Chungknight is a fast-rising sculptural artist based in Kingston, Jamaica. Experiential learning in a wide range of fields has enabled this visual artist to see connections where others seldom do, and this critical skill has infused his creativity and ultimately his art.
Are you self-taught or a product of art school?
I studied art formally at Ohio State University and I completed a Bachelor of Art with a Major in Sculpture at Howard University in Washington DC.
How would you describe your style?
I would describe it as ‘Interpretive naturalism’ – in a way, its my interpretation of the natural form.
What inspires your art?
The real world inspires me. Early on, it was about understanding people. When I was younger, I had spinal problems and was in serious pain. There was only one position, with my head tilted up, that would momentarily release the pain. I took that pose as a symbol of momentary escape and in my art, I placed sculptural heads in this same pose. The heads had features of different races and represented a commonality among all humans. Later on, my inspiration came from working through my “Rasta” experience. I lived in a Rasta community in the Blue Mountains here in Jamaica for seven years and the locks came to symbolize a sense of inner power. I placed this feature on different races in my sculptures. I always tend to take something from my real-life environment and then expand it to encompass a deeper meaning.
What is the art scene like in Jamaica and what challenges do emerging artists face?
Jamaica is a small island and even though we have a relatively active art scene it is very limited in scope and capacity. Funding is always an issue and to truly get around this, one would have to seriously adjust their mode of art production. For me I am pretty fixed on doing figurative stuff and rendering it in a realistic way, which means that material-wise and technically it is challenging. However, that is what I have a passion for so changing that would detract from the experience of making art for me. The market here in Jamaica is just not big enough to support any serious and consistent art production. Hence most prolific artists are not based here but find time to work here. So it can be challenging – it has its up and downsides.
Who are your favourite artists and why?
My favourite artist is Willy Verginer – his work depends on an extraordinary knowledge of a material, it is accessible by all but yet subtly complex.
If you could own one work of art what would it be?
The head of the sculpture of King Jayavarman VII. Don’t worry the head has been broken off the sculpture for years and, well, I think I would have to settle for a copy as it is a national treasure.
What is your favourite place to view art?
The East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Where is your studio and what’s it like?
It is located in a garage in Jacks Hill, which is on the outskirts of the city of Kingston in Jamaica. When I am working in it, it is usually very clean and uncluttered but it is quite the opposite if I am not in a work period.
What are some recent works and what are you working on currently?
I have lately been playing around with Lego and am exploring it as a sculptural material.
I also recently completed a large-scale public sculpture called Evolution, in tandem with Raymond Watson. It was funded by the Digicel Foundation and was installed in Downtown Kingston. It was always conceived as a gift to the Jamaican people and as such the project became more than simply another work of art. It had to continue to be relevant long after it had been given to the people. With this in mind, we choose the universal notion of “growth”. It seemed relevant to Jamaica and to the individual. The notion of our evolution is something that hopefully will continue to resonate tomorrow, next week, in a year or into the next century.
What are your ambitions?
I’m working that out right now! I am trying to spend more time working in film or incorporating film into my work – I miss the element of time in static sculpture.
Where can we buy your art?
In Jamaica I am sold at HiQo Gallery in Kingston, but internationally my work is available online at Go Global Art: www.goglobalart.com . Any platform that can give an artist exposure across borders is a godsend these days as it is more about getting the work out to more people these days and bypassing environments that have limitations, without having to relocate.
You can read more about Chungknight’s story here: http://www.goglobalart.com/portfolio-item/chungknight/
About the Author:
Andrea Dempster Chung is an entrepreneur whose career spans multiple industries in the private and public sector including Engineering, Financial Services, Telecoms and the Arts. She has garnered experience in startups and has won national awards for Bookophilia, her first venture. She is the current Founder of Go Global Art, an online gallery that connects artists around the world with art-lovers. She has served on several boards in her home country of Jamaica and has a keen interest in projects that benefit the creative community.
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