Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Artist Roshane Taylor adds soul to the streets of Kingston - New mural captures ‘music capital of the world’

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2021 | 12:12 AM
Artist Roshane Taylor.
Artist Roshane Taylor.
Taylor’s ‘soul’ features the themes of music and performance art within an urban setting.
Taylor’s ‘soul’ features the themes of music and performance art within an urban setting.
Artist Roshane Taylor, known as ‘Paige Zombie’, stands in front of his Temple Lane mural.
Artist Roshane Taylor, known as ‘Paige Zombie’, stands in front of his Temple Lane mural.

The streets of downtown, Kingston are an ever-evolving street art museum, most of the artistry functioning as a reminder of Jamaica’s rich reggae and dancehall culture. Roshane Taylor, tagged by peers as ‘Paige Zombie’, is one of several local artists who live in the thick of it. His latest illustration – a large-scale mural on Temple Lane featuring the themes of music and performance art within an urban setting – awakens, and even challenges, viewers’ senses.

“If it was left up to me, every street, every building … everywhere would have some form of artwork,” Taylor said, as he looked on at the mural which he completed last Wednesday.

The inspiration is derived from the mood of Kingston: the hustle and bustle of the busy Corporate Area, where the sounds of music, whether from a car, motorised handcart, bicycle equipped with a loudspeaker or a makeshift, on-the-go sound system, are dominant – the creativity and the talent that is continuously unearthed throughout the streets of the proclaimed ‘music capital of the world’ – the artwork adding that ‘soul’, as it is appropriately titled.

“And so, I wanted to represent that passion of Jamaicans and the feeling people get from our music,” Taylor expressed. The Temple Lane painting took seven days, working a minimum of two hours per day in the late afternoon to avoid the direct sunlight and wind.

From being bolstered by his involvement in the Paint Jamaica project, representing the Marley brand as an ambassador, and partnering with The Collection MoDA to his collaboration with international brands such as KIA and Pepsi, among others, creating visual schematics for entertainers, Taylor’s imagination has been piqued.

He said, “My inspiration for art comes from growing up, watching animations, heavily influenced by Japanese anime and Asian art overall, and I mix that with my Jamaican heritage to provide a blend of concepts. A lot of the influence also comes from seeing the work of illustrators, pioneers in the art community, the ones I watched from a younger age and those who are presently around me, my peers. I became involved in street art because a fellow artist and friend, Matthew McCarthy, told me to give it a chance. It all began with Fleet Street and that was in my first year [at] Edna Manley College. Before that, I did mainly digital illustrations.”

Taylor’s work is characterised by clean expression, the strong, defined lines and blending of colours, which, he said, is the reason the street art he creates is usually left unsigned.

“I believe my work is identifiable; the way I paint is done in a particular style, and once you are familiar with me, you’ll be able to tell,” he said, also explaining that the process and primary tool, which is spray paint, “requires me to draw the designs on the walls prior to adding the colour … that I do with chalk, as pencil on concrete often tends to show through the paint.”

Cadres of art enthusiasts passed through the lane, as the conceptualiser and artist stood there unknown to them. He blends in like just another individual out for a stroll taking pictures of the street art. A few days before, he showed up to a cordoned-off street, eager to capture some images of his finished piece and was told he was not allowed to, as a video shoot was happening.

“I didn’t say anything about me being the artist, I just said, ‘My bad, I’ll come back’,” he shared with The Gleaner, followed by a mischievous chuckle.

In the past, the artist and his colleagues have faced challenges, Taylor said. From the lack of support for the community mural projects to the defacement of walls which were primed, but he believes the appreciation for street art, and art in general, is growing. He recalled one incident where he along with McCarthy and Esther Beckford had prepped the walls of a JUTC terminal, but the next day when they returned to paint, “someone had already started the work for us”.

The good-humoured illustrator-turned-street artist continued, “We have experienced a lot of fight, but now that the necessary authorities are behind the projects the response has improved. There is cultural impact and a value to what we are doing, which is basically ongoing, and ties in a bunch of local artists; as we see here, it is a tourist attraction and something for people to fall in love with … which I can say I did. It was definitely a jump I had to take. Now, wherever I go, looking at street art is a must.”