Barrington Watson lives on
Below is a tribute to the late Barrington Watson, from the communications arm of the Northern Caribbean University.
Hanover's Michelangelo, art colossus, intercontinental art student and professor, now paints from above. This artist was not only, as Picasso asserted, "a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web," but also an inexhaustible fountain.
Watson, who had for nearly eight decades spanned Europe, North America and the Caribbean as a Creator god-figure in his craft, has been recognised through 19 international, academic and civic awards. From Jamaica to the USA, numerous students have sat at the easel of this art Gamaliel.
Also a man of community outreach, Watson founded six art associations, the Gallery Barrington, a Contemporary Art Centre, the Jamaica Art Foundation and the Orange Park Trust, Yallahs, St Thomas, Jamaica.
The world has feasted on Watson's extraordinary creative representations at his 57 one-man exhibitions, between 1959 (England) and 2003 (Jamaica). There are several treasured commissioned portraits, murals and environmental works, major works, permanent public collections, and private collections that will immortalise Watson.
As the Master-Creator-Artist himself modelled in the creation of the world, so has Watson applied his brush and palette. His own words reveal God's and his method: "In drawing, look for the big movement, the big shape, then find the directions and proportions of the subordinate shapes".
Among his human canvases is his protÈgÈ Sebastian Elliott, who memorialises Watson thus:
Some commented that Sebastian has earned over the last seven years a web of European artistic secrets bequeathed to him by Professor Watson. Five months to the end of his celebrated journey, Watson handed Sebastian his final instructions and a well-honoured certificate. Those teachings, Watson stated, would keep Sebastian for the rest of his life.
During that time, the Master and his mentee made many plans for the nation. Sebastian was required by Watson to execute certain plans, even if the latter would not be around to see them materialise. He envisioned meeting with government officials and art connoisseurs in the near future to further execute plans for the art arena to give greater hope to our nation.
FATHER AND MENTOR
Sebastian describes his art teacher as a father and mentor to him; but most of all, a man who believed in no second place. Sebastian, following the brush strokes of his master, has remained simple and humble, though at the same time exhibiting his works in various parts of the world. He has also been an art educator for the past seven years, and currently serves as art coordinator at the West Indies College Preparatory School, Mandeville.
Watson's student also pays tribute to Mrs Doreen Watson, the one who helped to ensure that he was taught by the master and provided good hospitality upon his arrival at Orange Park in St Thomas, after his five-hour weekly trip from Manchester.
Watson's final words, as Sebastian remembers, were, "I have taught you all I know, so add to it and do better now. Keep drawing and working hard and I know you will make it one day." It was dÈj‡ vu: Almost the exact words were said by former art professor at Northern Caribbean University and mentor to Sebastian after his five years of training. Just like Watson, that professor passed days later, after the two had founded the Mandeville Art Foundation which gave Watson its highest honour - the Luminary Award.
Under Watson's guidance, Sebastian had been working tirelessly for the past several months to stage his seventh solo exhibition at the Gallery Barrington. There will be 30 works of drawings and paintings. He still intends to do so for Watson and the nation, and states that his theme will be adjusted to capture important moments of "our well-loved and missed patriarch of Jamaican painters".
Sebastian has been receiving calls from Jamaica and overseas to take the baton and carry on with the expertise he has received. About the time of his teacher's departure, Sebastian had a dream of Watson and him in a studio. He departed the studio by being awake to the news of the demise of his teacher and mentor.
Though still grieving, Sebastian has remained committed to their plans, and assures Jamaica that all Watson taught him will be given back to the nation when the time comes. Throughout Jamaica, Sebastian's work is known to be influenced by the quintessential artist from whom he learnt everything.
• Watson will always be Sebastian's muse. They will meet in the morning as together they paint the eastern sky.