Everald Brown, with Dove Harp, at 82 1/2 Spanish Town Road, c1973
Visitors to this blog have requested more information on Jamaican artists. Here is a biography of Everald Brown, the first of what will become a blog archive on the artists who are represented in our collection. It was adapted from an obituary written by Veerle Poupeye in 2003:
Everald Brown’s artistic beginnings can be situated in the popular cultural ferment in West Kingston that produced Rastafarianism and reggae, fuelled by rural-to-urban migration and growing race and social consciousness among the popular masses. Brother Brown was primarily interested in the spiritual aspects of Rastafarianism and established the Assembly of the Living, a self-styled mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which was located at 82 1/2 Spanish Town Road. His earliest preserved works are carved ritual objects, such as his prayer staff, and the painted decorations he produced for his church. These works illustrate Brother Brown’s assimilation of Ethiopian Orthodox artistic models but also his rootedness in older Afro-Jamaican popular culture, particularly Revivalism and Kumina. Most of all, they reflect the remarkable spiritual and visual imagination that made Everald Brown one of the most original artists of his generation.
In the late 1960s, The Assembly of the Living became an attraction and local and overseas patrons came to see the church and the religious rituals and musical performances carried out by Brother Brown and his family. Encouraged by his patrons and the changing cultural climate of post-Independence Jamaica, which became more receptive to popular culture, he began to produce paintings and sculptures that were included in local and overseas exhibitions and acquired by his early supporters. His first exhibition was held at the Creative Arts Centre, UWI-Mona in 1969 and covered in the radical weekly Abeng. Brown’s rapidly developing technical and imaginative skills led to such works as Ethiopian Apple (1970), in which he characteristically used visual and verbal punning, based on mystical association, to symbolise the centrality of Ethiopia to his thought and humanity’s sacred oneness with nature.
Everald Brown, Ethiopian Apple (1970)
Disenchanted with the increasingly tense socio-political climate in West Kingston, Brother Brown in mid 1973 moved his family to Murray Mount, in the mountains of St. Ann, not far from his place of birth in upper Clarendon. Inspired by the grandiose vistas and suggestive details of the limestone landscape of central Jamaica, his mystical imagination took full flight and became even less conventional in its use of Rastafarian imagery. Based on dreams, meditations and visionary experiences he shared with his family, especially his wife Sister Jenny and son Clinton, he produced paintings such as Bush Have Ears (1976), which reflect a vision of nature in which everything is imbued with life and spiritual meaning, to be unearthed by the artist-mystic.His mystical communion with nature and imaginative transformations of conventional popular cultural forms, are also evident his woodcarvings, such as Lion Rider(c. 1970), and his symbolically shaped and decorated musical instruments drums, ‘Star Banjos’ and ‘Dove Harps’ (guitars) which culminated in the spectacular hybrid Instrument for Four People (1986).
Everald Brown died in 2003, while visiting family in Brooklyn, NYC. A retrospective of his work – The Rainbow Valley: Everald Brown, A Retrospective – was held at the National Gallery of Jamaica in 2004.