Arts & CultureCampus & City

Exhibit Review: ‘In this vessel I am…’ at FAB Gallery

Brimming with symbolism and authenticity, 'In this vessel I am…' is a multidimensional exploration of cultural identity.

Inspired by her heritage as an Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean woman, Jamaican artist Raneece Buddan uses multiple mediums in her art. The results are harmonious, deeply personal textiles and sculptures. In this vessel I am…, curated by Nura Ali, displays intricate patterns and abstract carvings that together form a calming and complex collection.  

Natalia Gala “…redefining a story” by Raneece Buddan.

The exhibit’s lingering title is highly purposeful. When followed by the names of Buddan’s artworks, sentences are made. For example, when we view the cotton textile …blurring the lines, the sentence “in this vessel I am blurring the lines” forms. Buddan’s art goes far beyond face-value to showcase the undefinable, forever evolving aspects of who she is.

Buddan’s artwork incorporates traditional design elements. Specifically, these include the traditions of Okene of Nigeria, and Ilkal of India. This gives her art a powerful historical context, yet does not take away from the uniqueness of her collection in any way. By blending cultural elements and using a variety of innovative materials — including wood, wax, fabric, resin, and ceramics — she creates a distinct, contemporary collection.

a Portrait Woven
Natalia Gala “…a Portrait Woven” by Raneece Buddan.

Out of all of the materials on display, synthetic hair stands out the most. It is woven around a glazed ceramic pot in …redefining a story. A tangible symbol of ethnic African heritage, the hair is a connection to one’s body or “vessel.” Meanwhile, the colourful, flowery designs and vivid colours of the pot feel balanced, each complimenting the other.

blurring the lines
Natalia Gala “…blurring the lines” by Raneece Buddan.

Some aspects, such as the shape of the pot or its golden tassels, are symmetrical, whereas others, such as the strange green design on its neck, are not. This, together with an abundance of circular shapes and curves, creates a sense of co-existence and flow. This flow seems to be synonymous with the intertwined nature of cultural and personal identity.

…blurring the lines is made of hand-dyed muslin cotton. Featuring painting and screen and block-printing, this piece is rich with patterns and shapes that feel just right. The patterns are neither minimalist nor maximalist. Perhaps because of the repetitive nature of the patterns, both in …blurring the lines and in the two textiles titled …a Portrait Woven, I felt stabilized and grounded when viewing these works.

Overall, I interpreted the textile patterns to represent the cultural foundations of Buddan’s personal identity. Symbolic of her own interpretation of culture, they form the baseline from which she is free to expand her horizons as an independent individual.

Natalia Gala “…consumed with uncovering the past” by Raneece Buddan.

…one with my knots and …consumed with uncovering the past feature wooden carvings on top of cotton textiles. The textiles again form intricate patterns, both of which show an immense attention to detail. Vertical and horizontal lines intersect, separated by plenty of differing shapes and additional, angled lines. The grid-like organization gives both pieces a sense of order. Meanwhile, the bright colors are striking all on their own.

one with my knots
Natalia Gala “…one with my knots” by Raneece Buddan.

The wooden carvings are centered on the textiles. They feel skewed in comparison to their backgrounds, with asymmetrical lines and curved edges. These pieces are especially abstract, but vaguely identifiable as human faces. They break the comparative monotone with their own brand of chaos. In the context of the exhibit’s overriding themes, they show how identity evolves and does not need to conform.

adorned in our threads
Natalia Gala “…adorned in our threads” by Raneece Buddan.

…adorned in our threads has a similarly undefined shape. A large wooden sculpture adorned with etched lines, textiles, wax and more, this piece stands proudly in the center of the exhibit. Slightly tilted and with an uneven surface, this is a highly unconventional work. Simply looking at it once is not enough. You need to walk fully around it and look up and down if you want to truly appreciate the subtle yet careful carvings.   

In this vessel I am… expertly brings together symmetry, patterns, and the lack of both. There is no overarching rule governing Buddan’s style, just as there is no governing law deciding how we should express culture or decide who we are. Even so, each piece is instantly recognizable as hers. Viewers can tell that she is in touch with who she is, and this makes her art all the more relevant.

You can admire Buddan’s artwork at the FAB gallery until February 10.

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