Towards a National Identity in Art: Relevance of Contemporary Expressions in the Fine Arts in Jamaica by Gilberte Bauer

In 1979, some 50 years into its development along conventional rules set by Western standards in the fine arts, the Jamaican art movement saw the formal inclusion of a group of artists known as the intuitives, who practiced an art form generally associated with naïve art. The fairly unique construct combining two opposing art forms that are never exhibited contiguously in the traditional Western system, became recognized within the Jamaican context as a dichotomous model. This alliance had cultural, economic and social consequences for the local artists.

Tracing the evolution of the art movement back to its inception, the study investigates the forces at play that have brought together the mainstream artists and the intuitives. It assesses the context of Jamaica’s historical narrative within a post-colonial hegemonic framework, using Frantz Fanon’s post-colonial theory of domination to analyse the consequences of this control over the art institutions which were set up to help spawn the art movement, examining the role the Institute of Jamaica, the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts, now the Edna Manley College, have played in the attempted merger.

The dissertation probes aspects in the fine arts that expose divisions between the two art forms, more specifically the concept of high and low art that brings into question the nature of both art expressions in the formulation of a national identity in the fine arts. The research process utilized a mixed methods approach that compiled the examination of written material with a qualitative element in the form of interviews of a group of mainstream artists for a more current opinion of how the relationship between both groups of artists is viewed today.

The findings challenge earlier writings that portray a cohesive art movement described as diverse, combining different styles and genres. The thesis findings show that notwithstanding a deep respect for the intuitives, the art movement is a divided movement replicating the colonial model that has favoured the mainstream artists to the detriment of the intuitives.

Key words: Jamaican art movement; fine arts; mainstream artists; intuitives; national identity; national consciousness

Leave a Reply