Simonette Quamina – Canboulay at Smack Mellon

Featured Artist

The artist and her work, photo courtesy of Camille Thomas

Canboulay, Simonette Quamina’s solo exhibition at Smack Mellon, features a series of immersive wall-sized visual horizons which borrow the methodological framework of a caesura, a break in a poem. The notion of “break” exists within each work through cuts and rips as well as overall, separating elements of her continuous visual story into vignettes of individual works. Through her use of sophisticated variety of collage and printmaking techniques, Quamina integrates narratives referencing histories such as socioeconomic ramifications of sugarcane and familial subjugation, into complex, dark surfaces.

Tell me a bit about the genesis of this exhibition.

This exhibition is a continuum from a piece titled Dutty tuff: Omens of things to come which was made for the El Museo del Barrio La Trienal 20/21 exhibition. The narrative in the piece comments on the historical impact sugar production had and continues to have on countries in the western hemisphere. The narrative is also woven together with recollections of my late grandfather’s experience as a child laborer, whom from the early age of ten worked in the sugarcane fields of Guyana as a cane cutter to support himself.

Dutty Tuff: Omen of things to come, 11” x 8”ft 2021, Graphite, silk aquatint, monoprint, relief print and screenprint on paper, photo courtesy of the artist

Please guide us through the show.

The show consists of seven large scaled works on paper that pushes the boundaries of graphite as a drawing medium, especially when it is combined with collage and printmaking. The exhibition uses the literary framework of a caesura where each piece is a vignette of this bigger story that I am attempting to tell. They narrate a series of events that unfold before and after the harvest of the sugar cane, hence the title of the show Canboulay which translates to burnt sugar. The title of the exhibition and the pieces within it also offers insight to some of the historical context that I am influenced by. For example, the piece …..Like a creature native and indued references a specific scene from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and elements taken from it informs the foliage and flowers used to depict the lone central figure. The piece Pitchy not so Patchy is a direct reference to one of the characters that is usually present during carnival. If you are aware of its role during these festivities then you would be able to further unravel the layers of the story, but if not, at least you can understand that a struggle of some kind is taking place, which hopefully sparks more questions as to why and where it is unfolding.

Without giving away too much, each piece in the exhibition demands its own time to unpack because there are so many layers, both figuratively and physically. Everything isn’t always what it seems.

…..Like a creature native and indued, 2021, Graphite, relief print collaged on paper, photo courtesy of the artist

Pitchy not so patchy, 2021, Graphite, Monoprint and Relief print on paper, photo courtesy of the Artist

Night Gardener, 48” x 78”. 2020, Graphite, and relief print on paper, photo courtesy of the artist

Simonette Quamina was born in Ontario Canada, She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the City College of New York, and A Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is the recipient of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program in New York City and is a 2020 Queen Sonja Print Award Nominee. Her work has shown both nationally and internationally. Her recent group exhibitions include Estamos Bien – LA TRIENAL 20/21 at El Museo del Barrio in New York City, Mirror Inflection at the Shanghai Hongqiao Contemporary Art Museum in China, “Artist I steal from” at Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac in London and solo exhibitions Canboulay at Smack Mellon in New York City and The Night Gardener at Pace University Gallery. She maintains an active studio in New York City, and is an Assistant Professor of Printmaking at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Simonette Quamina, Canboulay at Smack Mellon, through October 31, 2021 92 Plymouth Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201