If you were in Trinidad for carnival, at Beach House fete or on the road anywhere near Tribe mas band, you might have seen the glimmer of crystals in the distance. Or, what am I saying, you won't have seen much else - gems, sequins and glitter stretch as far as the eye can see. But this was different. This was a head - a FULL HEAD - of sparkling crystals. Ringing any bells now? Because every head turned when they saw that diamanté dome at Beach House, and every tongue wagged (of course that was before dark, when the garden party turns wild, you can't see much, and tongues are beyond such sanities). On the road, of course, there was even more camouflage for bling, but nevertheless, such a sight stood out from the crowd.
Phillip Levine is a Londoner. He had no connections with Trinidad or Carnival; no family, no history. But his old friend, Trinidadian-born Gigi Morley, herself a broadcaster, saw an unconscious cultural link to carnival when she saw the particular way Phil's head caught the sun; lucky, perhaps, that he didn't stick to hundreds and thousands, coffee beans or tributes to Japanese artists, as they may not have evoked the same response.
Since he realised in 2006 that he was starting to go bald, Philip decided to use his head as a canvas for art. Last year he was the sole focus of an exhibition in London (an exhibition sponsored by Gillette), entitled 'Headism', which featured photographs, sculptures and videos all of Phil's head, and what had been, or was being, placed upon it. And if you, in fact, WEREN'T in Trinidad recently, but you DO travel on the tube, something may be sounding a distant tinkle for you, too. Because, yes, there were some giant posters of Phil in tube stations across London prior to that exhibition. Subsequent to it, he was personally an exhibit at the V&A, and one of the images is now being featured at Somerset House for another year.
So, back to Trinidad. Phil heeded Gigi's call, and there he was, on the road, flaunting his head (as others were flaunting, well, everything else.) But he was also having meetings, primarily with Abovegroup Ogilvy, the branding agency who host Show & Tell in their Port-of-Spain studio, a monthly event featuring individuals from any creative field for presentations and discussions. Deciding that carnival time was a little too busy for the event to garner the attention it truly deserves, a re-visit to the twin-isles has been scheduled, for late April, when Phil ('s head) will collaborate with six or seven local artists to create a cultural exchange; afterwards, there will be an exhibition in public spaces both in Trinidad and in London, the latter on the underground, including creations from both locations. And, of course, Philip will be appearing at Show & Tell.
So far half of the artists are on board, though only one confirmed to the extent where we can reveal the name right here and now, and that's Brianna McCarthy, the celebrated Trindiadian mixed-media artist whose current exhibition, AfterColour, opens on March 15th at the Medulla Gallery, Port-of-Spain. Clearly this will be a cultural exchange quite unlike any other; we'll keep you informed.