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NAYDENE GONNELLA - THE EXECUTION OF POP PHIZ
Friday 31st March 2017

In preparation for Naydene Gonnella’s Pop-Phiz exhibition, Simply Antigua Barbuda was invited to preview the artist’s extensive collection of expressionistic portraits. They were excited and inspired by what they found. This latest collection developed over three years, with the artist experiencing a period of transition, as she herself grew emotionally. Naydene’s initial focus was on iconic tragic subjects, who had succumbed to weaknesses, addictions, and depressions. However, choosing to see beyond the desperation and darkness of these characters, Naydene applied comic themes to the works, managing to convey a range of mixed, intoxicating emotions. The results are powerful and thought provoking images, tinged with a light hearted sense of humour.

The interview took place in the historic reception rooms of the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel. Electrifying images were propped up against Georgian arches, with brick walls providing a dramatic contrast to the vivid colour, light and texture of the large canvasses. As tormented souls stared out at us from their honest reflections, we found ourselves looking into the haunted eyes of Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley and actor Robin Williams, to name a few. Naydene described her vision of bringing this colonial building to life, her intriguing collection to be displayed to the public for one night only.

On opening night, the atmospheric venue was lit up and ablaze with a blast of colour. The old world venue had been transformed into a creative, contemporary space. The bustling diverse crowd, sipped cocktails, and engaged in lively conversation. Locals, tourists, students, fellow artists, art-lovers, business persons, investors and other curious souls mingled effortlessly. This cross-section of people were engaged with the subject matter and the undeniable talent of the artist. As they interacted, some attempted to identify some of the lesser known subjects of the portraits, whilst others present claimed to be the actual inspiration behind specific pieces. The more observant viewer would spot the reoccurring hidden symbols, signatures of Naydene’s work; the tiny image of a lamb signifying a loss of innocence may go unnoticed by those who are naïve to its meaning. Other obscure symbols such as birds and children’s doodles are camouflaged in the artist’s layering technique. Punchy headlines and carefully incorporated text draw in the viewer and further lighten the mood of the collection.

As a result of the successful Pop-Phiz exhibition, the broad appeal of this collection has become apparent. From her home base here in Antigua, she is already reaching out across the seas. Naydene has been invited to exhibit her paintings in Paris this September, as well as shows scheduled in St. Maarten and St. Bart’s.

And for the fans of her work here, great news, the Pop-Phiz exhibition will be showcased at the Admiral’s Inn and Gunpowder Room for the month of April. Naydene tells us that it will be a mixture of the Pop-Phiz pieces as well as some new ones that she has been working on. So for anyone who missed the event you can now view it.

See more of the art collection here.


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