When the artist names his exhibition ‘Carnivale’ he wants to prepare you to be shocked and disgusted. Delighted and repulsed. He presents his mind to you as a sideshow and invites you to ogle at his thoughts, disturbing as they may be. Kraig Yearwood sets up an intriguing premise with the title of his show but doesn’t quite deliver with the content.
In this reimagining of mindscape as amusement park, the fairground is empty. The only ones present are a man, a woman and a dog. They are the fairgoers and simultaneously the players in this strange ensemble, inviting you to travel with them across the landscape while piecing together the intricacies of their performance.
Paintings range in style from random drips and streaks of pigment to graphic stencils painted onto monochromatic backgrounds. Motifs appear in pieces like obsessions, unexplained and ubiquitous. Darts and dartboards. A gas mask and a teddy bear. The form of a woman makes its appearance as an old fashioned sewing mannequin in a number of the paintings while In ‘Hall of Mirrors’, a three piece series, the small dog, a metaphor for the artist himself, stares into a wonky mirror at his reflection. In one the reflection is distorted, the dog’s legs elongated. In another the reflection is accurate, in the last, the reflection is missing. Yearwood’s ‘Labyrinth’ has the dog staring down a hallway of doors within doors nested perpetually. In each subsequent painting I found myself looking to discover something that adds to the narrative only to be disappointed by unnecessarily vague metaphors.
X’s and o’s on some paintings can be interpreted as the ideogram for hugs and kisses but in others, found as tic-tac-toe, a game played to win against one other. Affection and antagonism. An intriguing detail in an otherwise monotonous landscape. The dashes of primary colour against swathes of grey are also a useful, if pedestrian choice. You can imagine these are mixed emotions. Euphoria perhaps; the heady intoxication of love, interspersed with feelings of isolation.
The meandering dog’s constant appearance in several paintings mirror’s the viewer’s feeling of an outsider looking in, a curious and perhaps confused gawker. In what I felt was Yearwood’s most well-executed piece, two impenetrable boxes are placed side by side. One has delicate lace pinned to the front, a coil of barbed wire nestled inside, glimpsed through a cut-out shaped like the same dressmaking mannequin. On the other box, the wireframe mannequin is drawn and framed in a rectangle of barbed wire. A hummingbird hovers captive inside the mannequin. A woman, or the idea of a woman, beautiful from a distance but guarded, aloof and dangerous. Unfortunately this compelling yet straightforward execution is absent in his other pieces.
There’s a story to be told here but the details are just out of reach and the aesthetics aren’t compelling enough to fill in the gaps. There’s making something abstract enough to lend itself to various interpretations, then there’s being purposefully obtuse. Like trying to tell a story with all nouns and no verbs, the vague narrative of Carnivale frustrates you until your eyes glaze over and you move onto something else. Bizarre freak show this is not, but by expanding his concept just a bit more the artist could have made an exhibition that truly delivers.
Ari Green is a graduate of the Visual Arts Associate Degree Programme in the Division of Fine Arts (A Centre for the Visual and Performing Arts) at the Barbados Community College