Archive for the ‘Wall Paintings’ Category

Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Public Art #3+4

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YUFE’s Of all of the wall signage that I have written about, this one is a head scratcher. I have to say first off that the people look like images straight out of magazines from the 1980’s. They also look like clowns because of the unusual amount of white in the faces, and most of all they look like clowns in a Camps-Campins painting or postcard. I feel much better getting that one out from the start.

As layout goes, this image is more sophisticated than the others, but only just. The grass in the foreground does not help to make the sign any less odd. The unkempt grass seems to be mocking the work in the background, as if to threaten that it can soon be completely obscured. The comparison to Camps-Campins is also because of the bright colours used. This artist has some sense of colour. But the choice of images are questionable. – Adele Todd 2005

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Every semester at John S Donaldson Technical Institute where I teach graphic design, students who want to get into the programme swear to me that they love to draw. When they get around to showing me their work, there is usually an image of Bob Marley, a Marijuana leaf, Pokimon, Yu-Gi-Ri and other common pop culture images they copy from magazines. The Jamaican imagery is so common that I am saturated with it. Everybody of a certain age has something in yellow, red and green. It is everywhere. Yet I must say that this specimen of the Sphinx like doubling of a lion and a man at its centre is very sensitive and appealing.

The artist shows a regard for the colours of the shed and for the most prominent spot to put his painting. The lack of text and the simplicity of the drawing, particularly the use of black that defines the man’s hair that also looks like a mountain when you look at the image as a whole makes it more interesting because it is not as straight forward as it may have seemed at first. On further investigation the hair on the right and on the left of the lions are deliberately different. This purposefulness also enhances the work. The red mouths of the lions and their bared teeth tell us that the artist is using imagination, especially for the paws of the lion. There is difficulty in deciding what to do with the profile of the lions, and they look like cartoon people and less like actual lions. But overall the painting is one of the more memorable that I have seen in some time.

Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Public Art # 11, a Classic – We Pope

A winner in the “Trinidad Aesthetic” Hall of Artistry

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St Joseph, Trinidad

Near dusk, Pope John Paul II emerged from the National Athletic Stadium into the open field. Local Catholic nuns, dressed in their earthy brown habits displayed a carnival mentality never televised before. They were not unperturbed in prayer, genuflecting to his Holiness in a proper Church-Mass manner that would be expected of them, no, they bolted like a startled herd, galloping towards the stadium’s athletic track to see their JP2, superstar circulating in his Pope-mobile. Orgasmic really, as they gyrated their hips side to side, and chiped to the calypso rhythms in chorus sung together in unity from a stadium packed with all religions and creeds. “We Pope.”

This is a nation of staunch Catholics, who carry the iconography of the Virgin Mary in their homes, businesses, cars and on themselves. It is in San Jose de Oruna, one of the oldest “New World” territories that a wall mural displays not only the talent of a great painter, (Trini standards) but also of his Catholic upbring displayed as contemporary motif, a masterpiece to all who past by.

A child rests, his hands are nestled on the shoulder of his father and is hidden between his regal beard. (what a clever way not to show the painted hands) Clothed in a white short sleeve “Polo” shirt, he has an uncanny resemblance to Pope John Paul II at the age of five

Rewriting the annals of biblical history

Jason Belaw is proud enough to sign his name to his newest testament, a life-size portrait of Joseph and the infant, Jesus. Emerging from the dark background, the four by seven masterwork is dominated by the figure of Joseph dressed in a full roman scarlet-red Chasuble and seated, if you believe, on a throne draped with a sea-moss green table cloth. His left arm is placed gingerly on the armrest. His other hand, under the heavy strain of carrying this sixty-pound child, is quite petite, and his feet are well protected by a tanned hide “Clarks”. No Rembrandt here, but a subject painted under a illuminated 10-watt bulb. A winner in the “Trinidad Aesthetic” Hall of Artistry.

Jason Belaw choose not to use emulsion for this painting, only the best he thought, and that would have to be the Everlasting Berger low-sheen house oil paint. The German chemist, Lewis Berger in 1760 developed a new formula for pigments popularly known as Scarlet-red, Sea-moss green, Dominica brown and Pitch-lake black. The lacquer, applied layer by layer, gives the Berger high-gloss-house-paint a lustre of eternity. Father Joseph gestures with a “cut-eye” as he holds the Messiah who appears not to be his child. Is the artist inadvertently trying to say something about himself?

