Kareem-Anthony Ferreira's "Vacation Home" in Brussels
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Vacation, home, an exhibition of ten new paintings by Kareem-Anthony Ferreira that will be on view at our location in Brussels, Belgium through to December 18th, 2021. Ferreira is known for his materialist, figurative paintings that depict re-imagined scenes of familial intimacy as captured by photographs taken by his loved ones, usually near their homes in Trinidad, sometimes near Ferreira’s home in Canada. Adopting a compositional style that recalls vernacular photography and a material stance that harnesses the tactility of painting and assemblage, the works in the exhibition develop a practice that negotiates the weight of personal history and identity. But Vacation, home also engages with cultural identity, and the fraught status of Trinidad abroad.
Ferreira’s composite worlds offer viewers a glimpse into the rich inner realm of memory, rife with both individualized personas and telling details about cultural identity. A first-generation Canadian with Trinidadian roots, the artist spent—and spends—much of his “vacation” time visiting his family in the Caribbean. The Caribbean, in the North American imaginary, is most often understood as a paradisical locale that offers rest, relaxation, and beautiful beachside scenery for vacationers. But for Ferreira—and the 1.4 million citizens of Trinidad—it is a home just like any other, textured not just with platitudes and pleasantries, but with rich histories of daily contentments, the banalities of living, collective struggle, and colonization. Such intricacies are often power-washed in North American depictions of the country. Vacation, home explores the tension Ferreira feels, having roots in a place so often understood as a “vacation” destination full of resorts for tourists by his North American peers. With a characteristic marriage of sincerity and irony, his figures are often draped in fabrics depicting the floral motifs that recall the mass-produced tropical kitsch shirts that enrobe such vacationers everywhere.
The likenesses of Ferreira’s subjects are drawn from a vast archive of family photographs. After selecting, scanning, and cropping particularly gripping, affecting photographs, the artist remixes their configurations, postures, and settings to construct his own compositions. For instance, Same Restless Energy is a composite of five different photographs. This is evident in the diptych structure of the work, which separates a young boy riding on a unicorn toy from a scene of three men and one young girl sitting on a wooden bench and chair. Less obviously, the figures in the bench scene on the left are not necessarily all from the same photograph, but rather culled from a smattering of photographs, all placed on the bench together in Ferreira’s conglomerate composition. The faces of the men on the bench are sourced from other family photos, but function in this work as filling out the contours of a specific memory.
Despite the works’ painterly final forms, their compositions reject preciosity and retain some of the spirit of casual photography. For instance, the highlights on the baby’s torso and head in Bath by Granny, as well as the cropped arms which reach into the frame to hold the baby, suggest the flash and cropping of a candid photograph. The frontal composition, as well as the mischievous, arrested, snickering grins of the young boys playing in the sand in Allyuh went Beach recall the bursting joy of a snapshot. Through his paintings, Ferreira maintains the tenderness and joyfulness of fleeting moments of familial unity, bringing the viewer into the scene by choosing compositions in which the sitters acknowledge the viewer-as-photographer.
But Ferreira also imparts upon his works a sense of permanence and material weight that a 4”x6” photograph cannot. The canvases on view in Vacation, home depict assemblages of both memories and materials. The artist cites a tendency in his Trinidadian family and friends to save everything, from scrap materials to fabrics. They preserve and repurpose material that others might discard wastefully. This is a prominent practice in Trinidad, to preserve and to reuse; but the artist also notes that sometimes this can result in a kind of excess of material, creating a sense of “negative ornamentality” in the home. But even such ornamentality has its pleasures, embedding within its layers a trove of recollections and attachments. Paralleling his family’s tendency to conserve and recycle, Ferreira builds up layers of paper, fabrics, and other found materials on an unstretched canvas, then primes the heavy, dense, and layered canvas with gesso. The canvas, like the weight of the memories Ferreira probes, is heavy before the paint is applied. Afterwards, the faces of his family members – some of whom have passed away – gleam incandescently.
Kareem-Anthony Ferreira (b. 1989 in Hamilton, Ontario; lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario) completed his BFA at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 2012 and his MFA at the University of Arizona in 2020. Ferreira recently had a solo exhibition at Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles and has exhibited works at Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York; Alice Yard Gallery, Trinidad and Tobago; the Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona; DeFacto Gallery, Ontario; and the Workers Art & Heritage Museum, Ontario.