JAMAICA panels, Part 4

fishing panel

Acrylic on panel, 48″ x 48″

The fourth and final panel features Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth, but it could be any coastal fishing village in Jamaica. Stylized fish and a turtle fill the only boxes; the rest is open sea and sky, peaceful and restful.

Because the competition was abandoned, I had 4 panels on my hands and didn’t know what to do with them… but a good friend who runs a hospital for cancer patients, Dr Dingle Spence of The Hope Institute here in Kingston, was giving the place a face-lift, so I gave her the last two panels as a donation to a very worthy cause. I thought with their dreamy skies and soft blues they’d be a welcome addition to an environment that offers palliative care; something to take the mind off the drudgery and pain of dealing with cancer, for both the patients and the staff.

The other two panels went into storage, and I forgot about them for years, and then just before Christmas 2018 I remembered them and took them out, and to make a long story short, they were spotted by Mr Christopher Issa of Spanish Court Hotel and promptly bought by him to be displayed in his new S Hotel in Montego Bay. Not only that, but he commissioned another 4 panels, 3 of which are done. I’ll soon start the fourth…

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JAMAICA panels, Part 3

Downtown panel

Acrylic on panel, 48″ x 48″

The third and fourth panels were depicting places, this one Downtown, with landmark architecture, the ubiquitous taxis, and a push-cart man. I had the sky sweep through the two levels of Cityscape, uniting them and lifting them up, thinking as I was of a large public space filled with massive tapestries…

JAMAICA panels, Part 2

Green panel

Acrylic on panel, 48″ x 48″

The first two panels were formatted to read almost as a comic strip. Mini-paintings in every box speak to different aspects of Jamaican life that everyone can relate to, whether they’re born and raised in Jamaica, or are visitors discovering this beautiful island for the first time. So in this second panel (the Green panel), the hills and Blue Mountain coffee are featured; an agapanthus flower and one of the old-time country buses; a schoolgirl, and dancers, and Jimmy Cliff; a Carnival girl, a football, a pouie tree and a pineapple. All are painted with a limited and harmonious palette.

JAMAICA panels, Part 1

Red panel

Acrylic on reinforced panel, 48″ x 48″

Back in 2012 I painted 4 panels for a competition. Had I won, the 4 ‘designs’ would have been woven into 40 foot square tapestries and hung in a semi-public space, the foyer of what was to have been the new headquarters for Digicel, an Irish phone company here in the Caribbean. I designed the 4 panels to read a s a storyboard of Jamaican life, featuring athletes and music, fruits and trees, and lots more besides, in quintessential Jamaican colours and in simple shapes, so that they’d weave up well on a massive loom. On the day that all submissions were due, the tax authorities raided Digicel’s corporate offices and seized their computers at gunpoint. End of competition…the company decided to relocate to Miami, Florida, and that was that.

Visiting Old Friends

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oil on canvas, 24″ x 54″

Revisiting this piece and making some changes has me wanting to be up there again, in the soft rain amongst the agapanthus. I think an annual pilgrimage to either Mandeville or Greenwich is a worthy aspiration as I know there’s a lot that can be done with these heavenly flowers, and this is just a beginning.

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detail

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detail

There are the buds in their various stages, and the sculptural perfection of them; there’s the spindly stems of the flowers and the way they burst into soft blue stars; there’s the spherical suggestion of the blossom, and the tall and slender stalks; there’s the host of lilacs and cobalts on the hillsides. And then there are the homes that they usually surround. I introduced a building into this painting to give it a context, something to work with the pathway; I’d like to work more compositions with agapanthus and buildings. Spring soon come….

Kingston Garden

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oil on canvas, 42″ x 57″

Started well over a year ago, this piece hung on the wall unfinished because I didn’t know how to finish it. It is now completed. There were so many areas I liked I was afraid to continue in case I lost them, but once I gathered my courage and began back in it actually went well, and it revealed itself to me without (too much) hesitation. In fact, it’s got a freedom of brushstroke that I really enjoy and have been aiming for – loose and seemingly spontaneous, and the palette is so pleasing – soft and dreamy…. so I’m happy with it. Always a good place to be.

The flowers and leaves are all in my garden so I see them all the time, and I’d been painting a series of these sexy pinks and hanging heliconias, so after much fumbling and attempting to do them justice I am finally finding a dialogue with them that we both enjoy…at least I do, and they’re not complaining.

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(detail)

I’m finally beginning to accept that each piece I paint starts beautifully and with lots of promise and gorgeous marks, and then I mess it up, and then I spend a long time with plenty cussing trying to ameliorate. Trying to make what’s terrible better. Or not good enough acceptable, and then some. To save it from the reject pile.

This process allows a lot of luscious paint to build up, and there is the lovely play of drips and strokes and colours and tones, and that’s what make it interesting eventually, at least to me.

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(detail)

Not tight and controlled. “Spirit over rendering” is my new mantra.

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(detail)

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(detail)

It’s big, and difficult to photograph, but this is a record and that’s all it’s supposed to be.

Today I varnish it and prepare it to head off to a new as yet unknown home…

Caribbean Quarterly Journal

I’m honored and delighted to be featured in the most recent Caribbean Quarterly journal, the flagship journal on Caribbean culture published by the University of the West Indies (UWI). This current issue features the strong Irish Jamaican connection, a connection that goes back for centuries, and one that any of us Irish who live here are so happy to acknowledge. It is available at UWI Regional Headquarters, Hermitage Road, Kingston 7 (876-970-3261), or at the UWI Bookshop.

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The cover features a section of a 60′ diptich mural in Scotiabank, Mandeville.

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Two other murals, an 80′  mural in the Donald Sangster Airport in Montego Bay of Jamaican life, and a 40′ mural in Starbucks, Liguanea Plaza, Kingston of the Lion of Judah.

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Oil paintings and watercolors from gardens in both Jamaica and Ireland,

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and the very  lovely editor Kimberly Robinson-Walcott asked me to write an artist’s statement, which encouraged me to articulate why it is I paint, which is an important exercise in itself.

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Artist’s Statement

“I love how paint takes a life of its own, with the marks and tones and effects it can form if I can be free enough when applying it. Whether it’s oil paint or watercolor, there’s an infinite journey that can be taken with the aesthetics of mark-making and colour-work; the challenge is to maintain a fresh spontaneity within the framework of a recognizable form or scene.

My inspiration is always Nature and what’s around me, from the light on a distant landscape to the lines and shapes of a vine of hanging flowers to a still life of fruits. There’s a perfect spot between accurate drawing and loose brushwork, between sensitivity and spontaneity, between cool tones and a bright splash of colour. It’s that balance that I seek when I work. It can be elusive, and I make many mistakes, but it’s the joy that I feel when it works that keeps me coming back. With recent mural commissions I have followed the same principles, incorporating collage and glazes to introduce an element of contemporary social relevance. Ultimately I want each piece to manifest balance, to emit a feeling of harmony and serenity, to pay homage to the sense of the perfection that’s in the natural world.”