Collection 1880s–1940s

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*Tropical Night*

Christopher Cozier. Tropical Night. 2006–14 564

1 of 268 sheets with acrylic, ink, colored ink, pencil, and colored pencil on paper, some with stamped ink, stencil, solvent transfer, and cut-and-pasted colored and painted paper, 9 x 7" (22.9 x 17.8 cm). Latin American and Caribbean Fund and Fund for the Twenty-First Century. © Christopher Cozier. Courtesy of Christopher Cozier

Artist, Christopher Cozier:  Drawing is very speculative. It’s investigative, like a thought.

I am Christopher Cozier. I am an artist living in Port of Spain, in Trinidad.

I think the Caribbean is a kind of way of seeing the world based on a very particular historical experience. In the seventies, the era when I was coming of age, Trinidad had a kind of revolutionary period. Young people were killed. But parallel with that was the fact that we had a burst of oil wealth. And to keep the comforts of oil money flowing, the middle class just turned their back on these young people. And then, in the early nineties, there was an insurrection and during that period, there was a lot of violence, a lot of looting. So, how do you deal with these things? In this body of work, I’m navigating the trauma of them.

There’s a lot of symbols. There are silhouettes of myself, as a kind of brown body, looking out at the world. A in some of them, things emanate from the mouth, from the eyes.

The slices of cake are from my childhood, where my grandparents would send me to a birthday party and they would say, “Never take the first slice, never take the biggest slice, and never take the last slice.” But of course the party infers political party. And if you look at some of the cakes, you can see that the texture of the cake is also the map.

The reason why the drawings are suspended on paperclips is the flexibility and the fluidity of the work. Each time it’s shown, the arrangement is different based on what's going on in the world or how I’m feeling.

I’ve given myself permission to play as well. I got tired of having to be the ideological man. I wanted to have some fun. The plantation culture—we were brought here to work, not to dream or even to live. So even to call myself an artist is almost like an act of defiance.