Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Kavion Robinson: Retelling history through art

Published:Monday | May 8, 2017 | 5:00 AMKeisha Hill
A scenic setting painted by Kavion Robinson.
Robinson's self-portrait.
Robinson's 'Art for the People'.
This depiction of National Hero Marcus Garvey is one of Kavion Robinson's most popular paintings.
Kavion Robinson's portrayal of dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel is very popular online.
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Kavion Robinson is an illustrator and painter, recognised most notably for his illustrative depictions of historical figures and scenes. He has dedicated his artistic career to depicting life's beauty and struggles in a creative, inspirational, and enlightening manner.

As a child growing up in Westmoreland, he experienced the challenges involved in daily life, along with the joys. For him, life is a beautiful struggle and his artwork aims to depict that beauty.

"Art found me as a child. Growing up in Jamaica, I never did anything in art. When I moved to the United States at about 15 years old, in middle school, it was mandatory to do art in high school. One day I was in an art class, [and] the teacher gave us a brush and said 'paint'. I started to paint. I liked painting and was good at it," Robinson said.

Robinson said the purpose of painting scenes from history is to educate and to provide a positive depiction of people of colour. He stated that with the negativity often surrounding Africa and the descendants of Africans, the good that has come from the continent is not well documented.

"There are not too many paintings of black people/artists in art history. So, I need my work to be both attractive and historically correct. I want people, particularly the youth, to look at my artwork and be inspired, but also be made knowledgeable of their roots and to reinforce our background of being kings and queens. I want to give that power to the youth of seeing that reflection of themselves in a positive way," Robinson said.

THE PROCESS

Robinson read for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of the Arts where he majored in traditional illustration. His artistic style can be described as realistic symbolism and surreal symbolism.

"Sometimes, a painting starts itself. A lot of times, a concept just jumps at me while walking down the street and it might start by writing. I write in my cell phone; I just type in the notepad the concepts I have in my head then I go from there into sketches. I might do 10 sketches and choose the one which best suits the concept. Then, I develop that image into the final product," he said.

Robinson has received several awards for his paintings, most notably from the National Gallery of Jamaica in 2012 for his historical illustrations of several of Jamaica's national heroes.

"I've done a lot of pieces. The piece that gets the most attention is 'Out of Many, One People' when it comes to Jamaican history. This piece contains most of the historical figures in civil liberty in Jamaica. My painting of Marcus Garvey gets a lot of attention, and for dancehall fans, the Vybz Kartel painting is very popular online. One of my favourite pieces of Jamaican history is 'Peter Tosh: Reggae Heart Beat'," Robinson said.

BLACK HISTORY

"Jamaican/Caribbean history is only a part of my portfolio. My portfolio essentially speaks to the black history, from Africa to US to Jamaica. Anyone who can identify with black history in the world will be attracted to my work. I also illustrate children's books," he added.

Robinson has designed several book covers and illustrated his first children's book Irie the Caterpillar in 2013. "I am just here for the journey. One thing I know is that my art will always pay respect to my history, creating a sense of dignity in one's history and culture. I think a lot of youth don't take pride and don't have a lot of self-worth because they don't see or understand the struggles that came before. They might hear it, but not see it, so I am just giving them the visuals," he said.

Robinson is currently working as a freelance illustrator and portrait painter. His artwork is available online. You can visit his website at www.kavionart.com, or email kavion@kavionart.com, or check out his work on Fine Arts America.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com