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Thursday, December 12, 2013
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Mille Wearable Art
Camille Harding is a self-taught Trinidadian multimedia artist. A graduate of the London College of Fashion, she has worked as an art teacher, pattern cutter and designer. Her work has been featured in exhibits both regionally and internationally. In 1992, Harding was awarded a Commonwealth Arts and Crafts fellowship that took her to New Zealand. She has also worked with Meiling, Peter Minshall and The Cloth Caribbean.
Every Saturday, Harding opens up her home studio in Belmont to customers and art enthusiasts. Visitors can view works in progress, speak with Harding and, of course, shop. Harding has previously designed clothes for Mille Wearable Art but now focuses on jewelry, which she says are “pieces falling out of my paintings.” She spoke to Zahra Gordon about these new developments and the meaning of her work.
You’ve been practising as an artist for more than 30 years and have now decided to return to school. Why is that?
There’s a lot of theory that goes behind my work. In fact, behind the work of any artist. It’s not just like you feel great and paint. There is research involved.
I’m completing a visual arts bachelor’s degree at UWI this year. I did it because I wanted to move ahead. I’d been practising for 30 years before UWI but I wanted to put my theory in order and UWI helped with that. I also did it out of respect for my profession. I don’t think it will interfere with my style but puts the style in a format. I want to pass on my knowledge and I want to teach at the university level and you can’t do that without having the qualifications.
I also want to document my work. Its significant to us in the Caribbean that we need to start documenting our work. We need to do that on a university scale. Our research and intellectual property needs to be put together by us and not foreigners. That’s a serious problem we have of letting other people define our work.
So what are some of theoretical foundations of your work?
I deal with Caribbean life, Caribbean social life, with Carnival. And with Carnival you have to get into our history and look at who plays what mas and why. And I link these to the feeling of my work.
I deal with slavery and our freedom. I toy a lot with the idea of weapons because they are what we use to demand power. Weapons could be language, repression, suppression.
In my art I’m always looking for resolution. I’m always searching.
I look a lot at women and their place in the world and I compare how free we are here (in Trinidad) and the ways in which we’re not free as well. There are so many women who are silenced.
Art to me is a document and each piece reflects the time and the technology. I paint what I see and that is something that I use a guide for my work as well. If I don’t see it, I don’t paint it. So even when a piece is abstract, it is something that I have seen.
As a multimedia artist, you practise with a variety of materials and techniques.
You paint in a variety of styles, make jewelry and have recently ventured into ceramics as well as performance art. Is it difficult to compartmentalise and organise all these different outlets?
There’s no thought that goes into the different things that I do. This is in the sense that I’m an expressionist artist and if a piece wants to be expressed in a particular way, it will do so.
It’s not me per se. I am the communicator of the idea and I am communicating the ideas through pieces of art. The pieces tell me what has to be expressed and through what material.
You’ve hold open-studio sessions. What is the idea behind open studio?
Open studio is an idea that I’ve constantly been developing. I find that galleries don’t show the true me. When your work is in a gallery it’s sort of picked and packaged in a certain way and I can’t say that I’m happy with that. I’ve always preferred showing at non-traditional spaces like restaurants. I’ve shown my work at places like Martin’s and Veni Mange for instance. I really like being able to show my work in progress and let people see my artistic process. I also like to share the experience of my studio, which is constantly changing.
Harding is currently working on joint project with Darren Small focusing on the human figure, which she hopes to exhibit next year. Mille Wearable Art open studio happens every Saturday from 11am-6pm at 23 Altorf Street, Belmont. For more information, call 758-4746.
Among my favourite accessories is a papier-mache rasta bangle by Camille Harding which I have had literally for decades—that in itself is proof that it’s timeless. Like the ones shown in the photo above, it’s made of newspaper and the print shows through the paint, which is red, yellow and green stripes.
Its simplicity is brilliant, and the materials and the method are just so perfectly in tune with the ital spirit—it was recycled, recyclable jewelry decades before its time.
Then there’s a pair of aluminium bangles which look as if they were made more or less at random from a length of pipe that she happened to have lying around.
They are anti-jewelry: they’re not made of a precious metal, they’re not intricately worked, they’re not smooth or shiny, they’re not even symmetrical. They don’t tinkle politely, they make a lovely clanking noise, and they make me laugh.
I remember on one occasion when I wore them they were admired by the jeweller Barbara Jardine, whose work is the exact opposite, but she appreciated the skill and thought that went into making them seem so artless.
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