‘Home and Heart’ Rosemary Pilgrim at the QPG; (Pelican Craft Centre) 16th August to 16th September 2014. Feature address by Lilian Sten-Nicholson, AICA

About the artist:

Rosemary Pilgrim, renowned printmaker, painter, art teacher as well as daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, Caribbean woman, to mention only some of her roles in life.

I use this long litany of titles, because together they inform her work.

Home and Heart‘ is the name of this exhibition, ‘home and heart’ is the center of her life and her work.

About the event:

The Central Bank of Barbados sponsors the annual Crop Over Visual Art exhibition and this prize : a solo show and a catalogue. This is a prize worth more than money, because a catalogue is important and there is a lack of those and other literature about Bajan arts. This is a fault which needs to be corrected and this is why:

Barbados is an island, a small island, {with a population equivalent of a Chinese village} which is known to ‘punch above its size‘, politically and commercially, in sports, in scholarship and in music .

This is also true of the visual arts in Barbados ; in spite of the fact that this is a tourist destination and ‘resort art’ is a viable industry, it has produced a truly astounding number of serious artists in diverse subjects, media and styles, (it is, after all, home to the only art schools in Southern Caribbean with real degree programs) and yet; the other day, when I was looking for a local gallery online via Google search – the first website I found was headed “Bridgetown Galleries” and its first statement was:

There is no art produced in Barbados-all art is imported from Haiti“.

This caused me to utter some strong Jamaican 'words' (I learned life in Jamaica), which were appropriate at the time but not for this polite and pleasant gathering here.

This caused me to utter some strong Jamaican ‘words‘ (I learned life in Jamaica), which were appropriate at the time but not for this polite and pleasant gathering here.

How is it possible, that our vibrant multi-faceted art scene is largely unknown? Even within Barbados? But you know what- it is our own fault.

Compare with marketing of music/ if we didn’t have recordings, it would be said that we have no music.

So we need to invest in the combination of stronger online presence and a visible and palpable ‘paper trail’ in the form of printed catalogues, monographs, coffee table editions’, posters and even printed invitations and banners. An art presence in newspapers and magazines is also important, but that is another story, to long to tell here.

Our vibrant and diverse art scene needs to be publicized and marketed, in a consistent and professional manner, and although this is happening to some extent already, the efforts of the NCF, the BAC and BCC Division of Fine Arts are largely responsible for the fact that we have a vibrant art scene at all, it is struggling and underfunded and needs to be adequately financed in order to reach its full potential.

So, thanks again to the Central Bank of Barbados, for taking an active and dynamic interest in the visual arts of this country, through your diverse sponsorships and your significant art collection. Your contribution is invaluable.

About Women in the Arts:

Women have always been artists, from ‘before time‘ until now. A few examples:

It has always been assumed that prehistoric cave paintings were ritually painted by male hunters in prepartion for the hunt.

But cave paintings, anywhere in the world, are accompanied by a multitude of handprints, and recently someone had the bright idea to measure those hand prints, only to find that the majority were those of women.

So it is now believed, that women, rather than hunting men, created the wonderful cave paintings

Perhaps female hunters, why not?

The Bayeux Tapestries, which chronicle the exploits of William the Conqueror, were also created by women.

So, from prehistoric through classical times, the renaissance, the enlightenment and the industrial age, women have been active, professional artists. They were frequently barred from academies and schools because of their gender, so many of the famous and successful ones were daughters of renowned artists; they had fathers, who taught them the crafts and the tricks of the trade, while gradually introducing them to their own clientele and the wider art scene.

But after that, only sheer hard work and talent counted and many competed successfully with their male counterparts.

Notably: Katerina de Vigri, an illuminating nun, who became St Catherine of Bologna and the Patron Saint of Artists. (Her un-embalmed , relatively incorrupt body, is still on show in the chapel of her order, at 500 years, she looks good for her age).

Then there was Lavinia Fontana, an Italian renaissance painter (1552-1614.) with a brilliant and profitable career. As a leading member of several academies and a papal appointee (painter to the Vatican), she was much in demand and lavishly paid for her work.

She married well, gave birth to 11 children and her wealthy husband was totally supportive, he even assisted in the studio mixing paints and doing some of the less technical work on her paintings.

After her death (and she lived to the ripe old age of 62, at a time when ‘one score and ten‘ was regarded asover-the-hill‘) many of her works were accredited to male painters. Which is why we do not know much about her. But she is only one of a multitude of and thanks to the internet, we can now learn much about her and other female artists on a global scale.
About the creative process, context and content:

So Millennia have passed, technology has advanced and societies have changed.

But, as women artist, we are still faced with the same dilemma: how do you juggle your different roles as a professional and as a wife and mother?

It is a balancing act, which requires the skills and nerves of a tight-rope walker combined with the endurance of a long distance runner and women develop coping strategies, which vary with time, place and personality.

Rosemary Pilgrim has had to balance her duties as a mother, grandmother and art teacher with her responsibility to her goddess-given talent.

