Jamaican Connections

Saturday, July 18, 2015

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SO sat down with promoter of all things positive about Jamaica, Theresa Roberts, last Tuesday afternoon. What was on her mind? It's Theresa, so lots! What's uppermost in her mind, however, is her latest art project, Jamaican Connections...

The exhibition, which is currently running at the Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth, UK, is, according to Roberts, "designed to celebrate the many links that exist between Falmouth, Cornwall, England and Jamaica. The most obvious connection between the two places, which are separated by nearly 5,000 miles, is the existence of Falmouth, Jamaica, which is situated in Cornwall, one of the country's three counties".

Less well-documented, however, is the painting trip to Jamaica embarked upon in 1923 by Falmouth's popular artist Henry Scott Tuke. Tuke spent many months in Jamaica producing a number of familiar Tuke subjects -- boats and boys -- but he also painted some landscapes of Black River in Jamaica, where he was based. The show opens with four such landscapes painted on that very trip and also features a Kingston scene which was the port of entry for Tuke when arriving in Jamaica.

The Black River connection is of significance to art enthusiast Roberts as Falmouth, Jamaica, is where she was born. Indeed, as one of the leading collectors of Jamaican art in Europe, all the Jamaican art for the show is from her private collection. "I am linked," shared Roberts, "to Falmouth, England by marriage to Andrew, whose parents, former educators John (now deceased) and Rosemary, are well-known here... I was inspired to create this show following my discovery that Tuke had painted scenes of places familiar to me from my childhood."

The most obvious artistic links between Tuke and Jamaican painters exist in the works on display by Albert Huie -- often referred to as the grandfather of Jamaican painting -- and Barrington Watson, who is Jamaica's most celebrated living artist. The impressionist style and artistic themes peculiar to all three painters can be clearly seen and are fine examples of that generation's work. Of significance is that the exhibition features the work of three generations of the Jamaican artists Barrington Watson, Raymond Watson and Kai Watson.

A further Cornish link is provided by the impressive bronze sculpture entitled Orpheus by Edna Manley (the wife of Premier Norman Manley and mother of Michael Manley). Like Tuke, Manley was born in Yorkshire but was influenced by her contemporary Barbara Hepworth (also Yorkshire-born), best known for the work produced in St Ives.

Albert Huie and Edna Manley were two inspirational figures in Jamaica's art circle and demonstrated to aspiring Jamaicans the possibilities. The rest of the show aims to bring to Falmouth a flavour of the wide range of Jamaican art produced from the time of Tuke's first visit right through to the modern day. Each piece has been carefully selected to illustrate a different element of Jamaica's highly developed and eclectic art scene.

The exhibition, which opened on July 6, continues until August 3, 2015.



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