Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Metamorphoses in Medulla

Medulla's white box is the perfect setting for new pieces in ceramic and bronze by Bunty O'Connor from Trinidad, and Dunieski Lora Pileta from Cuba. Explorations in Bronze - which featured about ten pieces from each artist - was mounted and opened on Monday (September 8) and runs until just before midday on Saturday (September 13). It gives way to the New Media selections of the Film Festival which opens on September 16.
Explorations in Bronze, featured at Medulla September 8 to 13

The white box is a spectacular stage for these pieces. It shows to advantage artworks that sat atop  rubble and detritus of the workshops where they were made. These things of beauty have emerged from the rough surroundings of galvanize shed, the litter of electrical cables and gas cylinders cluttering the dirt floor. They are the more wondrous for the humble materials from which they were made.

Medulla is the gallery in the basement of Isabel Brash's Cocobel house on Fitt Street. The name means pith or core, and this "medulla" is appropriate for shows like Explorations in Bronze by Bunty and Dunieski. Here are two artists from opposite ends of the Caribbean; with very different backgrounds, different gender perspectives, finding the crux of the work; and more importantly the pleasing and gentle harmony of working together. Brought together by a mutual friendship with Luise Kimme - the sculptor from Germany who flowered in Tobago - Bunty and Dunieski came to this collaboration just two months ago. It felt too ambitious to Bunty. But she was persuaded by Dunieski who had the need to complete a Trinidad exhibition before returning to Cuba and a new baby.

Bat and Flower, ceramic plate, Bunty

In the beginning, ceramic plate, Bunty

Maman de l'eau, ceramic statue, Bunty
Bunty in Tobago
As August passed like a ticking crocodile, Bunty and husband Rory learned the art of bronze casting: of sculpting in wax to lose it, and pouring molten metal into plaster moulds. It was hot, dangerous, equal parts terror and tedium. The learning process involved trips to Tobago where Dunieski maintains Kimme's castle on behalf of her sole heir and sister, Ilse. It was an apprenticeship to the resourcefulness of the Cuban who was inspired by driftwood, coconuts and bamboo roots cast up on the beach; to the skill and alacrity with which he creates the moulds and casts the bronze; and to patience with oneself when you are learning something new.

Alligator, bronze, Bunty

Metamorphoses might have been the name of this exhibition. The artist in clay has fingers that feel their way to shape and substance. Fire hardens the clay and crystallises the glaze or colour.  In the fire of the bronze artist, the intermediary is wax which is sacrificed to create the plaster mould into which molten metal is poured. Who would have thought that a creative process so dramatically removed from imagination, that passes through many stages, would produce such fine textures, grand gestures as emerged in Dunieski's Bamboo Jumbie or the Spirit of the Tree.

Bat woman, bronze, Bunty

Bronze, Dunieski

Venus with pig, bronze, Dunieski

Spirit of the Tree, bronze, Dunieski
Sleeping child, bronze, Bunty

Methuselah, bronze, Bunty

Sheep on coconut, Dunieski

Bunty's Sleeping Child, Alligator and Methuselah (the ancient turtle) were first shaped in clay. They were transformed to bronze in the process that schooled the O'Connors. Dunieski is a patient teacher, as interested in the students' work as in his own. Attending to his own creations, the month seemed to pass in a kind of artist's mind block, a period of gathering made more tenuous by an impending deadline.

At the last minute, Dunieski surpassed and surprised himself. As he sat and burnished the Jumbie, three days before the exhibition, he marvels at the transformation of the bamboo root. He is amazed not by his work, but by the creature that came through him - and by how he is changed by its passing. He imagines a phalanx of Jumbies, some with arms upraised (playing mas), outstretched as if waving a flag, cradling a pan. Jumbies with wings, frozen in flight. A carnival band of Bamboo Jumbies. He is laughing. It is his birthday, a momentary respite. Then he is back in Tobago, at work in the furnace and fire. Making a metamorphosis. Transforming himself.

Bamboo Jumbie, bronze, Dunieski

Bronzes by Bunty and Dunieski

Dunieski Lora Pileta, Tobago

Recycled, recycled materials, Dunieski

Winged woman, Dunieski

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