Theresa Roberts — A Jamaican on a Mission

Sunday, July 01, 2012    

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Assiduous collector and promoter of all things Jamaican Theresa Roberts used the Twelve Star Gallery of Europe House on Tuesday, June 19 to unveil a selection of her own collection, entitled Jamaican Men — A Collector's Choice. SO takes you inside. We share views, too, from art critics Jonathan Fryer as well as Edward Lucie-Smith.

Prior to the opening, on Monday, May 28, the charming Theresa and hubby Andrew were dinner guests at Windsor Castle. Naturally, she used the opportunity to discuss Jamaican art with her host Prince Charles.

The Theresa Roberts Collection

Jamaica has become world-famous for its music (Bob Marley), and more recently for its athletic prowess (Usain Bolt), but it is less known for its art. Yet, for a small island nation, it possesses an astonishingly large number of artists, and a supportive community of collectors. The paintings and sculptures shown here come from the collection of a proud Jamaican who divides her time between Britain and Jamaica. Since she recently supported an exhibition of Jamaican women artists at Murray Edwards College Cambridge, which has the largest collection of contemporary art by women in Europe, Theresa Roberts has, on this occasion, chosen to show only work by men. The works date from 1944 to the present.

They demonstrate some of the major themes in Jamaican art. First, a fascination with Jamaica's beautiful landscape exemplified in two works by Albert Huie, often described as 'the father of Jamaican painting'. Second, a powerful figurative, often narrative impulse, often with religious overtones, as in the typical canvas by Carl Abrahams.

Jamaican artists are more interested in states of feeling than they are in exploring stylistic conventions. Their art, like the art of Jamaican musicians, reaches out very directly to the audience. Though this is one person's view of the Jamaican art scene, the selection nevertheless gives a good idea of the nature of the Jamaican art-scene in general, and of the high level of talent to be found there.

— Edward Lucie-Smith

Jamaican Men

Theresa Roberts is to be congratulated for loaning for display a selection of her own collection. Lest anyone think her sexist, she also supported an exhibition of Jamaican women artists in Cambridge recently. Inevitably, given the large number of painters and sculptors represented, there is a wide spectrum of styles. Being rather conservative in my tastes where pictures are concerned, I naturally found Ken Abendana Spencer's Maggoty — St Elizabeth, with its tranquil tropical village green and neat little figures dressed in white, particularly appealing. Carl Abrahams' Schoolgirls with Prophet is both enchanting and mysterious, not least because the skull-capped prophet is staring not at the young, smiling girls in their canary yellow uniforms but out into the distance behind their backs and beyond the right-hand side of the frame. Among the sculptors on show, there is also an extraordinary variety of moods and modes: Gene Pearson's bronze Mother is distinctly African in heritage, whereas Raymond Watson's dynamic bronze maquette First Child could easily pass as European.

— Jonathan Fryer



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