Christians have paraphrased the interpretation of Jesus’ life, convincing the masses that the Holy icon closely resembles a “New World” look. If he looks like one of us, then he must have originated from here. The fact that Jesus was a true historic person, a Jew, a humble craftsman whose beliefs and faith written decades after his execution, has trickled down to us. It is as if we were using an empty Nestle condense milk tin, twine stung taut of over the millennium, connected to muddled words and meaning, images and paintings of his life, yet still celebrated in his spirit on the walls of St. Joseph College.

Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Rubadiri Victor

A Testament to the mural’s effect lies in the fact that it has not been seriously defaced by students- a serious triumph in Tranquility where nearly every free surface area is covered with graffiti. – Rubadiri Victor 2005

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The wall mural “Legacy” at Tranquillity College in Port of Spain

“Legacy” is the theme behind a wall mural at Tranquillity College in Port of Spain. The façade to the school’s new wing is tiled with a cascading emblem of the Past, Present and Future heroes relating to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. From the summit of this mural, embraced hand in hand are the individuals from the writer, C.L.R. James to the former Prime Minster, Dr. Eric Williams, united together without the turmoil of political indifference.

The eccentric dancer, Beryl Mc Beanie wears her white head tie to suit her personality and is actually holding a bouquet of flowers in unison with the painter Carlyle Chang, he too proudly clenches (black power style) a paintbrush in his right hand. Although it is left to the imagination of the viewer to wonder what part of Mr. Chan’s body C.L.R. James is actually grasping. This icons, prominent, dressed in white toddler’s garments, are the “models of distinction” perched overlooking the living legacies not yet past their prime.

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A closer look at the “Legacy”

The centre of this large wall mural is anchored by an equally large Pat Bishop, and at either side of her, left to right, is a chain of gloomy black robed scholastic luminaries in embrace. The illusion here is the “union of hands” below the lip of a black concrete post. Living heroes in the art of writing, preaching or playing a pan are interspersed with sports personalities dressed in national colours; Red, black and white. Nationalism overstated and tiresome.

A few painted textbook pictograms are depicted as well, and they act as a syllabus of the vocational possibilities for students. If you dream to become a cashier or want to cook for a living, you can stare at the icons for enlightenment. Unfortunately, the “paintbrush and palette” are noticeably absent. Can this mean that Artists alike are ignored from the grander spectrum of civil achievements? Or has the wall painter not yet attained a level of proficiency to be represented in the “exclusive crème d`la crème”.

But proficiency is not the aim here, what this mural speaks of is empowerment. It is also a guide to the heroes that may influence the youth in a youth-like way. The painter – musician – writer – poet – editor – artist, Rubadiri Victor is the mastermind behind this work, and his approach through this childlike mural is to simple say; “Dream and Achieve.”

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The romanticized vision of students in their school uniform,  drawn and assembled like Chinese  paper-doll  cutouts guarding a football net

The history of mural painting inTrinidad and Tobago is a very short one. The most famous being Carlyle Chang’s master work at Piarco Airport that was unceremoniously destroyed despite protests, and the most obscure one being this mural by Rubadiri Victor. Murals by their very size and purpose are supposed to represent lofty ideals and this attempt at the Tranquility College goes about doing just that. Murals are a macho endeavour. You cannot talk about murals and not think of the master muralist Diego Reviera who was creating not just painting, but political statements. But who can forget Ghernica, arguable the most important and famous mural of all by Picasso, also a major political statement of its time and any time?

So basically the mural is something that one has to plan and really prepare to do well because of the expectations of all who see them. One wonders whether this artist was aware of the “legacy” of murals when he set out to create this one? Mr. Victor wants us to embrace the idea of many important black leaders who have died and who are still with us, along with the future hopeful leaders represented in the young people at the base of the painting. On the side of the work is created a ‘u’ shape that filters out in a Roschartesque image from lines to birds that fly off towards a sun that looks like a flower. That curve along with the background for the students and the grey that is used like a decorative element attempt to unify the work. But only succeed in making it asymmetrical. The eye travels downward to the corner of the piece, leaving the top an afterthought.

Yet this is typical of young work, the desire to pack up the space that can be seen at ground level. You see it with beginner sign painters who have to put a lot of text in small spaces, the tendency is to spread out the first words and pack in the last words. However this piece is so sincere you can almost expect to see the artist giving tours and pouring his heart out to those who do not see the need for the black man to embrace his/her icons.

