Michael Parchment (1957-2013)

Michael Parchment - Death of a Don (2010)

Michael Parchment – Death of a Don (2010)

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of the painter, sculptor and poet Michael Parchment on Tuesday, August 20, 2013.

Michael Parchment was born on August 13, 1957 to a Revival family and he lived in Seaview Gardens in Kingston for most of his adult life. Called by visions, he started painting in 1978 and had his first exhibition in 1983. He was a regular participant in the Festival Fine Arts Exhibition (later the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition), where he won many accolades, including Gold medals in 2006 and 2007. He regularly exhibited at Harmony Hall, the Mutual Gallery and the National Gallery of Jamaica in Jamaica, where he won the Tribute to Bob Marley Competition in 2005 with his relief panting No Woman Nuh Cry (2005). He was featured in the National Gallery’s Intuitives III exhibition in 2006. Parchment also exhibited internationally in the USA, Venezuala, England and Switzerland, and Canada and was recently featured in Contemporary Jamaican Art, Circa 1962/Circa 2012, which was staged on the occasion of Jamaica 50 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga near Toronto. He also self-published several volumes of his poetry, which had titles such as I Raged in Chains and The Inna Thoughts and Feelings of the Poet.

Michael Parchment - No Woman Nuh Cry, 2005

Michael Parchment – No Woman Nuh Cry (2005), Collection: NGJ

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Wilfred “Jabba” Francis (1924-2013)

Wilfred Francis - Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hand (1968), Collection: Wayne Chen

Wilfred Francis – Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hands (1968), Collection: Wayne Chen

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of self-taught artist Wilfred Francis on August 21, 2013.

Wilfred Francis, who was popularly known as “Jabba”, was born in Spanish Town on August 24, 1924 – he died just three days short of his 89th birthday – and started painting sometime in 1966. His first exhibition on record was the 1967 Festival exhibition, where his work was favourably received, but Francis withdrew from the formal art world shortly after although he continued working, reportedly because of negative experiences with art patrons. Nearly forty years later, he started exhibiting again, encouraged by art dealer and collector Wayne Gallimore, and in 2004 had his first and only solo exhibition at the Mutual Gallery. His unique style and eccentric, visionary imagination were a revelation to many in the Jamaican art world and late in life he acquired a small but enthusiastic following of collectors.

Wilfred Francis at his Kingston home and studio in 2006 (photo: Veerle Poupeye)

Wilfred Francis at his Kingston home and studio in 2006 (photo: Veerle Poupeye)

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In Memoriam: Gaston Lascelles Tabois (1924-2012)

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

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: William “Woody” Joseph (1919-1998)

Woody in Stony Hill, early 1980s (NGJ files, photograph: Maria LaYacona)

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

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Ras Dizzy (Birth Livingstone, c1932-2008)

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

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Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Allan “Zion” Johnson (Isaac Johnson, 1930-2001)

Allan “Zion” Johnson – Peacock (2001), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Herman van Asbroeck.

Biography

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

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