Paradise Omeros

Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam

Galerie Ron Mandos is proud to present the single-screen film installation Paradise Omeros (2002) by Isaac Julien (1960, UK). The topic of migration is now more relevant than ever, also presented in the recent five exhibitions on this subject at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Together with the works by Esiri Erheriene-Essi these two exhibitions portray migration and its effects on culture in a beautiful manner.

Set in 1960s London and on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Paradise Omeros is freely inspired by Derek Walcott's epic poem Omeros, which references the Greek poet Homer’s The Odyssey. Walcott and musician and composer Paul Gladstone Reid collaborated with Julien on the text and the score for the film, respectively. Walcott, who is a Nobel Prize-winning Saint Lucian author, was commission by Julien to create a poem specifically for the film.

Paradise Omeros delves into the fantasies and feelings of "Creoleness" - the mixed language, the hybrid mental states and the territorial transpositions that arise as a result of the cultural difference characteristic of the West Indies, that emerged from its history of colonial rule.

By using the recurrent imagery of the sea, the film sweeps the viewer into a poetic meditation on the ebb and flow of selfhood and Otherness, love and hate, xenophobia and xenophilia.

The films’ protagonist, Achilles (played by Hansel Jules), appears in both locations, first working as a waiter at a Saint Lucian beach resort and later wandering through bleak and grey London brutalist buildings. Dreamlike scenes of the ocean and a lively party in a West Indian London apartment speak to the beauty of his world; vignettes of a burning cabin and domestic brutality also imply that violence and anxiety lie just beneath the surface.

The poetic and emotional terrain of postcolonial identity is explored through a richly imagined, elliptical narrative that links two island cultures: England and Saint Lucia, while the film’s protagonist becomes the Achilles of the Caribbean diaspora.

Derek Walcott passed away in 2017 on his native island, leaving behind him a precious legacy. Isaac Julien not only took inspiration from but also collaborated with Walcott in Paradise Omeros. As Walcott in his poems, Julien poetically interweaves pressing issues, such as migration and displacement into narratives that allow for an intimate, lyrical approach that can speak to us in a timeless manner.

Concurrently with the film installation, Ron Mandos is proud to present a selection of photographs from the Before Paradise series. This series consists of triptychs, diptychs and a new photographic work, all of which are portraits of characters in the film and a meditation on landscapes. As a homage to the late Derek Walcott, Isaac Julien has produced a new photographic work especially for this exhibition, titled Omeros - The Sea is History (Homage to Derek Walcott).

Paradise Omeros has been extensively exhibited worldwide, including Documenta 11 in Kassel, 2002, under Okwui Enwezor’s curatorial direction. The film installation is in the collections of Moderna Musset (Sweden), IMMA (Ireland), Goetz Collection (Germany) and The Guggenheim; it has been exhibited at the De Pont Museum (The Netherlands) 2015; Fondación Helga de Alvear (Spain) in 2012; the Bass Museum of Art (USA) in 2010; Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain) 2009; and at the Edinburgh Film Festival (Scotland) 2003, among others.

Isaac Julien was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017. He is a visual artist and filmmaker who has pioneered a form of multi-screen installations, and his artistic production includes photographic artworks and lightboxes. He is a Turner prize nominee, and his works were featured in the 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015). He has exhibited in museums and institutions worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013-2014), Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016), among many others. In 2015, Julien had a retrospective entitled ''RIOT'' at the De Pont Museum (Tilburg, the Netherlands). In 2016, he had a solo exhibition at El Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City. Julien's work is also on view at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Julien has taught at Harvard University (1998-2002), he was Professor of Media Art at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe (2009-2015) and Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016).

ABOUT Isaac Julien

Filmmaker and installation artist, Isaac Julien CBE RA, was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. His multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. His 1989 documentary-drama exploring author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance titled Looking for Langston garnered Julien a cult following while his 1991 debut feature Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Having recently worked on conserving and restoring Looking for Langston images from his extensive archive, he exhibited of photographic works at Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2017), Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco (2016) and Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam (2016) with a screening of the film in its original 16mm print at Tate Britain.

Julien’s solo exhibitions and presentations include Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town (2017); Platform-L Contemporary Art Centre, Seoul (2017); The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016); MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016); De Pont Museum, Netherlands (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2013); The Bass Museum, Miami (2010); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2009); Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2005); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2005) and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2005). His latest work, Stones Against Diamonds, was shown in 2015 as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme at the Venice Biennale, at Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Julien participated in the Venice Biennale at the inaugural Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th edition in 2017 with Western Union: Small Boats. Previously, he presented Kapital and directed Das Kapital Oratorio in the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, in 2015. His work has also been exhibited in the 7th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2008); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); Performa 07, New York (2007) and in documenta 11, Kassel (2002).

Julien’s work is held in collections that include: Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; the LUMA Foundation, Arles; the Kramlich Collection; the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town. In 2016 the Towner Art Gallery Collection (Eastbourne, UK) acquired Ten Thousand Waves (2010) as part of a Moving Image Fund program. Ten Thousand Waves, a globally acclaimed multiple screen installation work, premiered at the 2010 Sydney Biennale and has gone on to be exhibited extensively - recently at Platform-L in Seoul (2017) and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2016) as well as the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2013, with whom he also published a comprehensive monographic survey of his life and work, titled ‘Riot’.

Julien has taught extensively, holding posts such as Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016) and Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hoscschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008 – 2016). He is the recipient of the James Robert Brudner ‘83 Memorial Prize and Lectures at Yale University (2016). Most recently he received the Charles Wollaston Award (2017), for most distinguished work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and in 2018, he was made a Royal Academician. Julien was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours, 2017.