Private View: Friday 20 April, 6.00- 8.00pm

Closing Party: Saturday 12 May 2018, 3.00- 5.00pm

Exhibition continues to Saturday 12 May 2018, Thursday & Friday 10.00- 4.00pm and other times by arrangement.

Last Friday Talk: Lee Johnson will explore and discuss landscape and memory in relation to the exhibition, 7.00-8.30pm.

The Other Side of Paradise explores the notion of identity through the slowly vanishing folklore and carnival characters of Trinidad and Tobago. In Lee Johnson’s prints, two dimensions of the Caribbean mind are divided - and well removed from the tourist’s blue skies and sunny seas.

Caribbean folklore features strange and fantastical creatures – nightmares really – that inhabit the dense, wet forests of the land. For in much of the Caribbean, so unlike the tamed English countryside, the forests remain a sort of terra incognita. Who would want to go there (or escape there, if you were a slave in search of refuge) and brave the “vague horror/ Inside the unchristened bush”, Derek Walcott. You might run into the “mama glow”, the mother of waters: a creature half woman, half serpent, that snakes herself into the mangroves; be wary of the “Lagahoo”, a chained, headless man who can morph into a werewolf and who wanders the dark, burdened with a coffin on his shoulders; or you might find yourself face-to-face with the faceless “douennes”: undead babies, sweet cherubs that lure children into places from where there is no escape.

These fantasies – a mash-up of African Shango myths and French Catholic dread – haunt the forests of the land, and the forests of the mind.

Johnson’s images explore these forest spaces through intricately cut pattern, and negative and positive space. He says that in making the recent linocuts the technique has helped reveal their real subject matter, and contributed to the dark and complex narrative spaces of the images, that the action of carving and gouging the white spaces became the way into these dark places.

In the Carnival Characters series, Johnson reflects on extraordinary characters that, until recently, wandered the crowded streets during the two days of Carnival. He remains convinced that they were intended to terrify children and remembers that he lived in fear of them as a child. Dressed in costumes derived from traditional European harlequins and Elizabethan morality plays, they are like the jesters and demons of early English theatre. But they were not jesters. They were devils.

Here was another expression of Caribbean syncretism, where the French "diable" was co-opted into the Shango masquerade of local devils: the jab jabs and jab molassies and la jablesses. And when they weren’t direct expressions of the devil, they were bats, in this unique version of hellfire, flagellation and bacchanal.

And all put to a steel-band beat…

“But somewhere in that whirlwind’s radiance A child, rigged like a bat, collapses sobbing” Derek Walcott