Keisha Oliver writes about the upcoming Pro Gallery show by Omar Richardson entitled 'Renewal".
U.S.-based Bahamian artist Omar Richardson returns to the University of The Bahamas (UB) in January to exhibit a selection of works from his 2011 series ‘Renewal.' The exhibition opens to the public Thursday, January 12th at The Pro Gallery located on UB’s Oakes Field campus. He will also give a talk about the works on January 11th in the gallery and a printmaking workshop on January 12th in UB’s Visual Arts studio.
Richardson joined The College of The Bahamas in 1999 where he pursued an AA in Art. He later transferred to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia where he completed a BFA in Painting and a minor in Printmaking in 2006 and his MFA in Printmaking and MA in Commercial Photography in 2010. Richardson also completed a BFA in Graphic Design at The Art Institutes in Atlanta, Georgia in 2013. He has exhibited in various art galleries in The Bahamas and United States with his work belonging to notable private and public collections including the Inter-American Development Bank’s permanent collection. Richardson currently lives in Tampa, Florida, where he owns O. Richardsons Design, a branding company with over six years of experience working with international clients and teaching as an adjunct art professor at The University of Tampa.
Richardson’s first solo exhibition “Similar Differences” was hosted at The Pro Gallery in 2000. Almost 17 years later the artist returns to the space that birthed his artistic ambition to inspire a new generation of Bahamian art practitioners, educators, and creative thinkers. “I am proud to be in a position where I can plant seeds of knowledge and encouragement in the future Bahamian artists. My hope for the institution is to see the art programme become more diverse with a focus on design, photography, fine arts and the business of art. Hopefully, one day I can be a part of the faculty that brings this dream to life.” ‘Renewal’ includes a selection of works originally debuted at Richardson’s 2011 exhibition ‘Renewal of Life’ at The Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery.
The works explore cultural and personal symbolism as it relates to the human condition. Richardson’s work is concerned with themes of memory, reflection, loss and reinvention. He believes the combination of photography, text and printmaking best reflects the multi-faceted nature of his concept. His technique pushes conventional approaches to printmaking by layering colours, dramatic marks, text, and photography. He believes that by combining these processes, a variety of emotions and energy can be seen in the same piece of work. “The series includes portraits of people, depicting their life experiences.
Each piece merges the human form with abstract shapes to emphasise a specific and extreme emotion. This allows the viewers to see and hopefully appreciate different aspects of individuals and cultural expressions with which they are not familiar.” Although Richardson’s initial approach to this work was to explore human emotion, the elements of memory and reflection seen in his final pieces are rooted in a deeper conversation concerning cultural identity and universal experiences.
The monoprints and woodcuts capture the complexity of the human and universal experience through his personal journey as an Afro-Caribbean male and creative professional. “I’ve drawn inspiration from the element of Bahamian culture that is most visible to me, Junkanoo.” The origin of Junkanoo in The Bahamas is rooted in West African culture. When you look at how the costumes are designed, you will notice they often include a tribal look very reminiscent of Adinkra symbolism” explains Richardson. “Our culture over the decades has been influenced by a mixture of cultures, and I try to express this diversity in my mark-making.” Even though, the visual construct of the black community lies at the heart of his work the undertone seems less about racial issues and more about cultural awareness.
His modern photographs of black women, men and children layered with woodblock prints of West African portraits challenges values of perception and appreciation. Making connections with his Bahamian and African heritage, he researched the Adinkra, symbols that are used as decorative elements in West African cultures. “My work also connects the expression of the subject to the viewer and the spiritual and emotional aspect of the project. The images of people frozen, doing things in their everyday life like expressing disapproval, or joy, to capture these in a photo is like capturing life.”
‘Renewal’ will be on display at The Pro Gallery until mid-February. Gallery visits are by appointment only. For more information on the exhibition, artist talk and workshop availability, please contact UB’s Visual Arts Department on (302-4485/4422) or firstname.lastname@example.org.