At the heart of Shane Aquârt’s art lies the aural wallpaper of his youth.
The Jamaican-born artist, his alter-ego a West Indian persona known as Dready, cites the Reggae tunes of Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 Jamaican cult classic film, The Harder They Come, as inspiration.
“If you were to say, ‘Set the soundtrack to Dready,’ that would be it,” he says. “It came out at a seminal time of formative years, when Jamaica was coming into its own as a creature in the world.”
Aquârt was nine years old at the time. Now he’s 54 and living on Grand Cayman Island, a celebrity of sorts. His artwork—flat, bright, and whimsical, sometimes inhabited by stick people and also the occasional chicken or goat—earns him commissions from around the globe.
“Humorous? Yes, like a guy driving around in a 356B Porsche and, in the back seat, a goat,” he says. “And chickens—you never know when you’ll come across them, like in the lobby of the Kimpton Hotel. It’s an element of surprise that makes up the daily structure of life here.”
His tongue-in-cheek, eccentric attitude appeals to the non-traditional collector. “I see some Hockney there, with an incredible use of color,” says London journalist Patrick McAleenan. “And the scenery is not something that’s been seen before.”
Aquârt’s work with scenery caught the eye of architect John Doak, whose designs on Grand Cayman are some of the island’s finest. Other clients may request family portraits from the artist, but Doak commissioned prints inspired by the films of his youth, especially those featuring James Bond. “Bond was my hero growing up, and being so close to Jamaica, I’ve become engrossed by the Sean Connery character,” Doak says.
The architect has commissioned a series of Dready prints called “Doak’s Discovery of the West Indies,” each chock-full of Bond references.
They’re one more iteration of the Dready-ness now saturating Grand Cayman with color.