If you’ve ever felt like there wasn’t a word for something you were trying to describe, perhaps you should have asked the plants. Susan Mains and Asher Mains have done just that. Bringing a veritable garden of new paintings and installations from Grenada, Susan and Asher Mains are divulging the plants’ secrets at “Grafted Narratives”, which opened at the Caribbean Art Gallery in Speightstown, Barbados on 15 February 2014.
Susan Mains describes her process. “I first came across Stephan Bertalan’s work while visiting the Venice Biennale with a group of artists from Grenada in the summer of 2013. His work of penciled botanicals captured my attention, because it instantly reminded me of the x-rays of my spine from an on-going physical deterioration. I was captivated by the notion of this development of the plant, and my mind went on a mental “what if trip”. What if that flower could be transplanted in to the human body and replace the faulty parts? What if it was a heliconia from home in Grenada. What if other faulty body parts could also be replaced — like a heart transplant with the banana flower, or a broken femur with a strong stretch of bamboo? What if passion’s fire could be lit with passion fruit? What if everything we need for physical healing actually comes from the ground — like turmeric for depression or cocoa for a host of ailments. What if the Japanese forest therapy of going outside to ease your mind (without cell phone) really is worth the millions of dollars they are investing in the science of it. This body of work of paintings and installations is the result of that wander into the imagination. Perhaps only the very young cannot relate to the pain that is possible from within your own self. Everyone suffers, whether in body or in mind. It is a universal condition. Sometimes the questions are the most intriguing part.”
The first aspect you may notice about Asher Mains’ work, aside from the abounding plant material in the paintings, are the Latin titles. “We are quick to give human qualities to plants and animals but have we considered that some words used only for plants may better describe the human condition?” says Mains. Archaeophyte, for example, describes a plant that is a non-native to a geographical area but had been introduced in an “ancient” time. It also describes the painting of a Rasta gazing at the viewer with eyes tempered by wisdom and age. Or Epicorm, a part of a plant that would not grow except if the plant had been damaged or burned. Epicorm in the series is an old man, squatting and waiting to be provoked into expressing his new form. There are many words that we can borrow from the plants to better describe and understand ourselves. While the plants may wait to share their mysteries with you — these paintings may not.
Mother and son, Mains and Mains have two distinctly different painting styles, despite the common theme of this exhibit. Susan Mains work is extremely gestural and textured, while Asher Mains shows the discipline of his classical training with refined technique and strokes. The rich colour of tropical Caribbean is a commonality.
The exhibit continues through 15 March at Gallery of Caribbean Art.
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