Tag Archives: Contemporary Caribbean Art

GA GARDNER, GETTHRU in The Guardian Trinidad & Tobago

1 Sep

Helping T&T artists GETTHRU

Sunday, August 30, 2015
Curator and artist GA Gardner with artworks by Sarah Knights of T&T, Behzad Mahmoudpour of Iran, Judith Ganz of Germany and Beata Obst of Poland. Images courtesy Getthru.org

Lisa Allen-Agostini interviews T&T artist GA Gardner about his Internet-based arts collective GETTHRU

Q: Tell me about the name GETTHRU. Is it what it sounds like in T&T parlance?
A: “Get thru” is a really commonly used local term here in T&T, but I wanted to narrow this meaning and focus on art. How can one “get thru” via the arts? What are the options for a broader dialog? I wanted to play on this common term and define it in the context of fine arts. When I came back home a few years ago, after over 25 years working in the US, as a professor, artist, book publisher and educational consultant, I brought with me a commitment to art education, especially focused on contemporary art.

I wanted to continue to use art as a tool that can help educate and bridge economic gaps. I wanted to be involved with art activism in countries often under-serviced on the international stage, when it comes to art.  So I founded GETTHRU, a T&T-based non-profit arts organisation.

This organisation creates projects that serve to educate cultures through the arts. It uses art as a teaching tool. The organisation’s first project Thru Contemporary, for example, houses and maintains a permanent juried collection of contemporary fine arts. This project is a collaboration of global artists, writers and curators.

Our mission is to acquire and promote the artworks of prominent contemporary artists from all over the world and share their works with communities who often don’t get a variety of international contemporary art on their home soil. We provide access to these works and create programmes to educate and inform about the collection and its relationship to the local cultures.

In addition we are interested in publishing materials and reaching out to general communities. Through exhibitions we make the collection available to the general public and we are constantly building relationships with galleries, museums and arts spaces around the world to exhibit various complements of this growing collection.

Who are the T&T artists involved in the project and who does what in its organisational structure?
We are constantly reviewing works from artists who submit pieces from around the world, but I must admit that most of the artists I have been following for years, so it was not difficult to begin this selection process. As an artist, I have donated works to the organisation. Additionally we have works from other locals, Adele Todd and Sarah Knights.

We are open to new relationships with established and upcoming artists. I was at a local furniture store on the Avenue and while testing out a chair I looked up and saw the work of Sarah Knights. I liked her work at first sight and two days later was at her home to see more of her art. In the case of Adele Todd I had known her and followed her work for years.  It varies.  These local artists are included in the permanent collection, but are generally not involved in the management of the organisation.

What are the benefits of working as an arts collective, especially in the way you’ve set up GETTHRU as an online collective?
The benefit is access. By working together we are able to move together as one, we are unified in a central belief about art and its importance in influencing cultural and social change. Together the group is stronger. With this strength we have greater access to exhibition spaces globally, as well as funding and possibilities to educate through the arts.

Most of the works in the collection are represented by galleries and are well established but this effort does not take away from the access they have already created with their audience. It simply extends the reach of their message while providing examples that can serve to broaden the definition of art to viewers.

What are some of the goals you have for the organisation? And have you achieved any of them so far?
Beyond the goal to educate through the arts, I would like to be able to work more with local contemporary artists and to continue to build a collection that shakes up the mind of even the most creative person and challenges them to do more and take risks with their art. I would also like to do more in the way of publishing books and catalogs about the collection and do more outreach with the art schools here and abroad.

In addition, I’d like to create more programmes to teach contemporary forms of art in underserved communities. We are also open to partnering with businesses and other organisations to expand our reach and fulfill our mission.

We are on our way. About six months ago we got started with the first ongoing project, Thru Contemporary Arts. Today we have exhibited in Germany, St Croix, and here in T&T, with future exhibitions planned for France and the USA. Our collection is very diverse in medium, from photography to paintings and mixed media. We have contemporary artworks from France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Poland, Hong Kong, Iran and T&T.

