Living Landscapes: John Dunkley and the Cultural Landscape of Colonial Jamaica
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To many Jamaicans nature itself was spiritual and alive, and while John Dunkley’s landscapes seek to mystify audiences, this thesis seeks to discern the complex symbolism within his paintings. Although only moderately successful in his lifetime, this Jamaican, self-taught artist is now known as a master of Intuitive art. Intuitivism is highly regarded in Jamaica as a form of creation outside of mainstream styles and formal training. Working in the 1930s and 1940s, Dunkley’s work reflects the Afro-Jamaican experience of the late colonial era, as Jamaica was slowly negotiating independence while forming a national cultural identity separate from Great Britain. This thesis thus examines Dunkley’s artwork through a decolonial lens, as clear resistance symbols are evident throughout his body of work. Of these symbols, this paper will primarily address the phallic and yonic symbols evident apparent in the majority of Dunkley's paintings. By hiding erotic symbolism within the landscape, Dunkley anthropomorphizes the natural world, allowing nature to become a narrative in Dunkley’s decolonial image. In doing so, Dunkley subverts the exoticized projections of the Caribbean in order to both reveal the colonial reality of Jamaica and reclaim lost power. The art of John Dunkley utilizes the erotic landscape to undermine colonial structures. Calling his Jamaican peers to decolonial action, Dunkley embeds a wide range of symbolism into these living landscapes.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- John Dunkley: life of an intuitive artist -- Art and decolonial resistance -- Reclaiming power through the erotic landscape -- The darker side of the landscape
M.A. (Master of Arts)