Kwesi Abbensetts





About the Artist

Every day isn't the same, so is my work, if you really choose to understand.

Google me.




with Joe Brommel, September 2018

How do film and photography interact in your practice?

They're not really separate, they're just mutual things. In my photography, the context, the framing, the lighting, the compositions — it's all influenced by filmmaking and cinematography. I just recently did a short film where I merge aspects of filmmaking and photography. And I'm in Jamaica right now, shooting a film based on this seaside place, and what the experience can be like. I’m playing with that experiment right now.

To just break down what my work is about, it’s intuitive, it's meditating on the notion of things, on happenstance, on color, on the idea of a spiritual connection. It’s about looking at simple things and making them transcendent. I'm working with my instincts, and representing my personal foundations. That’s how my work comes about. The piece always tells you what it wants to do.

That's the spiritual side of things. I'm continually bound to the process of making an image.

How did Wassaic fit into that process? Both in how you framed it beforehand, and what you ended up working on?

Oh, I didn't know what I was going to make in Wassaic. I looked at Wassaic as a space where I could reflect on what I want to do with my work, how I want to be with myself in my work. The idea of just trusting myself, and trusting what I create, and being strong about that. It allowed me a certain freedom to play. It allowed me ease of mind. It gave me the notion and the feeling of what it is to be totally just committed to the art process. I felt stronger at the end of it as an artist.

I ended up doing some experimental work on tarp and rice bags. Because my work also deals with memory, found objects, found pieces, and so forth. I'm from Guyana, and in Guyana we have a rich history of rice. It’s one of our main exports. Growing up I ate rice every day, and I still do — so there's a memory connection and then a direct, living connection.

It’s funny you mention found objects. You’re friends with Nyugen Smith, right?

Yes, I am.

Okay. I actually interviewed Nyugen as well, and it was fascinating to hear him talk about the history of his materials. Is there a relationship between your work and Nyugen’s work? Or are you mostly just friends, and it doesn't extend to your art?

Well, I would revise the “found objects” part of it. The rice bags aren’t really found, but repurposed. Nyugen is more literally along the lines of found objects; for me, it's more about material.

But there’s an aspect of memory in both our work. We’re both from the Caribbean, so there’s this representation of the home space, the Caribbean space, the diaspora space. My photography deals with that, but it’s even in my painted works, with regards to how I use paint. In the Caribbean, whatever you have is what you can use.

Do you see your work as narrative in nature, then?

In a particular way. Because I’m never putting a fixed state upon what I may go out and create. It's more spontaneous — what materials present themselves in the moment. If it's portraiture, it’s whatever the person has, what they're wearing. There’s some sort of control I take in terms of location and so forth, but life is really a story that we wake up every day and recreate. For me, doing work the way I do it, I don't know what’s going to present itself. I just have to be ready to see those things, those moments.


I’m continually bound to the process of making an image.
— Kwesi Abbensetts

Photos by Verónica González Mayoral