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Beckles takes on NY with kinetic art

Published: 
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Artist Guy Beckles stands in front of his piece titled In a Blind World The One Eye Man is King.

As a student at Queen’s Royal College, Guy Beckles was more known for his sporting and academic prowess rather than his strokes in art. 

The former Intercol goalkeeper for the St Clair college, today Beckles is acclaimed as the foremost kinetic artist in the Caribbean. Having mounted exhibitions of his unique work locally, across the region and in London, Boston and Toronto, Beckles put his work on show on July 26 in honour of Harlem Week at the Harlem State Office Building, New York. 

The exhibition runs daily until September 10 and will also feature the work of Danielle Seigelbaum, Ibou Ndoye, Marthalicia Matarrita and Suprina Kenny.

In an interview, asked to define kinetic art, Beckles, a former Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive art teacher, explained it is art that contains moving parts and encompasses a wide variety of overlapping techniques and styles. 

The motion of the work can be provided mechanically through electricity or by utilising natural phenomena such as wind, or by simply cranking a handle. He said: “It can be anything; from broken toys to an old blow-dryer. What people may throw away is art to me.”

Beckles added: “I am the only practising kinetic artist in the English-speaking Caribbean, hence I’m the best. I have no competition.” 

Upon graduating from QRC, Beckles had his sights on qualifying himself as a computer wiz. So, he migrated to the US and studied at Dartmouth University, New Hampshire. 

Ironically back then becoming an artist was the furthest thing from Beckles’ mind. “I just didn’t feel it,” he admitted in an earlier interview. 

Having dabbled a bit in psychology, he eventually tried art. He added: “It’s weird because I was never into art. I never even thought about being an artist.” Drawing on his academic background in mathematics and physics, Beckles combined this with his artistic acumen to come up with kinetic art, a skill he has excelled at for almost four decades. 

He is consumed by his art so much so Beckles is unable to sleep some nights as he mulls over new concepts and designs for his pieces.

An artist for most of his 58 years, Beckles’ artistic journey took many turns. In fact, the father of twin sons was supposed to have been a computer expert. After all, that’s why he migrated to the US after his graduation from QRC to attend Dartmouth University, New Hampshire.

Beckles’ kinetic work is ideally suited for public places where people congregate or wait. The works are interactive, beginning to move only when the viewer approaches or is in close proximity. With an extensive body of work constructed over his 35-year career, Beckles has amassed over 50 pieces, 29 of special merit were selected for these particular shows.

One critic stated in appraising Beckles’ work: “His works are whimsical yet profound; simple yet effective; complicated yet therapeutic; soothing yet disturbing and reflect an intrinsic link with the continuous motion of life. 

The intensity and philosophical impact of the pieces are found in layers just waiting to be examined and discovered”

Beckles has also recently shown at Harlem’s Imagenation RAW Space, and the New York Public Library on 124th Street. His works of mobility and kinetic forms have also been featured at Trinidad's National Museum in Port-of-Spain.

Beckles is presenting his kinetic art at, not one, but three locations in New York. Aside from Harlem showing, he is one of four featured artists now showing at The Aloft Hotel on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, until September 13. Beckles also has an ongoing exhibition at the Casa Frela Gallery at 47 W 119 Street, which can be viewed until October 1.