Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Brush Strokes captures life, history

Published:Sunday | October 16, 2016 | 10:30 AMKeisha Hill

Today Jamaica is losing its architectural and archaeological cultural heritage faster than it can be documented. Human-caused disasters and uncontrolled development are major culprits, however, Webster Campbell, one of Jamaica's most prolific painters is ensuring that many of these relics are relived on his canvas.

Campbell and his son, Toraine, recently hosted ‘Brush Strokes’ A father and son Art  Exhibition at  Art Gallery Décor VIII,  the first of its kind in Jamaica featuring miniature paintings that captured the soul and quaintness of decrepit county roads and mundane structures that encapsulate the history and landscape of Jamaica.

“I see myself as a historian. I try to record Jamaica’s history so that persons can see where we are coming from. It is likely that some of these buildings and structures may no longer be there in the future, so I am trying to maintain that historical side,” Campbell said.

Campbell, who grew up in a family of artists, with both his mother and father into art and craft - making baskets and carving wood to make houses - he has lived and breathed art for the last 54 years. Therefore, it is no surprise that his wife, Charlene, is also a semi-abstract artist, with another of his sons, who is now deceased, was a tattoo artist.

Toraine, who shared the same stage with his father during the one-day exhibition, admitted that he was not so keen on taking up the paint brush until after he completed his high school education, at  Excelsior High and Holmwood Technical High schools, respectively.

“I did not even look at art as a subject in school because it became second nature for me as I was always around my dad. I wanted to pursue technical subjects, but I soon realised I was running from myself,” he said.

The younger Campbell is just not a fine artist but is also doing well with body painting. He recently completed a stint with New York’s Next Top Model as a body artist and designer and his work has also been featured in ‘Smooth’ one of the leading black magazines in the United States.

“It’s all about relaxation as art soothes your mind, body, and soul. It is doing something that I love and enjoy and being at one with nature,” the younger Campbell said.

His father has also had his fair share of recognition. Alongside his wife, Campbell exhibited at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, DC, transforming the venue into a beautiful art gallery with paintings as part of the activities to celebrate the Jamaica’s 51stanniversary of Independence.

The exhibition, titled ‘Back When’ had more than 30 paintings and 50 prints on display that provided memorable glimpses of life in Jamaica. The pieces also featured aspects of Jamaica’s geography, history, and culture, which in some cases gave a fascinating perspective on life in the present representing the best of Jamaica.

Earlier in his career, Webster also won the merit award for 'Little Tammy' in the National Fine Art Exhibition in 1984 and a gold medal National Fine Art Exhibition in 1986 for his painting 'Flood Victim', among others.

The objectives of ‘Brush Strokes’, they say, was to capture the essence of their individuality while using different techniques that still complimented each other.

“We start from a blank canvas and people see life on it after. We wanted to demonstrate how we use brush strokes differently, but with similar results of representing our work and captivating our audiences,” they said.

Toraine, who works mainly with silhouettes and floral images is anticipating that with the reception from the one-day inaugural staging of the exhibition they may consider hosting another such event next year.

However, the focus, he said, was now on preparing for other upcoming art shows including the Liguanea Art Festival, the Mandeville Art Fair, and the NCU Art Show.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com