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Hands across a Nation

Tranquility as a school has had its rocky patches, going counter to its name, and so this mural is asked to inspire the young and was painted at the time by a young past pupil, Mr. Victor. There are many challenges in the work, least of all being technique and ability to reproduce faces convincingly. There is the need to be patriotic with colour choice, the need to stay on point with the colour for the deceased, colour for the living, colour for the youth and colour for the many options that the youth can take up on their road to greatness. Then there is the awkwardness of the space itself and the overlip of the wall for the second floor. But he endeavours to try.

My concern with this mural is its tonal quality. There is such a heavy use of black that is used in its pure state, causing the work to be very flat in nature. He tries to compensate for this by outlining the faces, but it is a little too late because so much of the work is about the silhouette and filling out the silhouette is the afterthought. What this work does do very well is pose questions about the intention of the mural in public spaces. Do they achieve what they set out to do? Are they inspiring as they are intended to be? Do the students at the school see the work for what it is, or does the piece just blend into the background? Whatever the case may be, these are some of the things that need to be looked at as we continue to explore art in public. – Adele 2005

Firstly, the mural simply represents 4 generations of Tranquility students. Williams, CLR, Naipaul, Gene Samuel, Chang etc. are all alumni. There is no ‘black nationalist’ agenda as the people depicted are of different races and are simply the alumni that constitute the school’s pantheon. It was because of this phenomenal alumni and the fact that Tranquil is one of the oldest schools in the region that I choose the Legacy theme. Tranquil however was indeed a conduit for the ambitious black lower middle class to try for college places. I myself was not a past pupil as you stated but went to St. Mary’s College. (This observation has been corrected)

Mural painting in this country comes with all types of constraints- from paints, finances, to scaffolding to time. All constraints applied in this instance. Like the simple ‘for instance’ of the scaffolding used for the mural being taken away after 4 days. This meant that the second stage of design- the overlying coat of paint with other design elements could not have been added. Thus the design could not be ultimately unified and resolved. The second set of paint with the requested colours also never materialized.

Tranquil is not a rich school, but it has pride. The colour scheme (the dominant yellow and national colours) were requested from the school- yellow is the school’s colour and is not present anywhere else in the school’s architecture or design. The bunching of subject matter in the lower 2/3rd of the piece (which you referred to as a mistake of ‘beginner artists’) was simply because the scaffolding did not go up any higher! Alas that is how it goes.

The snide shots at careers that may have to do with “cashing and cooking” and the like is classist and beneath you and not worthy of being responded to. Have to admit the oversight of no paintbrush is to blush over, but the arts were represented by music, filmmaking, books etc. I have never claimed to be the greatest technician as a painter- what I am is a person who will go out and do rather than sit down at home and complain and criticize. I am very modest and open to saying I am still growing in my craft. At the same time I am very aware of the craft and history of mural painting- from medieval frescoes, Michelangelo, Tiepolo, Egyptian painting, Inca hieroglyphics, to Mr. Rivera, Orosco and Sequeiros- as well as my local predecessors Carlyle, Hinkson, Holder and Morris. Take it from me, the conditions under which Picasso’s Guernica was created- as well as the works of these other artists- were not the conditions under which I created Legacy for Tranquility Government School- financially, infrastructurally or time wise. The ability to create under these ‘special’ types of local conditions and create work of integrity will ultimately be the Legacy of my early life as an artist in Trinidad.

My work is as much provocative as an end in itself. I want my peer group and community of artists to jump in the fray and commit to communal art. I want my work to provoke people to respond by doing. Hopefully some smart talented critic turned painter will feel the need to compete with me in the ‘macho’ world of mural painting. Hopefully some artists will feel obliged to show me how it’s really done and get off their ‘comfort zones’ and actually do some work of some relevance. Yep, I would really like for there to be more ‘fine’ artists willing to get their feet wet and hands dirty taking on community and public art projects- with all their complications of: time constraints; art by consultation; financial and logistical limitations; aesthetically resolving large surface areas and sightlines, interaction with intended populace; etc.

