The dissonance that we experience as living creatures in the world is something that we as humans share with the equally alive animals and plants.
Nature, which encompasses our biotic environments and the animals that we share our worldly space with, has a way of reeling us in and enabling us to move toward becoming in tune with our own spirituality and how everything is interconnected and interchangeable with one and other. Fragility by Richard Nattoo explored seemingly related concepts and explorations seen in previous works by him. There is always a relation and conceptual trail that is ever present in the works of Nattoo. Animal connectivity, their relation to humanity and how we internalize various experiences have always been a consistent theme in Nattoo’s art works.
The concept of fragility captures the very essence of our existence in this world. The living is constantly exposed, vulnerable or easily damaged. I always think, especially in today’s world and how things are going, animals are way more fragile than humans. Next comes our flora and fauna. Nature has a way or overextending itself to us but it also knows when to flush out the bad. Nattoo’s new series, Fragility looks at this dynamism and interconnectivity between the concept of “them” and “us” and them vs. us. The exhibition which opened to the public on May 11, 2019 at The Blank Space showcased a collection of never before seen works by Richard Nattoo. All but one were 2-dimensional watercolour paintings.
Duality and the notion that things can only exist in twos and binary to one another was fleshed out in the works. Two’s was a very important reoccurrence in the watercolour paintings. Some of the paintings featured subjects who appeared to be in conflict with each other. Presenting almost like two sides of a struggle or disagreement. There’s an unspeakable truth about the nature of flora and fauna. Something that cannot be controlled. No matter how hard you try. In some of the watercolour paintings, there is a figure (somewhat resembling of human characteristics) who appears to be in control or attempting to channel the animal/s in the rest of the composition. Whether leading them somewhere, or riding them somewhere. Their destination however, unknown.
For what I experienced with this piece with the two birds and the wolves, no other gave me. The dynamism that I encountered felt like no other. Much like what I felt with any of the illustrations that presented two of the same animals in the compositions. The bigger paintings, however, visualized the conflict between the animals, in both colour and stance. Much like the birds and the wolf, it was like a war had erupted between them. Conversely, the painting with the foxes, it was like a unity, a togetherness. Not so much as opposing sides but just as two within one reaching for its goal. It was also like that for the smaller illustrations like the sharks, the koi fishes, the chickens, the flamingos and so many others.
The show came with zero texts to follow the story and the pieces were all untitled. But I can’t say I wasn’t appreciative of that. I often find that the work in art shows are always drowned out by the conceptual process leading to the physicality of it so far-fetched from its concept. The technicality of Nattoo’s work holds enough merit that it’s not desperately holding on to its concept for the work to be deemed as great! Make me believe without convincing me to believe. I hate works that depend so much on its concept, that if you take it away it dwindles to nothing.. And I was grateful of the fact that I didn’t have to experience that conflict with Nattoo’s work. The technical quality was already so impactful and impressive to say the least. Something that I haven’t been able to experience in a really long time.
The show was one that took me a while to put into (a lot of) words. Mostly because of its excellence. When the art is really good I don’t have much to say about it. You revel in its gloriousness (for a really long time) and then you move on. The watercolour God, I call Nattoo sometimes. A name that you truly won’t understand until you’ve seen his works in real life. Because pictures don’t do them all the justice they deserve. The consistency within his line work and style is one that followed him throughout his artistic career. The track work of Nattoo’s artistic development is one that visually transformed right in front of my eyes. His technique with pen and ink and even colour, became more refined and detailed and his use of colour became more subtle and subservient. But the trace is still there. His work is like a process within itself which made it so much more beautiful.
I might be young but I’ve never experienced watercolour in all its gloriousness like I do with [Nattoo’s] work.
The consistency within his line work and style is one that followed him throughout his artistic career. The track work of Nattoo’s artistic development is one that visually transformed right in front of my eyes. His technique with pen and ink and even colour, became more refined and detailed and his use of colour became more subtle and subservient. But the trace is still there. His work is like a process within itself which made it so much more beautiful.
Nattoo always had a keen eye for storytelling. In all his exhibitions that I’ve been to, there is always a story to tell, experience and reinterpret. Even if it’s not forced in your face. When I first walked into the gallery space, though very crowded the first thing I noticed was the subjects of the paintings. They were all animals. The trajectory made sense. His last series was also predominantly animals. But you felt that switch and you saw its relation. The colours were vibrant and a blast of expression. The line work even more. His transition from his ink on brown paper (in previous exhibitions) was smooth. I saw two familiar faces which made the experience even more so wholesome, the little rabbit and the beaked lady. If you know you know. My eyes even started searching for his signature among the scribbles. That visual comparison (and contrast even) between his little people and these massive animals were so intriguing. And it is even more so amazing how time after time Richard Nattoo creates these stunningly vibrant watercolour illustrations which add a new dynamism to our already existing storytelling culture in Jamaica.
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