During a visit to Barbados, we were interested in a ‘pure’ local artist who has already exhibited her work in various places on the planet and on various occasions. Versia Harris was that person. Formed in her country, her work radiates beyond the borders and the continents. Her very graphic work attracted us. And she modestly agreed to answer some of our questions. Here are her answers:
How could you define the visual art landscape of Barbados?
The scene is here is quite small as we are also a small island. And it gets cut into to even smaller parts because there are different and separate pockets and circles of artists. Its a landscape however that is trying to maintain itself and develope into something that artists could thrive within.
Can you talk about arts education here and especially in visual arts?
Arts really starts at the associate degree level. Primary and secondary education has no emphasis on theory. The kids take drawing or craft classes but specialized art education really starts after they leave secondary school and go on to a tertiary institution. The Barbados Community College is where students can do an Associate Degree and then BFA. I think also that the University of the West Indies has some programs offered in the arts in the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.
In France and in the European area there’s a kind of systematic questioning of lore and often religious traditions. Does it exist here (specially in arts)? We are in Guadeloupe influenced mediatically by french debates on secularism and religion.
The country is considered a christian nation and the majority of people are content to think that our laws and way of life should be governed by this religion. Of course some do not. But this is not largely focused on or talk about in art here. Not because it is taboo but i think just because of a disinterest in making work that specifically challenges these religious notions.
Can you talk about the subjects you treat in your creations.
My work is about the way fantasies of an individual can disrupt their perception of reality and how that reality is then pushed or bent accordingly. Fantasy can be defined as unrealistic mental images that an individual repeatedly dwells on, that reflects your conscious and unconscious desires. So I create characters and then contrast the mundane events in their lives with their fantasies. One of the characters deals with desire and unobtainable ideals and the other takes various shapes of things observed in the landscape in a continuous search or some kind of ultimate identity.