Greg Bailey makes artistic commentary with Post-Colonial Paraphernalia
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That was the sentiment behind Post-Colonial Paraphernalia – the engaging and riveting art exhibit by Greg Bailey commenting on Jamaica’s sociopolitical climate.
The Trelawny native chose this powerful title for his showcase because, for him, it acts as the very definition for the contemporary state locals are living in. “The environment informs my work. We are still in the same construct and institution that are against the progression of our people. So my exhibit is a combination of these different objects, systems and the entire cycle that governs over us presently,” he explained.
The pieces, which were on display from December 8 to 22, paint a picture of then versus now, depicting the juxtaposition, in one respect, of Eurocentric ideologies, with a strong African heritage. While Jamaica is embarking on our 60th year of Independence, the colonial conversation is still at the forefront. “Even though we are being led by people who look like us, appearing to be black physically, are they black mentally?” Bailey asked, adding how are the masses benefiting as citizens? “Given the state of violence, it’s almost like black lives don’t really matter, at least the average black man,” he said.
The charcoal drawing and oil paintings on canvas strike a remarkable balance of beauty and storytelling. Light and shadow also play an important tool in bringing the artwork to life. Inclusive of crests, medals and gowns, the motif of wigs throughout the exhibit, specifically the periwigs, speaks to the desire for status and power. He mentioned some of these are wigs still being worn in the modern day by the speaker of the house during Parliament and in the court of law. While they stand as an empowering accessory, they further perpetuate the cycle of a lost identity as a nation.
Bailey, who created these pieces during the global COVID-19 pandemic, was strategic in showing the relationship between the subjects and their attire. Some figures are looking away from the viewer, in a passive manner, as opposed to a few whose eyes pierce into your soul. The latter is evident in Quartermaster. “I needed to engage the viewer in a different way. Since the Quartermaster is the overseer, the observer, he asks the question, ‘How will you continue to navigate the situation?’”
The artist has established himself as a creative force to be reckoned with. Holding a master’s degree in fine arts from Washington University in St Louis, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, he has hosted a series of successful art exhibits locally and internationally. Bailey, a proud past student of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, has returned to the institution as a lecturer to share his knowledge, expertise and inspire hope among the future generation.
Post-Colonial Paraphernalia was created as a reminder to re-engage in the colonial conversation. The talented artist had a hard time deciding which piece was his favourite, noting that he likes different pieces for different reasons. He touched on the main piece, “With the title piece, I liked the exploration of the flat and three-dimensional aspects. It holds a bigger narrative of thoughts combined into one showing. The map highlights voyeurs discovering a space that was already developed and shows our region provided weather for agriculture,” he said.
He continued by pointing that the title pieces also “speaks to the start of a different page in mankind. There are elements of the queen, with tea time, but then the lion of Judah is present as a symbol of power with the Rastafarian movement. The staff is complemented by a spear and replaced with the Marcus Garvey flag. This is black consciousness, black liberation and black pan-African projection.”