in the quality of the virtual experience. On top of that, he is also a participant in the novel virtual exhibit.
Interestingly, a fair share of his displayed photography series, “Moving Back, Looking Forward”, was shot at the Anglican Church. The series includes a moving piece – a thought-provoking union of the past and present – unorthodox yet familiar.
There is much to set eyes on. It was exciting to see work by Alwin Bully – a cultural icon and a creative force to be reckoned with. Yaena Eugene – a self-taught jeweller and sculptor provided some unique pieces that showed her growth as an artist over the years.
For “the first WhoOosh!!, my work was mostly jewellery-based,” she explained, when asked about her contributions. “And I submitted one sculpted piece which was a mask. This time around I did another mask. However, I think my technique has improved and my work is better constructed”. Eugene also created a paper-maché piece of a woman’s torso – something we haven’t seen from her before. As a sculptor, she admitted she was a bit concerned as to how her 3-dimensional piece would be displayed virtually. However, the versatility of the 360° video shots made it easy to view the piece from various angles.
Another intriguing contribution was a collaboration from SHOA (Sarama Rolle, Hilroy Fingal, OMtNI, and Anthea Robinson). The artwork quite literally illuminates aspects of life after Maria. This 4-part piece painted on wood forms one synchronized piece of the aftermath of the hurricane.
OMtNI explained that the piece was done on wood because Ultra-Violet (UV) paint appears much better when it is layered on wood as opposed to canvas. This is what creates the indigo glows only noticeable using the night mode feature of the virtual experience. Another must-view in night mode is The Hurricane is in the house by Sandra Vivas – a shadow play depicting her experience during the passage of Maria.
Time from Marica Honychurch’s Standing Chaos Series is something else worthy of anyone’s attention. Close attentiveness is needed to find Kamikaze, an aircraft sculpted by Keard George, one of the youngest members of WAA. This piece hoovers over the ground inside the church as if it were on the verge of landing. George said that the piece, which means “divine or spiritual wind”, was an experiment with the bamboo and newspaper technique which turned out to be challenging yet fun, with great success. If you have the time, do not leave without absorbing the details of Invasion from the Resilience Series 1 by Anthea Robinson or What about us by Susanne ‘SUS’ Heitz.
WhoOoSh!!2 is available to view online until 23 January 2021. Visit KubuliArts for more.