What are your thoughts on the T&T contemporary arts scene? Who have you been watching—both in and out of your collective?
We are very talented here in T&T and setting our sights on contemporary art will help to enrich that area. Currently there are only a few collectors that are interested and few national grants available, so there are limited ways for the artists to make a living locally in the contemporary art scene.

Contemporary artists in other countries are often subsidised by the government through grants or stipends. In Berlin, Germany, for an example, contemporary artists survive on art grants and seldom create works for sale to the general public. This art is used to inform and educate or simply to create an experience for the public.

There are galleries and art spaces in T&T that are trying to promote and educate about the depth of contemporary art but without government interest or with limited access to grants, art collectors will determine the success of this movement in T&T and around the world.

More info


GA GARDNER’s artwork featured in Moko – Caribbean Arts and Letters

28 Aug

Issue 6 – July 2015

Cover art by Lucien Downes

From April 29 to May 3, Moko had the pleasure of attending the Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. It was an excellent opportunity to come face to face with several of the writers we have been fortunate enough to feature, but it was also exciting to talk to many new writers who we hope to publish in the future. We sincerely believe that our mission is a necessary one given the few spaces that our region’s writers and artists can truly call their own. That belief was reinforced by the numerous submissions we received for our sixth issue, our largest presentation to date.

In Moko Issue 6, Cuban painter Carlos Estevez shares with us “Plenilunio,” an arresting series of works that call to mind both da Vinci’s sketches and the gnosticism of Jorge Luis Borges’s fictions. GA Gardner of Trinidad uses his most recent collages to reconcile the universal aims of abstraction with his interest in exploring cultural identity.

Moko veteran Loretta Collins Klobah shares with us two more poems that weave together themes of love, humor and resistance. Brad Walrond and Jon Euwema both reach for the narrative epic in their lengthy poems, touching on themes of family, migration, loss, politics, and history. Victoria Brown’s memorable vignette of a Trinidadian school-day is sharpened by her sense for character and setting. Puerto Rican writer Lizbette Ocasio-Russe’s story-telling is marked by a sense of fluidity despite its episodic nature, and is told with a similar multi-lingual dexterity.

We are also pleased to feature Sharif El Gammal-Ortiz’s review of the recent documentary Poetry is an Island, creative non-fiction by Danielle Bainbridge, and a brief interview with British Virgin Islands artist Aragorn Dick-Read, who shares both the philosophy behind his striking metalwork as well as some hints regarding his next major project.

And some great news! Moko Co-Founder Richard Georges had the honour of being a finalist for the Hollick Arvon Prize this year! We have been awestruck by the poetry of the other finalists – especially Elliot Bastien, Shivanee Ramlochan, and the very deserving winner Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, who we had the privilege of publishing in our very first issue. For now, we will content ourselves with anticipating first books by all the finalists! Speaking of first books, the young and effervescent Vladimir Lucien and his debut Sounding Ground has been a revelation, and the OCM Bocas judges felt similarly. Congratulations to all.

This labour of love continues to reward us and we hope Moko continues to bring some joy to you all. We remain open for submissions, and are pleased to announce that we will be welcoming two special guest editors for our next issue. A call for submissions for Issue 7 with more details will be posted next month.

– Richard and David.


Visual Art

Paintings by Carlos Estevez

“The moon not only brings about an essential cycle in our existence, but it also illuminates the deep corners of our minds. I hope to share my illuminated vision of life during a recent, particularly prolific period of my career.”

Collages by GA Gardner

“The result is now an explosion of information that is woven together by cultural lines and tells a story about how a group of people are identified, ignored, or celebrated in the media.”

Textiles by Aurora Molina

“Aurora Molina’s works are concerned with the objectivity of woman, presenting women as icons.  Her current work explores the passing of time and aging, and the great deal of importance celebrities play in our everyday life.”

Paintings by Niarus Walker

“The more I work on the series, the more the pieces take on a spiritual connotation as I delve deeper in to the media and the possibilities of meaning. How can a rusty piece of machinery become a spiritual symbol?”

GA GARDNER interviewed on cultural identity in ART: Jamaica

21 Oct

art jamaica logo

What does Cultural Identity have to do with Abstraction?