Rosemary Pilgrim has had to balance her duties as a mother, grandmother and art teacher with her responsibility to her goddess-given talent.

In practical terms this means finding time and making space to work, and defending those against all onslaughts, whether these come in the form of urgent demands or meek supplications; (theTrojan Horseof a loving family can be a menace to creative discipline).

Her 'Coffee and birdsong' series is born out of this necessity. In order to have time to create, Rosemary habitually gets up at 4 in the morning, makes her coffee and settles down to paint.

Her ‘Coffee and birdsong‘ series is born out of this necessity. In order to have time to create, Rosemary habitually gets up at 4 in the morning, makes her coffee and settles down to paint.

There is a special magic about this time in the morning. It is known as the ‘witching hour” or ‘the hour of the wolf“, by restless souls with insomnia (or bad conscience); for them it is the darkest time before the break of dawn.

For others it is a time of meditation and prayer for the promise of a new day, for others again, it is the time to get up and cook the day’s meals, or in rural societies, time to start tilling the soil, tending to livestock or to prepare for market.

It is a universal time of transition, ‘not yet day-not still night’- and it is quiet- until the birds wake.

Rosemary’s paintings capture both the peacefulness and the transcendental energy of that time. You can follow her journey, from the portrayal of physical reality to spiritual truth, through the progression of the works and even in each individual piece.

Rosemary Pilgrim is a Caribbean woman of the generation that was born to West-Indian parents. I mention this, because the movements of people, through voluntary and forced migrations, have created a Caribbean social fabric, inter- woven over generations, torn asunder by conflict and strife, stitched together by relationships, and embroidered, over-laid and accented by historical and political narratives.

Rosemary Pilgrim is a Caribbean woman of the generation that was born to West-Indian parents. I mention this, because the movements of people, through voluntary and forced migrations, have created a Caribbean social fabric, inter- woven over generations, torn asunder by conflict and strife, stitched together by relationships, and embroidered, over-laid and accented by historical and political narratives.

The official, historical narrative consists of grids and straight lines, the pretense of orderly progression from A-B-C, or basic mathematics. The constructed ‘Narrative of History’ is written by the Victors and Rulers, but its organic reality is lived by all.

And in this reality, there are an infinite number of events, an infinite number of possibilities, a surging primeval soup of random occurrences with open-ended outcomes.

Which means, that we always have choices, (we may not like them, but we have them) It also means, that although it is important to know history, we must not allow its official narratives to define us.

In her paintings and prints Rosemary Pilgrim presents a very personal view of this Caribbean social fabric.

She pays tribute to the strength, resilience and loving support of her own and other Caribbean families, which span generations and territories. She does so, not only in her choice of topics, but with her very methods and choice of media.

Grannie Lyn was, among other things, a milliner, so Rosemary paints her in the midst of the girl-children, (her own and others) that she 'raised up', and as an added tribute, embroiders the canvas. Other works are painted over tea bags, 'dyed in the cup' during gatherings of friends and family; opened dried and stitched together they create these wonderful 'glowing-earth' back grounds, steeped in good memories and positive vibes.

Grannie Lyn was, among other things, a milliner, so Rosemary paints her in the midst of the girl-children, (her own and others) that she ‘raised up‘, and as an added tribute, embroiders the canvas. Other works are painted over tea bags, ‘dyed in the cup‘ during gatherings of friends and family; opened dried and stitched together they create these wonderful ‘glowing-earth‘ back grounds, steeped in good memories and positive vibes.

Many pieces include letters, documents, random notes from friends and family, sometimes clearly visible, at other times obscured, over-painted, rubbed out, just hinting at thoughts, emotions, people and events.

So what was inter-woven over generations, torn asunder by conflict and strife, Rosemary stitches together; she recreates her family narrative through painting, embroidery, over-lays and accents;

The result is this collection of works of "Home and Heart", shared with us from the depth of a generous soul.

The result is this collection of works of “Home and Heart“, shared with us from the depth of a generous soul.

As you make your way around the gallery and contemplate this beautiful work I want you to remember this:

A work of art has four stages of life: the first is 'concept' , the second 'execution' , the third is 'completion'; all these belong to the artist , and there is a time limit to these, sometimes a work takes minutes, sometimes years, but there is still a definite cut off time.

A work of art has four stages of life: the first is ‘concept’ , the second ‘execution’ , the third is ‘completion'; all these belong to the artist , and there is a time limit to these, sometimes a work takes minutes, sometimes years, but there is still a definite cut off time.

The fourth, and the one that concerns us here today, is when the work meets the viewer, when each one of us will bring our own life experience, emotions and preferences to the interpretation of the work.

So we may all have different opinions about what the work means- and they are all correct. Your interpretation may also be completely different from what the artist intended. But it is yours- and it is still correct. The interaction between viewer and image, creates new thoughts, emotions and energies, because viewing is, not only a contemplative, but a also a creative pursuit. It is yours and it has no limit.

And so, I give me great pleasure to declare this beautiful exhibition, “Home and Heart” by Rosemary Pilgrim, open.

Lilian Sten-Nicholson. 16th August 2014

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