“My goal is to cause people to be introspective and be empowered by a new paradigm of their reality.”
When I first met Asher Mains in person I was surprised at his relatively small frame and humble aura. When you think of his pieces like “Dreaducation” you don’t expect the soft spoken man I met.
After completing his Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Calvin College in Michigan in 2006 he decided to undertake a program in Art Studies. He did so from 2007 until 2009 at Brookhaven College, Dallas, Texas. Mains chose Intercultural Studies with the vision of having a career in Anthropology. “It has always been a question of having a primary career and choosing Art as a secondary thing“. In the past he has done odd jobs like bar tending which he calls “revenue generators” alongside his art. Today he is a full time artist, exhibiting his work in Grenada, Barbados and Shanghai, China.
Mains tells me that he was always drawn to creativity. Access to material and growing up in a creative environment enabled him to express that. He jokingly says that he hopes that he would have found his way to art even if that was not his reality. His mother (and fellow artist Susan Mains) may have influenced his genesis as an artist but their styles are very different.
CRITIQUE, FEAR and MOTIVATION
One critique he received while undertaking the Art Studies program was that there was not much of himself in his work. Mains is known to paint Caribbean influenced pieces. His earlier red yellow and purple Bob Marley portraits were a reflection of his own search for identity through art as a minority in the Caribbean.
A Grenadian ex-pat expressed confusion that Mains painted what she categorised as “Black Art” because the subjects of his work were of African descent. Mains explains that race is biological and ethnicity is a cultural perspective. He identifies himself as ethnically Caribbean and his art is a reflection of that.
Fear of in inadequacy in making abstract concepts visual keeps Asher Mains on his toes. He feels that if an artist has the attitude that they arrived: that they are an artist and that all the work they have produced is great then he is concerned that that artist may not be open to growing in their craft
There is a struggle in managing perceptions and gauging how his art is understood by his audience.
Mains has explored and adventured into different styles of depicting the human likeness. He has evolved from his earlier red yellow and purple pieces, to the technique of dripping different chemicals over his work, to the use of his own stencils to create art.
He explains that in his dripping pieces he was excited by the idea of creating and destroying his work. He paints and then sabotages his work in order to create chaos, he believes that chaos takes care of itself, it is self sustaining. He has been critiqued as taking beautiful people and destroying them in almost a vengeful way in his art. This is far from his intent; it is done to show thebeauty in transience. He enjoys exploring how paint and different techniques can affect his and his audience’s emotions. Experimenting with unexpected media such as wine, coffee and tea was a result of convenience which lead to innovation.
“If you are being honest or authentic you need to cite your sources”
Mains says that art is inspired by the artists environment and what she or he is exposed to. Recently he has gone on a trip to Europe to see what he calls “the edge of art” or the avant garde.
Apart from the idea that an artist must constantly be “afraid” that they are not communicating effectively with their audience, from an official perspective he feels confident because he has studied his craft. He feels confident in his ability to produce, introduce his own work as well as interact with work of others.
“Be the first or be the biggest or be the best”
Mains would advise anyone who wants to pursue a career in art to expose themselves to a lot of art. Creating art on a small island is an advantage because it can be a microcosm for inspiration and innovation. There are a finite number of artists which facilitates an easy avenue for the exchanging of ideas within the art community. To advance Art in Grenada, Mains says, we need to get out of the mentality that we paint sailboats and flowers exclusively.
It is an exciting proposition to him, to trade creativity, inspiration and innovative ways of doing things for money. Artists are in the work of immortality. In a cosmological sense Art has great purpose.
ART FOR MONEY?
He does acknowledge that there is level of innovation that can suffer when you feel pressured to make work that sells, but also notes that there must be some level of practicality.
Mains did not feel like he needed to leave Grenada to become an artist, but, leaving Grenada has been important for his growth in terms of the exposure. It helps him to gauge what is trending and what you can get away with, and whether there is a market for the work. If the art falls outside of the boundaries of acceptability it may become more of a spectacle than art to be appreciated.
ARE YOU A GRENADA SOUL ADVENTURER?
His offering: Grenada Soul Adventurer as a concept has “multiple layers; adventures on a soul level or someone with soul who adventures”.
He does not have concrete idea of what it is, but, he understands it to be a feeling and Asher Mains believes he has that feeling.