Saturday, October 18, 2014


GA Gardner, So You, 65"x42", mixed media on mylar

GA Gardner, So You, 65″x42″, mixed media on mylar


GA Gardner has recently returned to more regular artistic practice in Trinidad after years living and working in the U.S and launched a public project on Facebook called GetThru.org which functions as an artists think tank. He has also recently opened a show in Washington D.C. His work rests on the thin line between abstraction and reality or abstracted realities and has been described as a ‘cacophony of messages’ and information derived from mass media. He speaks with us about this work and its link to culture identity.

Art:Jamaica: The last time we spoke about your work you were making these collages which cut up source images and reformed them into figures in spaces. How have you made this transition to this newer work? 

GA: This has not been a huge transition in the work; the mission and objective are the same. The pieces you are referring to were simply a more surreal approach to the same discussion and this body of work is more of an abstract approach. I have always looked at cultural identity in my work and it continues, but I wanted to speak to a larger audience – not be so specific – and I believe that abstract work has been the answer to this. I am able to discuss colors, lines, culture and contemporary materials without the limitations of figure and form. I can now approach my art in a more conceptual manner.  The result is now an explosion of information that is woven together by cultural lines and tells a story about how a group of people are identified, ignored, or celebrated in the media.  I continue to recycle what I and others can’t make use of in our daily lives. I often take the opportunity to use this material as the foundation for my exploration of color and texture. I love to see how random images can come together and tell a story of a particular time in history and how I can manipulate them to tell my story.  I am trying to find myself in the colors and content to re-purpose the materials and to find a way to discuss topics as passionately as the media publishers’ materials are intent on doing. 

Art:Jamaica: Your work draws these boundaries between abstraction and representation. What is your take on straddling this line? Can they both exist in the same space? 

GA: Yes, they can and they often do.  I went through a period where I was doing more representational work; I have not always been doing abstract.  Now I am focusing on abstracts, but that does not mean that I won’t do some more representational work in the future.  I don’t go with my feelings, I go with the message, then I decide on the medium and approach. I am passionate about color and the deconstruction of color–about lines and the complexity of patterns – and about the randomness of it all.  I can accomplish this best with an abstract approach.  Most of want I do is made real to viewers as it takes on familiar forms.  When you see a piece like “so you” for an example, you see things that are familiar, like the weave patterns that are the basis of most woven craft, or the colors that remind you of the Caribbean. If you see this in the work, it then becomes real to you and less abstract.  The randomness of the underlying media material plays second fiddle to the bold colors and geometric woven like patterns.  This is when I am able to blur the lines between representation and abstraction.

GA GARDNER, "Happy Black", 55"x42", mixed media on mylar

GA GARDNER, “Happy Black”, 55″x42″, mixed media on mylar

Art:Jamaica: Much of the contemporary art in the Caribbean is very representation-based due to many of these artists seeking to question and investigate histories and realities. How does your work navigate these issues and this art scene?

GA: You can only appreciate a sharp image if you have seen a blurry one. If you have too many blurry images in your stories, it is no good and if you have too many sharp images, that’s no good either; they complement each other.  Often the sharp image will draw you closer to it but the blurry image will make you think more and open a larger dialog, even if the dialog is about whether your eyes are working well.  The sharp images to me are representational art, and the blurry images are abstract art. It takes all kinds and all angles to tell our story. My work is about this investigation of culture and how some cultures are left out and struggle to be included in the mainstream media’s relevant discussion.  It has several components that are related directly to our Caribbean culture and our history as a people.  The weaving of materials, for example, is simply a contemporary approach on what our ancestors did to make a living from what was afforded to them.  We are a culture that knows how to deal with the things no one wants and make them into something that most can make use of.  We did it in all areas of life, from food – using organs and other discarded animal parts for our meal – to clothing, music and many others.  I am simply doing this in the arts, I take what is abundant and useless such as discarded media information and discuss a history of a people that then once again becomes appealing to an audience.

Read further about Gardner’s recent exhibition below:

The Washington Post

Timeless Remnants -Social Alerts.com

Morton Fine Art

To read this article in full, please visit the following link: http://artjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/10/what-does-cultural-identity-have-to-do.html


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