Gaston Tabois – John Canoe in Guanaboa Vale (1962), Collection: NGJ
I put out my effort. Hopefully I’ll die very old having accomplished a lot of good for mankind.
Gaston Tabois, 1987
The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets to announce that the Jamaican Intuitive artist Gaston Lascelles Tabois passed away earlier this week, on November 20, 2012.
Gaston Lascelles Tabois, circa 2010
Gaston Tabois was born in Trout Hall, Clarendon in 1924 but grew up in the small community of Rock River. He spent quite a bit of time on his parents’ small farm, but it was the solid work ethic that was instilled in him by instruction and example particularly that of his mother who insisted on the importance of him taking his educational opportunities seriously.
Gaston Tabois – Road Menders (1956), Collection: NGJ
His artistic talent was apparent from an early age as his elementary school teachers regularly tasked him with making charts for the classes. His dedication to self improvement saw him teaching himself Latin, Spanish, History and Mathematics but it was art that remained a constant in his life, even with his entry into the civil service. Tabois eventually became the Acting Chief Draftsman in the Ministry of Construction but it was his artistic production that brought him national attention. As a self taught painter,he held his first solo show at the Hills Gallery in Kingston in 1955, where he was immediately hailed as one of the era’s most significant “primitive” painters. He continued exhibiting with the Hills Gallery for several years and his painting Road Menders (1956), which is now a prized part of the NGJ Collection, was originally shown there. Continue reading
Woody in Stony Hill, early 1980s (NGJ files, photographer unknown)
Born May 1, 1919, in Castleton, St Mary, Jamaica, and died September 18, 1998, William “Woody” Joseph was one of modern Jamaica’s most original artists, although his work was firmly rooted in African-Jamaican religious and cultural traditions.
Life and Work
Woody was self-taught and started carving around 1965 or, as he put it, “two years after [hurricane] Flora”. He recounted:
I was farming … yam, banana, cocoa, thyme, cane, dasheen, potato … farming to get the food from the bushes … didn’t have no dependents to work the field wid me … and one day, I tek sick, the two legs cripple. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t lay down … I go to the river-side and was praying. When mi was praying, I see a piece of wood coming down in de water … I see the piece of wood swimming in the water to mi. I tek it up….and form a bird.
(Homage to Woody, Mutual Life Galley, July 26, 1998) Continue reading
Ras Dizzy – photograph by Wayne Cox
It is believed that Ras Dizzy was born in 1932 as Birth Livingstone, the date and name stated in his passport, although he also used Birch Lincoln and Dizzy Gillespie Johnson, as well as several other variations on his name. He died in Kingston on April 17, 2008. The following is extracted from the obituary published by the NGJ at that time:
Ras Dizzy first came to public attention in the 1960s as a Rastafarian poet/philosopher, who sold his mimeographed tracts and poems on the University of the West Indies campus, although he was already painting at that time. His writings were regularly featured in the weekly Abeng, which was published in 1969 by members of the young radical intelligentsia associated with UWI. His inclusion in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s seminal The Intuitive Eye exhibition in 1979, established him as a major Intuitive, as the Gallery henceforth called those self-taught artists who had previously been labelled as “primitive” or “naïve.”
Ras Dizzy – The Warship (1998), Aaron & Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ
Allan “Zion” Johnson – Peacock (2001), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Herman van Asbroeck.
Allan ‘Zion” Johnson (birth name: Isaac Johnson) was born May 28th, 1930, St Andrew, Jamaica. At the age of 11 years, he went to Kingston Senior School, where he took some lessons in making furniture, which he started painting. Zion recounted what happened next:
I made a pushcart and decorated and painted it and wrote passages on it from the Bible. Soon other people asked me to make carts for them and that way I started to make a little money. I also made “Ludo” boards and painted and sold those too.
He decided to try painting and drawing in about 1965. He took a few lessons in painting at the University, helped by a friend, but soon gave that up. He started exhibiting regularly in 1980 and quickly gained recognition as a self-taught, Intuitive artist. He was featured in several major NGJ exhibitions, such as Fifteen Intuitives (1987) and Intuitives III (2006).
Zion lived and worked in August Town, near Kingston, where he had a small studio. He died in 2001 and is survived by his mother, Estella Gordon, who celebrated her 103rd birthday in 2012.
Allan “Zion” Johnson – Untitled (1992), Aaron & Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ
Sidney McLaren – Scene on Harbour Street (1972), Collection: NGJ
The Intuitive painter (and occasional sculptor) Sidney McLaren lived and worked in the parish of St Thomas, in eastern Jamaica, but is best known for his fanciful depictions of life and physical environment in Jamaica’s bustling capital city, Kingston. Frequently using postcards as a visual source, his intricate city-scapes were made by a painter who only saw the best, as it was put in a 1974 Gleaner article on his work. The unknown author of that article further wrote:
McLaren often distorts the perspective if he feels it improves the overall design and he may even shift a building or a church-steeple to left or right to achieve a kind of poetic geometry in his compositions. His pedestrians and motorists are always nicely dressed, looking most prosperous. They seldom seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere and so their gait is appropriately measured and dignified as they progress along spotless and shining pavements.
A somewhat unusual picture by him is in the National Collection in that it depicts racing at Caymanas Park.here, unexpectedly, McLaren shows himself quite skilful in recording almost violent movement of the horses and riders and the tense atmosphere of the grand-stand packed with spectators.
McLaren’s upbeat perspective on Kingston life stands in striking contrast with that of David Pottinger, which presents a dignified but far more somber view, which was perhaps informed by Pottinger’s personal experience of life, and poverty, in the capital city Continue reading
The National Gallery of Jamaica regrets the passing of Jamaican artist Hylton Nembhard (1950-2011). This is our tribute to him, with thanks to Herman van Asbroeck for images of his recent work.
Hylton Nembhard (1950-2012) received early training at the Junior Centre of the Institute of Jamaica and later attended the Jamaica School of Art, now the Edna Manley College. He exhibited regularly over the years, starting with the Festival Fine Arts exhibition in the 1960s and the NGJ’s Annual National in the 1970s. He also exhibited his work at the Bolivar Gallery and Amaicraft.
Nembhard’s earlier work consisted of figurative woodcarvings, in local woods such as lignumvitae and cedar, but more recently he worked inventively with recuperated materials, especially sheet metal, which he hammered into relief shapes, combined with fibers and sometimes also painted.