Having exhibited at Gallery of Caribbean art just about 2 two years since its inception in 2001, Susan Mains wasn’t going to let a little thing like a worldwide pandemic stop her from a regular appearance.
A Caribbean person with historic roots in Barbados, (think 1648) her artistic history encompasses Dominica, Barbados, and Grenada. Her island home in Grenada is no stranger to conflict — worker riots in the 50s, a rocky 1974 independence from Great Britain, a fiery revolution and invasion by a super power in the late 70s, early 80s, a devastating Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that destroyed her home and studio, and now, this pandemic that froze us all in time for almost 2 years.
The response to all this? Art takes centre stage. In her quiet studio in St Paul’s Grenada, she has been assembling a body of work that honours that which never fails us — the resilience of the land and sea and of course the men and women who populate our lives and strengthen us. Her characteristic bright coloured paintings vibrate with impressionistic strokes of colour, laid down with a pallet knife or quick moving brush. That intermediary space between the colours, where the complimentary grays appear are her favorite passages. Mains said, “Our lives are made up of passing moments, those incidences that you only appreciate fully when you look back at them. These paintings are metaphors for those moments.”
Thanks to the internet, she was also able to accomplish another whole volunteer job during these quiet days. Grenada participated as a national pavilion in la Biennale di Venezia Architecture Exhibition for the first time May through November of 2021. The pavilion showed Grenada’s new House of Parliament, which was designed by Bryan Bullen, a son of the soil. Only the faithful crew on the ground in Venice made this possible. Because of travel restrictions, no one could go. The Biennale had over 300,000 visitors, in spite of the rigid Covid protocols. It was the only outpost for Grenada in the heart of Europe during this bleak time.
Then there was Expo 2020 in Dubai, (actually totally in 2021). Mains also volunteered to curate the art that Grenada presented as part of its display. By December of 2021 travel had eased enough that she actually travelled to see it! Several artists from Grenada had their first opportunity to show internationally at this event. The expo will continue through the end of March.
Further flexing her curatorial muscle, Mains is now organising the Grenada Pavilion for the 59th Biennale di Venezia, set to open in Venice in April. The Cypher Art Collective of Grenada will show the result of more than a year of Zoom meetings, portraying the very interesting ritual of Shakespeare Mas in Carriacou. It is a huge task, but the intangible rewards are immeasurable.
Mains said, “In this time of tremendous change in the Caribbean, we need to stand our ground and tell our own stories. Heritage is more than a buzzword for accessing funding for projects — it is the living of our lives well as we remember our ancestors.”
Susan Mains will be at the Gallery of Caribbean Art on 17 February from 1 pm to 6 pm. The show continues through March 12th.
Gallery of Caribbean Art