Jamaican Dancehall Art at the South London Gallery

Wilfred Limonious’s illustration from the cover of the LP Dance Hall Time by Various Artists (Scar Face Music, 1986)

For ten days only the South London Gallery in Camberwell is presenting In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious, the first major retrospective of one of Jamaica’s most prolific graphic artists.

The exhibition includes reproductions of Wilfred Limonious’ work from the early 1970s through to the mid 1990s, spanning three key phases in his career: his newspaper comic strips, illustrations for the publications of the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), and his distinctive artwork for the burgeoning dancehall scene coming out of 1980s Jamaica.

Wilfred Limonious (1949-99) began his career producing comic strips for the Jamaican daily newspaper, The Star, with cartoon characters such as Amos and Chicken becoming particularly popular. During the 1970s he worked as in-house illustrator for Jamaica’s national literacy programme JAMAL, before going on to produce a huge body of work for the Jamaican music industry, illustrating hundreds of LP jackets and record centres for labels such as Jammy’s, Power House, Studio One, Techniques, Ujama and Midnight Rock.

Front cover of the LP Shut Up Bway by Frankie Paul (Ujama, c 1988)
Front cover of the LP Shut Up Bway by Frankie Paul (Ujama, c 1988). Courtesy One Love Books, © 2016 Ujama/Estate of Wilfred Limonious

Despite being widely recognised among reggae and dancehall circles, Limonious’ illustrations are relatively unknown in the wider art world. Exhibition curator, Al ‘Fingers’ Newman, describes the role that the exhibition plays in remembering Limonious’ legacy:  “Wilfred Limonious is an important part of Jamaica’s cartooning tradition, and the father of what has become known as dancehall art. His seminal work, particularly for the island’s music industry, continues to be relevant today and deserves far wider recognition”.

In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious is curated by Al ‘Fingers’ Newman and

Christopher Bateman and is produced by One Love Books alongside a book on Limonious’ life and work, due for release in August 2016.

In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Luminous opened at The South London Gallery on Thursday 24 March and runs until Sunday 3 April.