Barbados’ Prime Minister attends local art show at Queen’s Park Gallery, “Whittle In Context” runs to November 29th

When I look at Whittle’s most recent, mixed media works, my attention fixes on the canvas strips that fall freely from the traditional rectangles, some with different material attached to them, others burnt. Again, I see the fluctuation pattern or pendulum motion characteristic of Whittle’s work. He himself calls the strips ?kite tails?, but one could just as well see them as roots. And if it is kites that are in question, would the fire be same as the one through which Icarus met his fate? Can a man fly and root himself at the same time? This, too, is something Whittle could ask ? as we can all, through the ideogram he created which cannot be resolved into parts.

Finnish Reviewer, Otso Kantokorpi

Translation: Susan Heiskanen

Educator, father, competitor, husband – some of the canvasses Nick Whittle has decorated with his spirit over the years and made valuable impressions in all of these aspects. And in an unprecedented 1st, the Prime Minister was invited to attend the debut of “Whittle In Context,” Mr Thompson having been no stranger to Nick as a former neighbour.

From now til November 29th you have a choice of not one but two galleries to go and observe some of his works – Queen’s Park Gallery from 10:AM to 6:PM from Mon. to Sat. as well as Zemicon Gallery in the City on Tues’, Thu’s and Fri’s from 10:AM to 4:PM, but until 2:PM on Wed’s.

Why not just one place? According to Nick, he sees this splitting of locales as emphasising the lack of a National Gallery, this is apart from his impressive and quality prolificness. This was one of a few concerns expressed in his opening remarks at the QPG over the weekend.

Nick also pointed out how when he did an exhibition in 1984, he had a self-financed catalogue which little more than a glossy pamphlet. 24 years later, even with sponsorship, a book costing $100 in production sells at $30 to encourage Barbadians to examine the 54 pages of tracking Mr Whittle’s art over the decades.

The former Queen’s College art teacher says all Bajans should be able to easily invest in art, and to encourage this – there is a contest, where everyone who actually buys a catalogue will have their name put in a draw as a chance to win one of Nick’s Linotype cutout prints.

Nick hopes that the Ministry of Culture under a new regime can ease artists’ burden in making a viable career for themselves by creating better edicts and subsidies allowing art to become more affordable to the average patron. Perhaps he meant to hint at zero-rating artistic inputs like canvas, acrylic, brushes among other artistic tools?

In my view, artists need to lower their prices for works – while paint and their accoutrements can be expensive, it is how the LABOUR performed which is then rated highly to be compensated accordingly which creates the difference between those whose homes have displays like museums and those whose dwellings subsist on velour tapestries of dogs puffing cigars at Five Card stud.

Then David Thompson came fwd to the podium and he responded in a way which upset not just a few of the Barbadian art community… The PM made a wry observation that he could understand why Nick had 2 locations to display the art as he does not have enough room at his own home for the art he’s collected over the years.

In his view, a National Gallery requires careful research and decision-making and he does not see it happening anytime soon. The local art market, in Mr Thompson’s view, should be aimed at making itself more accessible to schoolchildren so as to create new generations of potential artists.

The PM also felt perhaps some artists can do like what pertains in certain parts of Africa, which is when the craftspeople hop in cars and travel to other districts and sell their works from the trunk of their vehicles.

The comments on art from cars and the lack of a Nat’l Gallery drew ire from not only members of the Barbadian art community, but one of their overseas patrons… Nevertheless, this does not give the right for obscenities to be shouted during Mr Thompson’s comments!

I am tired of Ras Ishi going everywhere and cursing at the top of his lungs – I heard it for the first time at the Museum earlier this year and when I investigated then, it appeared Ishi was frustrated in acquiring patrons/sponsors to further his work, I offered a few suggestions and he quietened down then. When next I saw him, I asked for the progress and he makes the claim he does not have the time to pursue the methods I suggest, so I dismiss him as one who enjoys misery!

Ishi has since gone on to appear at both Lancaster and Arthur Atkinson’s Lifetime Achievement to behave in the same appalling manner – I’ll even go so far as to say he may be jealous of Ras Akyem’s success? It can’t be helped that Akyem is more astute and diplomatic in his approach! It is my suggestion that if people can prevent or avoid Ishi’s appearance from their events until he learns to behave, then it should be implemented forthwith!

Back to Ras Akyem, that night he was very upset and agitated (Without shouting the place down) at the PM’s comments and said he is not some itinerant vendor to be galloping about selling his work… As far as Akyem’s concerned, Mr Thompson essentially implied it could as well be another 30 years before Bajans enjoy a National Gallery! This said despite the fact there’s the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination for theatre practitioners, once again proving the Visual Arts is just the bastard child of Culture in Akyem’s view.

The spouse of an overseas patron also came forward and agreed with Akyem, they felt the lack of a National Gallery is a crying shame beyond all ridiculousness!

In an unprecedented first, the Bajan Reporter sought to clarify with Mr Thompson that night the objections expressed! When informed of the development, Mr Thompson appeared genuinely surprised at the reactions. He stated that while he did advise for artists to sell from their cars, he meant younger and newer artists, not established practitioners such as the Atkinsons pere et fil, Akyem or Nick Whittle & others of similar calibre.The PM actually had in mind new painters who may not even have vending licenses!

As for devising a National Gallery, the PM sees something like the former Empire Theatre as not only too small but no parking facilities. Ideally, Mr Thompson said to me he’d like to hold talks with the Water Authority to access some Zone 1 land to develop the Gallery as the property would then be protected from chemicals. He would also ensure it has all proper sewerage facilities and adequate parking. But by placing the Gallery in a Zone 1 area it would assist in preserving the art from any potential damage.

Despite the fact the Prime Minister and many of the artists that night may have disagreed on approaches or methods, Nick Whittle and his ex, Janice (both curator and long time seeker for Nick to exhibit) made presentations to Mr Thompson.

Keep watching this space, soon there’ll be an update on the PM’s invite to the new USA leader, Barack Obama, regardless of victory or defeat!

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