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The Primacy of the Eye

Published by Peepal Tree Press

ISBN: 9781900715867

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Stanley Greaves is without question one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished artists and this critical monograph is both a long overdue investigation and appreciation of his work and an important contribution to the still small body of Caribbean writing about art.

Roopnaraine’s approach takes as its starting point Greaves’ own reference to ‘the primacy of the eye as a means of defining fundamentals of a Caribbean experience that cuts through or transcends the history of colonialism’. Roopnaraine’s is in the first place an exploration of Stanley Greaves’ highly original visual language, but one which draws attention to the significance of Greaves’ practice in bringing together elements from visual resources that range across traditional African and Amerindian art and contemporary European surrealism. Again, whilst this is in the first place a description and analysis of the visual and the importance for Greaves of the physical materials he works in, Roopnaraine never loses sight of the fact that Greaves is a Guyanese artist with explicit, though never overdetermining cultural and political concerns.

Chapters explore the roots of Greaves’ art in Guyanese physical reality (‘If all other records of modern Guyanese life were to disappear, a study of Greaves’ paintings of compassion of the fifties and sixties would be enough to tell us how we lived...’); his work in sculpture and ceramics; the impact of his explorations of the bush of the Guyanese interior and a move into more abstract spacial concerns; his return to figure paintings and an extensive investigation of the folk resources of Caribbean art; his visual response to the desolate years of political dictatorship and social collapse in the Guyana of the 1980s in a more explicitly ‘readable’ art; and the art of his more recent years of inner exploration and what has been described as a Caribbean metaphysic.

The book is illustrated with 78 full colour images of Greaves’ paintings, sculptures and ceramics and black and white illustrations from his notebooks.

Roopnaraine’s monograph will be of major interest not only to those concerned with Caribbean art, but to those with wider postcolonial interests in the creolising process.

Rupert Roopnaraine was born in 1943 in Guyana. He is political leader of the W.P.A., a film-maker, art critic and fomer cricketer.
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