Dynamic body art gives junkanoo new expression


Tribune Features Writer


BAHAMIAN visual artists and fine art photographer Monty Knowles sees sculpted art when he looks at the female body. Adding sophisticated designs with paint to the body canvas produces a “complex visual delight”.


Junkanoo Nymph Devinya Barr with artist Monty Knowles.

Through his Junkanoo Nymph series, Monty encourages people “to see past the sexual element of the female body and appreciate “nature’s most beautiful art creation”.

Junkanoo Nymph Devinya, the latest addition to the Junkanoo Nymph series was painted live at VOGA, a body art show held over the weekend. The Junkanoo installation brought out the spirit of the cultural expression with vibrant colours and elaborate dynamic costume concepts.

“Bright colours and intricate details of Junkanoo costumes were brought to life by the living skin sheathing nature’s most beautiful living art form, the human body. As with Junkanoo costumes, the base had to be prepared followed by details to trick out the finished product,” Monty said.
He seeks to introduce the spirit of Junkanoo to other parts of the world through his art, so beauty of the cultural expression is recognised by the world.

“The painted Junkanoo Nymph series presently underway fits into a grander theme to subtly expose Junkanoo, arguably our most unique art expression, to Europe and Asia, Monty told Tribune Arts.

“I am working with the Ministry of Tourism toward a goal of exhibiting Junkanoo art to these markets with mobile art galleries coupled with extraordinary showmanship. We need to make Junkanoo more than simply a once-a-year event and the far corners of the world need to understand that there is a great cultural expression on display here in the Bahamas. Our tourism motto needs to be revised to advise that the Bahamas has sun, sand, sea and Junkanoo,” he told Tribune Arts.

Painting the body is no easy task. The artist said body pieces can take anywhere between 5 and 10 hours to complete depending on the complexity.

"Even after painting is finished, the piece is still not complete until a fine art photo of an original painting of the body is taken," he said.

His photos are processed with Lightroom software, which allows the photographer to develop photos digitally in a way that mirrors the darkrooms of the past. Monty’s images explore the wonder of the human form without photoshop, stencils or airbrushing.

“As an architect I use flat paper to conceptualize, but beauty for me is heavily invested in the third dimension. The same applies to painting,” said Monty, who uses three mediums in one.

“The process starts with finding a great model and a Junkanoo costume. Paint types and colours are chosen; a sketch is made on the model’s skin, then the paint is applied. The painting usually looks rather mundane until the last hour or two in the process when the scheme comes together. Body paint is ephemeral to say the least, so the photography process is where the art is captured for posterity,” he said. 
During the lengthy process, mess-ups occur. “On the one occasion that I did not like where the scheme was going, the model simply took a shower and we started again.”

Models play an enormous role in the photos and concepts coming to life. He said a model’s attitude “breathes life into the art and the resultant photograph. Positive thinking and humour are the most important qualities in a model,” said Monty.

Over the years he has travelled to different countries around the world to paint and photograph. In the past he has been featured in several Norwegian newspapers.


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