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Kimme’s work a bridge to the spirit of Tobago

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Luise Kimme’s latest exhibition is entitled Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a name that immediately summons up the familiar tune from the Wizard of Oz. Indeed, Kimme admits that the song came to mind one morning as she made her way down to her studio to work. Yet, if we dig deeper, the title offers us a meaningful way in which to consider the art Kimme has been making for many years. 



A rainbow is symbolic of a bridge. Through her sculptures and drawings, Luise Kimme creates a bridge or link across which a spirit of place and people—a spirit of Tobago in particular—can traverse and take on physical, material form. With each sculptural piece and creative rendering on paper, Kimme reaches over the rainbow and pulls what lies somewhere within us and brings it into a tangible manifestation. What she finds in us and carves into visible being is a powerful, indefatigable beauty.


The German-born artist has lived since 1979 in Tobago,  where she began carving logs into forms derived from life and mythologies in the Caribbean. A prolific sculptor, she works in wood and then casts her pieces in bronze. She is also a keen educator. She studied at St Martin’s School of Art in London and has taught sculpture at a number of learning institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design, California State University and the Dusseldorf Academy. 


Kimme is now poised for the transformation of her home and studio—known as the Kimme Museum—into an art school where small bronze casting, among other skills, will be taught. 
Kimme has always seen magnificence in the folk traditions of T&T. She was first drawn to the Caribbean to study Maroon art. Maroons are the runaway slaves and their descendants who created hidden free communities in which folk customs are practised and sustained. Over the years, Kimme has maintained her interest in exploring traditional practices and customs. Among her concerns is folk dance. A number of her sculptures feature the human form caught in rhythmic movement. 


In speaking about Luise Kimme’s work, artist Kenwyn Crichlow observes, “Kimme’s work reflects a subtle understanding of context as respect for indigenous tradition.” Painter and sculptor Donald “Jackie” Hinkson says that what he finds remarkable is “her dedication to exploring the folk themes of her adopted Tobago.” He adds, “This cannot be easy for one coming from a different cultural environment because there is always the risk of emphasising the exotic.” For sculptor Bunty O’Connor, Kimme’s capacity to address folk themes comes from her abandonment of European ways of seeing in favour of her own personal way of viewing and responding to the world around her. 


“Kimme rejected the European world of postmodern art because she wanted to remain true to her own vision. In Tobago, she found that she could work as the spirit moved her, to create her dancers, gods and goddesses,” says O’Connor. Bunty O’Connor’s words are significant because she suggests that Kimme does not blindly follow the dictates of art styles. Instead, Kimme lets that spirit over the rainbow move her to create. It is a spirit that guides her eyes and hands as she fashions lines and shapes into expressive volumetric forms.
Kimme’s art is characterised not only by her attention to folk traditions but also by her intense focus on portraying the human figure in both three-dimensional and two-dimensional terms. Her work constitutes a consistent investigation of the human body and a tremendous outpouring of pieces that demonstrate her awareness of how the body occupies, displaces, interpenetrates and relates to space.


According to Crichlow, Luise Kimme’s work is “largely concerned with explorations of the physical and psychologically complex space that exists between a desire for the presence of a sensual, physical power and a keen observation of the human form.” Her art evokes what Crichlow calls “the fine craft and majestic presence of those classic bronzes from pre-colonial Benin.” Hinkson also reflects on Kimme’s dedication and her grasp of the human form. “Her discipline—her capacity for constant work—no doubt accounts for her complete understanding of the human form in all its complex muscular and bone structures. This knowledge allows her to capture a wide range of gestures even when she must make adjustments to suit the original shape of the wood. Her drawing also reflects this knowledge.”


Kimme’s work is striking, and the size of her creative effort undeniable. “It is easy for me to appreciate her work; far harder to comprehend the hard labour, intelligence, physical strength, skill and determination that have gone into the making. I am encouraged by her unparalleled attitude to life and work,” says O’Connor. O’Connor insists that Kimme’s art is “a unique gift to T&T.” Yet what Kimme offers us is not only that which has been made with bronze, charcoal and oils. “She sculpts from the heart, portraying a sense of individual and collective identities in Tobago as a story of hope and compassion, that is her spirit,” says Crichlow. As a bridge, Kimme’s art gives us a means to make our way to ourselves. As a rainbow, her artworks connect us with what we can often overlook in our everyday lives—her art links us to our splendid spirit.


Luise Kimme’s exhibition Somewhere Over the Rainbow opens on March 11 at 7 pm and runs through March 23 at Y Art Gallery, 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook. For more information and gallery hours call 628-4165 or e-mail: [email protected]


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