Michael Robinson – Selassie (photo: Olivia McGilchrist)
We continue our posts on the recently concluded Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica exhibition with a feature on Michael Robinson, another of the artists in that exhibition:
Based in Denham Town Robinson is the only artist in the exhibition with some formal art training having spent a year at the Edna Manley College (then Jamaica School of Art). Robinson does a lot of community commissions including work in schools, businesses, and the Wall of Fame near the National Stadium. Jimmy Cliff is one of his patrons and he makes his living exclusively off his artwork. He also has a number of young apprentices. For the exhibition he has painted portraits of Jimmy Cliff and Nelson Mandela and a Reggae Dance.
He stated in a recent interview:
“I started from a tender age, a small, small kid. Growing up I always used chalk and sketched up things on the road, some little cartoon and things. There was a talent search in my community and I got sponsored to go to the Jamaica School of Art. When I went to the School of Art what they were teaching me I already knew it… I left school before finishing – I did three semesters.”
“I never tell myself that I can’t do something. Because the day you tell yourself you can’t then you you down grade yourself. You have to just say bwoy, I can do that…. I want to reach heights in the arts. You see money, it’s not really about money, it’s just the greatness. I people to recognize my work and say boy, ah Michael Robinson that… Sometimes people pass by my painting and say ‘ah who dat?’ I don’t like to hear that, and as soon as I hear it I leave my food and go back to the painting ‘cause people are telling me that the paintings not ready. Because it’s the critics that teach me my work ‘cause you see critics make you learn.”
Andrew “Designer Ice” Thomas – Rider (2014, in exhibition), photo: Olivia McGilchrist
We have recently closed the Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica exhibitions but are continuing to archive the art and artists in the exhibition. Here is a feature on Andrew “D.I.” Thomas.
Based in Waterhouse, Andrew Thomas, a.k.a. Designer Ice or D.I., is a self-taught airbrush artists. He paints memorial murals, images of local celebrities, such as Shelly-Anne Fraser and musicians. He occasionally does work more similar to NYC style graffiti. For the exhibition Thomas, painted a man on a motorcycle on a concrete block wall.
He told us: “The first official piece I put on the road was in 2003 – I just say in my mind I’m going to do something and see what people say about it…a lot of crowds passing along see it and say they like it and from thereon people ask me to do work for them because they see the wall and they like it…from there on I just start doing my thing and that’s how I get commissions.”
“…what keeps me going? It’s jus’ the love of the work. I just like to admire artwork–other people’s work. I try to do something like that or as close to. I go through books or almost anything that looks good or looks challenging and I try to do a little portrait or a little sketch and see how good I am. ‘Cause I am selftaught, you know practice becomes perfect, so I learn from that – people’s stuff.”
Ricky Culture – Shack (c2008, Three Mile)
– Photo: Olivia McGilchrist
Ricky culture is another artist in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work.
A Rastafarian artist based in Cockburn Gardens, Ricardo “Ricky Culture” Lawrence does a number of commissions in his community including memorial murals, and murals on bars, restaurants and community walls. His work is supported by King Alpha, a Rastafarian leader in Majesty Gardens who uses Ricky’s murals to help uplift his community. Many of Ricky’s works show his Rastafarian faith. For the Anything with Nothing exhibition he has painted an image of Judgement Day with Selassie’s horse trampling the Pope, a Country Scene and a set of Nyabinghi Drummers.
Ricky Culture – Judgement (2014, in exhibition) – Photo: Olivia McGilchrist
“…for years if someone dies I will do the mural on the wall or if you have any establishment that wants to publish their business I will do the graffiti – the works they do. So it’s a service I’ve been offering the area for many years now, you know. You know how it go in the ghetto you don’t have a job you have to try entrepreneurship – do you own ting. So give thanks for the Almighty that gave me a gift that I can move forward in this hard time of economic crisis – you see what mi a deal wid?
