Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Curtain Closes - Boscoe Holder

A Tobago Wedding -The end of an era

The Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago and Gallery 101 hosted fifty-eight works of the artist. The pieces dated from 1991 to 2002. Mr. Holder has been painting for over fifty years and he could be considered in some ways our society painter. ( As well as our oldest and most important working artist) He is known for his renderings of people of colour. This is no small thing in our culture, as there is a love/hate relationship still to this day with shades of brownness. He also represents a long lost past in his fondness of having his female sitters wear white brody anglese and French doyettes. Mr. Holder has not painted recently due to illness, and as I walked around the white space I found myself feeling a mixture of sadness and pleasure while looking at the pieces. The names, Boy with Sombrero, Grande Riviere, Martinique Headtie, Semi Nude with Bandana, these works encouraged a train of thought about much of the works I have seen recently by artists who have had very long careers, and have shown their latest offerings lately.

I was pleased to see works that were more involved with the environment, and I was especially struck by Mr. Holder’s technical restraint with his paints, this he used to a nearly completely dry finish on many a work, as though he were seeking out the very patina from the colour, wanting to apply it in a raw way to enjoy the contrast against the skin that he layers to produce its many hidden facets of red, yellow ochre and his signature blue detailing. At some point every artist has to look at their career’s meaning and purpose, it is not enough to just talk about sales of the product.

The renderings of colour

Last year there was the work of LeRoy Clarke, the photographer Noel Norton A retrospective, and this year, the work of Wayne Berkeley and friends. Mr. Holder’s has been better represented in terms of planning, lighting and placement of works. His prices are also quite reasonable for someone working so consistently. On the low end the works start at TT$5600 with the high end between TT$20,000 to TT$40,000. His work sold very well, with about half selling when I was there. What I wondered with Mr. Holder’s offering was about the standards that older artists work toward as they get into their twilight years.

In some instances it seems that older artists are encouraged to dust off and prettify pieces based on the value of their name. I have a serious problem with that! After all an artist does not work their whole life to bring their work to a certain standard and then compromise late in life! Surely not! I have walked into many a show and wondered how the works were chosen. What was the intention of the curator? Where is the restraint? Why not just show the best instead of displaying the work like market produce? But that aside, the older artist can teach us so much, and when their work is compromised…well, all falls down indeed. No longer can one look at the career, instead it becomes like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. No one dare say that the work is a warmed over meal from some bygone time.

The pleasures of the male

To his credit I saw growth in Mr. Holder’s pieces. He has always had a stellar work ethic, and despite illness over the years he has shown in his pieces a joy in the investigation of colour and form. You do expect to see his black people in headscarves and his occasional paintings of men loaded with a homo-erotic undercurrent. These things are like signatures of his process. Underlying all of his work is a sense of love for a simpler way of life, a Trinidad and Tobago that could be mapped. In that way one could see the past ebbing away like sand as we try to hold to it. Those times are gone forever.

Holder's later work 2002

Who will replace such an icon? No one really. The closest technician to him to me is Irenee Shaw, whose work does not portent to want to explore such a path. However hers is a body of work that has captured present day people in environments that reflect a stillness and a leisure class, and is by no means a wasted form of working if she should choose to do more of such work. But it will never be the same, it shall also never really be a continuation either, as the gild is off the rose. When it was important to ask, the questions never came. We never stopped to see what this dedication to ourselves was really about, and how we could be honored and challenged by it, and so we are doomed to make another spiral of our knowledge because we fail to see what our artists are about. - Adele Todd

The beauty of being Black

No comments:


Views expressed on thebookmann are not affiliated with any Art Organizations and an “Art Review” may be open to interpretation as it is an observation at face value.

Amendments to such articles if misleading or with grammatical errors shall be corrected accordingly.

All photographs, Feinin studies, accompanying quotes, articles and visual headers appearing on site are the exclusive property of Richard Bolai © 2004 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Any fare use is restricted without written permission