Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"The Inherent Nobility of Man" - A National Feat

Correcting an overdue wrong....

It was a national feat, and a well deserving heartfelt applause erupted after a replica of the mural, 'The Inherent Nobility of Man was revealed to a packed gallery where people had to stand on the periphery of the upper gallery at the National Museum in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Breathing room - as art patrons began to venture off to see other parts of the Glenn Roopchand exhibition

Glenn Roopchand's The inherent Nobility of Man is constructed by eight large acrylic panels. The work was completed in six months. As a teenager, he was an apprentice to Carlisle Chang, and actually worked onthe original mural. 'The inherent Nobility of Man was one of the most important works since the Country's independence in 1962 and was part of arrival section of the airport.

Where Mr. Chang's Influences may have be quoted - Man At The Crossroads, Diego Rivera's painted fresco commissioned for the Rockefeller Center in New York in 1934. This mural was destroyed through political circumstances.

A winged Amerindian symboling a new independence

I have written about the monumental work of theartist Carlisle Chang in the past, and in 2006 theartist and mentor of Mr. Changs’, Mr. Glenn Roopchandtook on the challenging task of recreating or more so, reinterpreting this extremely important work titled, The Inherent Nobility of Man that had been controversially destroyed in the 1970’s. What was striking about the original work to me, wasthe way that Mr. Chang used colour and form. There is an acute awareness in his work of the mural painting of artists like Diego Riviera. Mr. Chang was attempting to tell a personal story to the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago, and his image of the man ofcolour souring into the air, Icarus, struck me asquite powerful. He also explored the symbolic use of several fallen figures with a sense of despair that was quite palpable.

Although I was a child when The Inherent Nobility ofMan was destroyed, I do remember it. In fact it was one of the first local pieces of art that I remember,so it also has deeper meaning for me regarding what is considered Art of Trinidad and Tobago. I also had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Chang in his later years, and everyone knows that he had an amazing memory as well as great culinary skill. He is one of our most important artists for all that he has contributed to the vocabulary of art in this region. Fortunately many other works of Mr. Chang’s can be seen in Trinidad. In another post the bookman and I shall cover the sculpture of the island in greater depth. As I came upon the reinterpretation of The Inherent Nobility of Man by Mr. Roopchand, I was disturbed to find that the figures did not sit in space with the same cohesion as Mr. Chang’s. Although it is clear that this is the work of the pupil who has taken great pains to reproduce the original, I had some concerns .If indeed this is a copy, then it needed to be reproduced precisely.

I do not believe any such endeavour has been attempted before, and Mr. Roopchand did take on a huge task by doing the work in the first place. It is just that, asI looked away from the work, and looked at an actual Roopchand painting some feet away, I saw a much more expressive, lively and proficient work than what looked upon me.What this said to me was that, one can attempt to copy a work, but one cannot copy the energy, drive and soulof a piece. Mr. Roopchand’s efforts to right the wrong done to his teacher is definitely noteworthy, and it is important however for that aspect, and this makes it very valuable to us today and tomorrow - Adele


Anonymous said...

"What this said to me was that, one can attempt to copy a work, but one cannot copy the energy, drive and soulof a piece." With reference to your statement, I do not believe that M. Roopchand was trying to copy any characteristics of Mr Chang. What he was in fact doing was allowing the people of Trinidad and Tobago to remember one of the most influential piece of work done by an Asian artist, to be remembered with dignity and respect. Though Mr Roopchand was indeed a student of Mr. Chang, your art education at Pratt Institue would have allowed you enough knowledge to know that an artist cannot copy the passion of another artist. MR Roopchand's art work is very rhythmic. He said of his work compared to Mr. Chang, "all my paintings, all my pieces have rhythm. You see these pieces are not rhythmic in nature, these pieces are not mine. These are pieces that were influenced by Carlisle Chang, so I had to maintain the cubist tendencies that he had.
The idea of replicating the piece of work was not to repliated the artsit's soul, If you knew Mr. Roopchand's intent you would be very proud of his struggle just to have Mr. Chang remembered in such a visual way. I have read many of your criticism of other artists work, and I find you lacking in talking about art /artist in an interlectual way, that reflects "Pratt institute" (Did you know that Mr Roopchand also attended Pratt). I must also mention that my conversations with Mr. Roopchand I find him to be one of the most intelligent and intellectual artists of East Indian descent, who has developed a style of his own. I can assure you that he was not TRYING TO COPY ANYONE'S SOUL, since he has a soul of his own that is reflected in the "Nobility of Man"


Anonymous said...

I just wonder if it was necessary for the first commenter to talk about Mr. Roopchand being of East Indian descent... Can we leave it out of the discussion? I think we can. time to move forward.


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