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Sunday, 7 March 2010

Winslow Craig

HE work of Guyanese sculptor Winslow Craig is simply awe-inspiring. The massive wooden structures are the first thing to be seen by visitors to the International Convention Centre, Georgetown where one of the many art exhibitions of Carifesta X is taking place.
Craig’s work dominates not only because of his tortured style, but also through the diversity of the topics he has chosen to sculpt, and yet when you look at his cheerful, untroubled visage, you wonder how he could have produced all of this stuff. He acknowledges the diversity and believes it comes from his ancestral roots - a European great-grandfather, an Amerindian mother, a father ’mostly’ black with some East Indian.

But they always encouraged him, he remembers. As a child, while the other siblings were getting up to mischief, he’d take wood and whittle. But before he found himself as a sculptor, he used to paint and this was how the 41-year old artist expressed himself during his
secondary school days in Georgetown. The mid ’80’s found him at Guyana’s Burrowes Art School during which he carved from anything he could lay his hands on. The year 2000 saw him receiving a Commonwealth Fellowship. It took him to New Zealand, where, as he tells it, his horizons expanded greatly. It opened him up to the media in which he could sculpt, because they were using anything and everything there, not much wood. He realised the potential of found objects, old chains and even old wood. It was astounding to him, because in Guyana, so much good wood for sculpting was readily available.

He admits to having a strong connection to the spirit world and this is why a lot of his work seems to be fanciful and constructed from dreamscapes. His father grew up on the Essequibo river which he visited throughout much of his childhood and which remains etched in his memory as a place of mystery and magic. The studio from which he works, however, is located in Georgetown and it is there he receives the energy to produce and create.

He does not think of his pieces as being political in intent but points out that the work is inspired by situations and things taking place in the world. One of the more powerful pieces on display is titled ’Emancipation’, which uses old rusty chains for the hair of a slave and is etched from rough concrete. A disagreement with a girlfriend, which went on for some months, resulted in a piece titled ’Rejection’ which sounds corny but the effect of the work is actually quite the opposite.

Though very prolific in Guyana, he has not been exposed to much of the region’s art world. He has travelled to Belize and to Trinidad. And though he was not initially so inclined, he is glad that as a ’patriotic’ Guyanese, he has participated in Carifesta X. The Festival has opened him up to the possibilities of having his work exhibited throughout the region but there are difficulties attached to having these large, heavy pieces transported throughout the Caribbean. Such an exhibition would need ’serious’ sponsorship, he says. He does not see himself being anything but a sculptor ever. Find the blueprint to his soul, and you would see sculptor from the beginning etched there.

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