After the British Museum’s landmark acquisition of her work in 2012, award-winning Jamaican artist Laura Facey is back in the UK for her first London solo exhibition. Entitled Radiant Earth, the show promises a retrospective of the work that followed her controversial 2002 Redemption Song monument to Jamaica’s emancipation. Their Spirits Gone Before Them – a cottonwood canoe filled with 1,357 resin miniature figures, features at the heart of the exhibition, echoing the reverence for nature and faith in the power of transformation evident in Redemption Song and later works. During her final preparations, Parlour caught up with Facey and her curator Melinda Brown to uncover more.
Where did the idea for Radiant Earth idea come and how does it relate to your work?
Melinda Brown: When we first met in late 2005, she had recently overcome serious illness and had turned her focus away from human bodies, often tortured bodies towards her immediate physical environment on the farm in rural St.Ann, Jamaica where she lives and works. The first exhibition I curated for her in 2006 called “The Everything Doors” featured portraits of plants and other botanical specimens. This change heralded the beginning of a whole new body of work and the genesis of the Radiant Earth concept, reflecting Laura’s powerful connection to the earth around her.
Laura Facey: Everything radiated out from that process of healing.
Tell us about your creative process, what ideas inform your work and what turns you on?
LF: I like to work with idea of tools as metaphors within my work. For instance a comb untangles, a needle stitches together, a plum bob finds the centre, a ladder takes you upward. Just as I had to untangle my life, stitch it back together and move to another level of consciousness, my artworks are the metaphors that I now present to the world for the healing of the planet – if it was that easy. In fact the idea of healing turns me on – healing the people and the earth around me. That’s my mission, really.
MB: Laura’s also a great swimmer so there’s this magnificent turquoise swimming hole on her farm, but to reach it you have to go down a very steep path that’s a about a kilometre into a deep ravine. On a daily basis, Laura goes down to this water and swims against a gushing current and then runs back to the top of the hill, which would knock most people out, but she starts her day in this way. Jamaica’s great like that, in its own way it is physically healing.
LF: I also feel very lucky as it’s extremely beautiful on the farm; I’m surrounded by lush green fields, beautiful flowers, red earthy coloured cattle and all the lumber used in the show comes from the farm and surrounding forests.
What do you think of the upcoming crop of Jamaican artists? Do you have any favourites?
LF: I adore the work of Ebony G. Patterson, especially her early work. Her two-toned faces, her palms and intricate backdrops. I also love her glittery installations as a reflection of dancehall culture; they attract me. I think she’s very dynamic. Charles Campbell’s work is also beautiful and I really like an artist called Sand, who has produced amazingly imaginative drawings, with beautiful lines and imagery.
Finally what does the future hold in store for your work?
LF: Moving forwards, we are planning to get the canoe to move from museum to museum around the slave triangle. We will exhibit the canoe in Liverpool next and we’ve been informally invited to show it in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters next year. I also have a long-term vision to establish a sculpture park at my farm. This would be a place where people could enjoy organic produce from my farm, as well as the beautiful surroundings and of course my art works.
Radiant Earth opened at The Princes School of Traditional Arts, London on this week and runs until October 4 2013. For more information on Laura, see LauraFacey.com.
By Lisa Anderson – When she’s not raising money and developing business for NGOs and other companies, she’s indulging in her passion for international arts and culture. Find her at Mwendelezi.com.