Whilst I did not get a chance to fully complete and resolve the Legacy mural I stand by it as a piece of work. I know it works because after it was up I used to visit the school a lot just to watch people’s reaction to it. Alumni kept visiting on afternoons, some cried, others nodded in agreement. It gave students pause. Assignments were given on it by unrelated teachers. Students began drawing more… The alumni staring down from the wall have actually started pacing some of the students… A testament to the mural’s effect lies in the fact that it has not been seriously defaced by students- a serious triumph in Tranquility where nearly every free surface area is covered with graffiti. I had factored this tendency into the mural with an 8 foot square part of the wall dedicated to student’s graffiti! This part of the wall was used to this end for about a year with a lot of poetry, smut, insults, mauvais lang, and student artwork passing under the bridge. That part of the wall gave rise to a lot of student creativity and a real feeling of legitimizing of their voice. This of course is the kind of stuff your critique would miss altogether.

All in all I feel that the work is too dense in the middle without the textures I never got to add to the black and the yellow sky is too flat without the swirls I intended. The kids themselves did their self-portraits (!) on the bottom as well as the swirls that you have tried to devalue as a football net. Those swirls were taken up by another part of the wall now painted over and were to be balanced by the swirls at the top that the incomplete scaffolding never reached. Teachers and students were a part of the entire process from the beginning to the end. It aint no Diego Rivera but with $2000., some sponsored paint, four days, unsure, unsafe, incomplete scaffolding, benevolent institutional consultation and student artists I think it works pretty good. – Rubadiri Victor

Witness to an accident – Haile Selassie

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A beautiful wall painting of Haile Selassie painted in front of a Bar, Trinidad

As the story goes, two cars collided near this spot. It happen because it was meant to stop worrying and getting to the truth of what really happen that morning and why it could happen.

The culprit was drunk, reckless and afraid of what had just happen. In his attempt to leave the scene, he smashed his car into a post destroying part of it. Shocked, unscathed from the accident, the family of older folks wondered again, it could not be, not since a week of unmanageable pain.

Haile Selassie I in St. James


Copyright © 2009 Richard Bolai

This wall painting was a pleasant surprise located in an abandon lot in St. James, Trinidad and Tobago. It shows the quantity of materials used in the artist’s desire to depict Haile Selassie centered between bands of colour which represents the figure known as the Rastafari Messiah. Plenty paint boy


A detail of the work that shows great care, St. James Trinidad, West Indies

Wey Boys looking for a buss head back…….

Is beau-t-iful mural we go compete


“The Innocence” painted as a scroll from the left of the painting, the title of this mural, off George Street, Trinidad, West Indies.

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What ever it means, French graffiti artists leaving their mark, Diego Martin, Trinidad, West Indies

According the the graffiti community, word surrounding the vandalism over certain graffiti works have been pinpointed to a couple of delinquent school boys armed with a tin of black or white paint. It has became apparent that a turf over the rights of who did what to who and why has spread to a whitewash of graffiti belonging to the taggers, Manf, Spade and Louse.

The graffiti influx that popped up a couple a years on the places all over Trinidad in December, 2008 welcomed a team of professional French graffiti artists who left their mark on galvanize fences, white walls and road underpasses.

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The underpass at St. James Trinidad West Indies that pin points a graffiti artist known as Lailes. His work and professionalism has become the centre of discussion in the tagger forum as he centers himself at any available space, primarily galvanize fencing or a vacant lot.

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Taggers debate over what constitutes a graffiti artist by its application. This may be the work by the tagger called HEF. His quirky stencil imagery can be found a many places.

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A graffiti stencil spray painted on an abandon wall, Diego Martin, Trinidad

Addendum: A comment has clarified somewhat the spree of iconography by an graffiti artist tagged as HOWOK. The artist has spent a couple years between France and Italy and the sub- signature leiles is actually the name of his girl friend. Case closed.

Shivaji and Ganesha at an All fours card game

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The ministry of works All Fours playing house, Crystal Stream, Diego Martin

The plywood shed you see is here is a notorious spot for liming. The men who work? or are assigned to this district are either drinking, drunk or swinging on a hammock tied between a large tree and the dwelling. But on this Sunday morning as parishioners were pelting out with their spanking new sport utility vehicles from a RC Church compound just opposite the newly fenced grounds. An artist showed his faith as a wall painter while his adviser reclined to his right smoking a cigarette and chatting on his mobile phone.

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An all Fours card player painting a religious mural, Diego Martin Trinidad, West Indies

A tribute to Shivaji and Ganesha painted on the side of this dwelling. One can speculate that this is for good luck, particularly at night when the place is occupied by card players. Cussing, cackling, women and laughter will resume regardless of the sacredness of the Hindu deities just freshly painted on the outer part of the partition.