black ishi
          The work of Ras Ishi has always had the power to surprise;this body of work demonstrates once again that he is a master chameleon.In this exhibition the viewer is forced to contemplate two very different worlds of the artist:the struggle to create and the completed paintings.

          In a series of graphics drawings on canvas, Life of the artist,Ishi creates images that chronicle the depression and angst of the artist struggling to produce work in enemy territory.The artist is involved in a war of creation in a country that Lamming once decried as having "....the stability of the cemetry."

          Facing these works of despair,torment and self analysis are a series of paintings depicting figures in landscapes.Ishi has return to the landscape but this is a very different land from Variegations,1985 and Tender Plants,1993.This new work is drawn from a larger body of work that Ishi refers to as the "Nostalgia" series.Do not be fooled. These paintings are seductively appealing but they are challenging;they are not as innocent and sweet as they appear.We have to look hard to discover the real subject of the work.

         In these works ishi poses the question as to whether is a tradition of Barbadian landscape painting.This is not a simple question but goes beyond the core of who we are.In these works Ishi is demanding that we question by what means the image of the landscape has entered into our conciousness.The question focuses primarly on who has historically produce these images and secondly,on the style in which they were executed.Ishi is questioning once and for all the validity of a collective experience of our history.The experience of landscape is predicated on possession and in these small close-cropped landscapes Ishi has empowered his figures with a quite authority of ownership.In this new work Ishi has exposed a serious challenge to those artists who continue to work from the land but have not questioned their relationship to it.Have they, in a post colonial society,become unconcious, proliferates of the colonial image of landscapes.

         These paintings are an attempt to create a new reference point both intellectually and aesthetically,for the interpretation of the Barbadian landscape.In young and sweet,Ishi has placed a female figure within the frame of a landscape in much the same way that artist in the Italian Renaissance positioned their patrons before the landscape they owned.By employing this device,Ishi is establishing,for the record,the role that women have played in agriculture and land ownership in Barbados.

         This exhibition is an exploration of ideas,some more resolved that others,but we are richer for the experience.
written by Nick Whittle.
Nov 2001


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