The art thing is a natural thing from birth. From a youth coming up in school I just draw up everything because I had the passion from early so it became my life, you know, it just becomes a part of me. It’s over 30 odd years now ’cause I’m in my 50s now…. So you see even the murals, they are very important to the individuals ’cause when them have their people dead and you draw a picture of the people and it preserves the history so that is one of the ting…”
T. Earl Witter and the members of the Rastafarian Community Development Movement
T. Earl Witter is one of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work:
T. Earl Witter is the lead artist in a group called the Rastafarian Community Development Movement based in Parade Gardens. He has stopped painting memorial murals due to police pressure and a desire to present more positive role models and show his Rastafarian faith. He has done numerous commissions including for companies such as Digicel and the Catholic Church. For the exhibition he has painted portraits of Miss Lou and Bob Marley, a Rasta on a Donkey and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a work depicting Selassie and three Rastafarian elders.
Witter and his collaborator Cebert told us:
“We have been painting all our life. We teamed up through the Rastafari Movement you know – we came together and start doing Rasta work – mainly Rasta mural and things. Always been fond of art, but in our time we never had much access to art school… We just paint on our own. We get good support from the community – most of the time the little ladies sponsor it, sponsor us… Sometime we do work for practically for nothing you know, ‘cause those people don’t really have any money but they still want the work so we just do it. They see the work and they love it. Our community is an impoverished community, nothing nah really gwaan. But people say they want something so we do it for them. It’s important to them. Why? It uplift their spirit in the ghetto parts to see the good work that can be done by us as Rasta.… Sometime you do some work and it’s like it’s only you or certain people in higher terms of spirituality that will understand what’s really going on.”
Danny Coxon – Sugar Minott (c2013, Lyndhurst Road) – Photo: LeRhone Webb)
Donovan “Danny Coxon” McLeod is another of the artists featured in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Originally from Matthews Lane, McLeod now lives and works at Sugar Minott’s studio. He paints memorial murals as well as commissions for the music industry and has done a large set of murals at Minott’s studios. Almost all of his memorial murals have been painted over by the police. His work varies from flat stylized paintings to carefully rendered realistic work. For the exhibition he has painted a number of reggae musicians, Sugar Minott, Denis Brown and Luciano.
Danny Coxon – Musicians (Lyndhurst Road) – Photo: LeRhone Webb
Danny Coxon told us:
“Been an artist for almost 35 years now. It’s not been easy. I have to really work hard to really get to a standard, and I’m not really sure of how I really get to this stage because I haven’t done a lot of work…but I feel God’s inspiration allowed me to reach a standard acceptable to people.”
“I hope something can come out of this – I’ve been doing this thing here for how long? When I come and see some of the things in the Gallery it come in like me nah try – but the good man says not to compare yourself with others because you will become vain and bitter and have less interest in your own career.”
“My community is so poor I wouldn’t say I get commission to do work – when you say commissioned to do work it sounds like something substantial you know what I mean. Sometimes they want a wall to pretty up and I will do it for them. You can’t dictate the paint; paint is a thing that makes you learn patience. It doesn’t pay a lot of money and its hard work but I keep doing it because one of the reasons I am sure of is that nobody else in the area can do it as well as I can… That little pride in knowing that I’m the best. You know when you look around Denham Town you can find only two or three other men who can really put it together and to know that I’m one of them makes me feel good.”
Sand at his cook shop
Dion Palmer “Sand” is another of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work:
Palmer works out of a small cook shop near Parade and was one of the key artists to have emerged from Roktowa before its close. Often associated with the Intuitives, he does highly imaginative paintings and is the only artist in the exhibition to have previously shown his work at the National Gallery. For the exhibition he has produced five paintings whose subject matter varies from imaginary birds to a human head to a crocodile.
Sand said this about his work:
“Give thanks and praise. I and I man name Sand, that’s my artist name but my real name is Dion DaCosta Palmer you know. How did I get the name Sand – I used to carry sand from a nearby river. Artwork comes in like it grows in me because my step father used to do carving, chopping wood and things like to build sculptures, some great powerful lion. What inspires my work – pain and anger, war and judgement and fight – all of those things – my paintings show pure love and joy that come out of the Psalms. I just live art – it is dream I’m dreaming – art work comes from so far, so deep.”