Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Celebrating Cecil

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMChester Francis-Jackson
Lorna Ford (left) and Sonia Francis (right) with the man of the hour, Cecil Cooper.
From left: Robert Marrett, Michelle Strong-Forrester and Kyle Forrester.
Artists Andrea Murray (left) and John Campbell (centre) with educator and fine art photographer Donnette Zacca.
From left: Palm Production's Lennie Little-White, Dr Hilary Robertson Hickling, and musician and educator Ibo Cooper.
Carole Reid (left) and Tiffanni Robinsi (right) with prominent attorney Rose Bennett-Cooper.
From left: Oliver Magnus, CEO of Medical Associates Hospital Dr Michael Banbury, and Professor Emeritus Frederick Hickling.

It has been said, in the midst of World War II, in order to fund the war efforts, Britain would have to cut funding for the arts.

Fast forward to contemporary Jamaica, where a recent study concluded that children whose study regimen includes the arts, generally, do way better than their contemporaries who do not.

Can't say there is any surprise here, my dears, as indeed, the coarse callousness afflicting this land has its genesis in the decline of the teaching of the arts, as part and parcel of the development of the young mind. It would seem, successive governments, have opted to ignore the arts.

All is not lost, as there are those still among us, who still have an appreciation for that which will contribute to the betterment of the whole. On Friday, June 24, celebrated tenor, artist, and scholar, Cecil Cooper, on the occasion of the eve of his 70th birthday, was both host and guest at a series of events, to mark the milestone, that will long be remembered.

Culturally, Jamaica has been adrift, since the renaissance of the '60s that saw the emergence of a vibrant cultural and artistic, as against the practice of former Colonies of Britain.



To our credit, the 'eat-a-food' culture, while all pervasive, is not our primary reference. In recent times, as many of our brighter minds reflect on their journey and that of the country, more and more they have been using their art, and craft, to say hey, its not all about the race to the bottom, as there are indeed alternatives to the prevailing 'dung-kya kulcha' that says everything is acceptable, wherever and whenever.

Enter artist Cecil Cooper, and viola! We are once again reminded that, we are greater than the current attitude that measures everything, not by its intrinsic, esoteric value and or ability to inspire and educate, but by the immediacy of our wants.

And so it was, that when invitations went out asking a wide-cross-section of Jamaicans to attend the Olympia Gallery, on Old Hope Road, nary a soul who was privileged to have been asked, gave a second thought to attending.

And, my dears, it was a 'Command Performance' by artist extraordinaire Cecil Cooper, as indeed, his Exhibition, "Featuring Selected Paintings, Completed Between 1978 and 2016", was a Masterclass!

With a total appreciation for the importance of the arts, Cecil Cooper's 2016 Exhibition, was in fact 'an ode to Barbara Gloudon', She, being a pioneering bulwark of the performing arts and a cultural icon, keeps Jamaican Theatre at the forefront of the nation's artistic offerings!

Compered by the absolutely fabulous Paula-Ann Porter-Jones, and with Prime Minister Andrew Holness as the guest speaker, speaking to the importance of the arts, being integral to transforming societies. The Olympia Gallery was buzzing with the vibrancy and unvarnished electricity of Cooper's works draping the walls of the Cathedral-styled gallery, there was no denying Cooper's signature style, in the embrace of the feminine curves that is classicist in theme. True to Coopers narrative, the viewer is taken on a personal journey as each piece, tells the story of the skillfully crafted contour, each chasm, each mound and each tantalising brushstroke climaxing with subtext that there's no escaping the enchanting pleasures, captivating beauty of 'Eve', and that there's no escaping her wiles.



For those looking for a reference, think Botticelli, in ampleness of forms, and throw in Picasso in use of colours and then combine these two geniuses with the vibrancy of a true artist, whose musicality plays itself out in the Afro-Caribbean body form of his subjects. It's then and only then, that will you begin to grasp the sparkling genius of Cooper's 2016 Exhibition. His body of work is truly a celebration of 'Eve' in giant murals and canvasses that transports patrons from the humdrum, to the land of potential!

This is, in fact, not an exhibition at all, but an odyssey, that is truly representative of man's yearning for wholesomeness, with the promise of fulfillment in each piece! It awakens the sin of greed in the soul, as this is an exhibition one would like to own, not just one piece, or two.

Dears, it was quite the outing too, as among those out were former students of the artist's relatives and friends, art collectors and art lovers, the glitterati and literatti headed by wife, celebrated attorney, Rose Bennett-Cooper; the fab Jamila Cooper, the celebrated photographer and daughter of the artist; the preeminent Joe Matalon and wife the stunningly elegant Bernadette Matalon; the eternal Pat Ramsay; Professor Freddy Hickling and wife, Hilary Robertson-Hickling; Professor Carolyn Cooper and her sibling DC-based attorney Donnette Cooper; entrepreneur and artist Lois Sherwood; the regal Veerle Poupeye; the fabulous Angela Neita; socialite and actress Beth Hyde Parnell; Dr Jonathan Greenland; the iconic Maxine Walters; the bespoke James Samuels; acclaimed ceramist Gene Pearson; JAMPRO's president, the fab Diane Wilson; the lovely Anya Gloudon; Jurist Ian Wilkinson; Curator Gilou Bauer; entrepreneur and artist Carlyle Hudson; Soprano Carol Reid; Doug and Sonia Folkes; Media doyenne Fae Ellington; filmmaker Lennie Little-White and his companion the gorgeous Cheryl Ryman; Carl Bliss and the fab Dawn Fuller-Phillips; The ever elegant Sybil Toutoume; Nsomba Jaja and son, the renowned chef Oji Jaja; Trevor Figureror; the ultra-fab stunner, Karen Neita; the fabulous Cecile Neita-Levee, in from, Negril; the fabulous legal eaglet Dianne Edwards; Oliver Magnus; EnithWilliams; the gorgeous Lyndsey McDonnough; celebrated photographer Donette Zacca; fashion designer and stylist Neahlis Aris; the oh-so-gorgeous Carla Newsam; the charmingly lovely Jessica Ogden, in from Harmony Hall, Ocho Rios, the charming Melva Yorke; the mucho talented Jodi Yapp. It all made for one absolutely captivatingly enlightening return to the grand stage, of artist Cecil Cooper, with the oomph and creative chutzpah need to reinvigorate, a somewhat comatose, art scene.