THINGS THAT MATTER
There are two current shows in Bridgetown that anyone with a love for the beautiful and the slightest interest in art and fine art photography simply must see.
The beautifully restored Queen’s Park House is the scene for “Canada & Barbados – the “Art” of Collaboration”, curated by Janice Whittle. The Pelican Art Gallery, home of the Barbados Arts Council, is the scene for “Collective”, a Photographic Art Exhibition, featuring Hugh Walker, Andre Donawa, Franz Phillips and Raymond Maughan.
“Canada and Barbados” is hosted by the High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and in her message Her Excellency Marie Legault writes: “Art is a language which needs no words. Its evocative qualities transcend cultural experiences and varying perspectives. This exhibit of art rooted in the Canadian and Barbadian spirit speaks to this reality … it is the artists whom we salute for sharing with us their artistic expression of Canada in Barbados and Barbados in Canada.”
The exhibition features the work of Bajans studying, living and painting in Canada, and of Canadians visiting or adopting and living in Barbados. There is a superb catalogue or exhibition book featuring the paintings and sculptures, insightful commentary by the curator Janice, artist statements and brief bios of the artists. It’s beautifully done.
As you walk through the front door into the gallery your eye is immediately caught by Joyce Daniel’s big and bold Prairie Lands of Alberta #1 (1971). Joyce studied art on a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Scholarship at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. As she says in her statement: “The teachers at Alberta encouraged a new boldness in my work. I recognised the vast scope of art as a vehicle for raising one’s higher consciousness about life.” And on coming home to start the Fine Art Programme at the Barbados Community College, she writes: “I was able to open the minds of many generations of students to the possibilities inherent in the creation and interpretation of Art.”
There are many really splendid pieces in the show. I was particularly pleased to see several pieces by Roger Moore, one of our finest artists, who has lived in Canada for more than 40 years and so we have been seeing little of his work. Both his “Untitled” fishing boat pen-and-wash scene and the evocative “Country Road” are masterpieces. Virgil Broodhagen, our other Bajan-Canadian, but who returned home, shows several of his iconic landscapes, but also an unusual and striking portrait of a bearded and dressed-for-winter “Tootalik”. My other favourite Bajan who studied in Canada, Rosemary Pilgrim (studying at Mount Allison) shows a most moving painting “This was woman”.
The main body of the show, however, comprised the work of Canadians who have fallen in love with Barbados, made it their home and made a major contribution to the development of art here. Foremost among them are Goldie Spieler, Denyse Ménard-Greenidge and Darla Trotman, while Heidi Berger lives between Canada and Barbados.
These dedicated artists have taught, exhibited, operated innovative galleries and continue to make an impact and all are beautifully displayed in this show. Another splendid, painterly Canadian-Bajan is Jean Blades. Her two paintings here – “Moonlight Bay” and the impressive “Wilderness” – larger than most of her work – are magical.
It’s impossible to comment on all of the wonderful work in the show, so do go and enjoy it yourself. One final word is of praise for the architects’ successful restoration of Queen’s Park House (thanks to CARIFESTA), after almost a decade of dereliction, and for the opening up of the two additional rooms at each end of the main gallery. This provides space for intimate groupings and it works extremely well. Congratulations NCF and architects SRM.
“Collective” at the Pelican Gallery is an amazing collection of fine art photography – the majority by Raymond Maughan, but with an exquisite sample of the work of his three colleagues, Donawa, Phillips and Walker. The gallery is small, so work is hung tightly – floor to ceiling, with some grouping by themes and some grouping by artist, but the overall impression is exceedingly rich and varied. In simple terms, there’s something for everyone. For me the star of the show was a large, panoramic view by Dr. Maughan of Cluff’s Bay – one of the hidden secret scenes of Barbados, known by very few. It was taken in the soft evening light, with some pink reflections in the clouds from the setting sun, and the grandeur of cliffs, beach, surf and and sea sufficient to give a truly magical quality. Other outstanding Maughan photos were Monster of the Sea – a shot of sea rocks at Martin’s Bay; Contentment – the wasted hands and arthritic fingers of a centenarian, in black and white; and Bajan Boy – a 1970 photo that won first prizes, first in the traditional annual Agricultural Exhibition in Queen’s Park, then in a Barclays Bank competition and then in an All India photographic exhibition.
My favourite Frank Phillips photos were, perhaps not surprisingly, architectural: the well-known shingled chattel house at Walkers in St. Andrew, hard by St. Andrew’s Parish Church, and the abandoned mill wall at Gay’s plantation in St. Lucy. My favourite Hugh Walker’s photos were two “hidden treasures” – Fisherman’s Tackle, and Peel – a small but delightful piece of peeling paint. There is beauty in almost everything, or as Confucius said: “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”, and that’s the philosophy of Dr. Maughan, who photographs everything that strikes him as beautiful. Another interesting Walker shot was Morning Meditation, a print on metal of the Speightstown esplanade.
Andre Donawa likes the long, panoramic view, and the works exhibited here were merely a tiny taste of what he does. While many of the photos in this show are superb, almost everything Andre does deserves that term. His website andredonawa photography.com is a must visit, and his amazing book “Edge of Bim – Seascape Images from Barbados” is a must have. The Barbados Photographic society is also working on a beautiful book (I’ve seen the proofs) – Historic Bridgetown Photobook. It complements Rasheed Boodhoo’s Heritage Barbados, and it will be just the book to refer to alongside Warren Alleyne’s Historic Bridgetown.
All of these four artists have splendid websites, but please, please, go the Pelican Gallery and take something home or for your office. Every “worth-your-salt” Barbadian company should purchase a suite or at least a couple of these splendid photos for the office.
Bouquet: To our Senior athletes, medalling once again at the Senior games in Utah, and especially to Kathy Harper-Hall with five gold medals in the 75 – 79 age group.
Brickbat: To the World Bank, whose best offer to devastated Barbuda for its massive rebuilding task is a loan over ten years at four per cent. Shame on you.
(Professor Fraser is Past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology. Website: profhenryfraser.com)