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February 15, 2021

Jackie Hinkson paints a reality he sees and feels

Artist Donald ‘Jackie’ Hinkson had intended to have his murals on display at Fisher Avenue St Ann’s February 5 until February 14 (what would have been Carnival Sunday), but the response to the exhibit has convinced him to extend to Carnival Tuesday.

It features five feet by eight feet panels comprising four murals of varying lengths along the walls of his neighbour’s and his home. ‘Masquerade’ and ‘From Canboulay to Beyonce’ were publicly shown in the past but ‘2020’ and ‘Band of the Year’ are newer creations. In a media release, Hinkson stated, “The size of these works makes it practically impossible to display them in conventional gallery spaces. The length of streets and the walls along them seemed an obvious solution”.

Hinkson, in a telephone interview February 12, said the public’s praise of the exhibit was “way beyond” what he expected; he added that his expectations are usually conservative. Hinkson does not question the reason for the expressions of “gratitude” but surmises they appreciate “the content of the work and…in these difficult times they are glad for any relief of any kind from the depression of COVID.” The public can view the exhibit between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Hinkson said the longest piece in oil was created ten years ago, while the mural with reference to recent events were done during the past year during the lockdown.

“In a sense, the work spans a decade at least, but it does not mean it spans the entire decade. The black and white ones are in fact enlarged prints of charcoal drawings, those were done in the last ten years, 15 years and so on.” The charcoal drawing depicts 1881 when the Canboulay riots occurred.

Also on display were cedar sculptures of traditional Carnival characters: Midnight Robber, a combination of a bat and imp and fancy sailor. On the evening of Thursday, February 11, he added a sculpture called ‘The Posse’ of three women captured in motion. The sculptures were created over ten to 12 years. The pieces can be considered works in progress as the artist said, “it is something that takes a few years to execute and something you can go back to and work on…carve a little more.”

Carnival imagery is featured in several of his creations. He said like many people, he has responded enthusiastically and been “moved by Carnival”. Now 78 years, it has been part of his life since the 1950s.

“Carnival at that time left a deep impression on me; steelband and the costumes and a little later the Calypsoes as well. These things affect you, move you; they become part of your life and experience.” As an artist he draws on imagery from everything he sees in his “physical and social environment”. He added, “It is inevitable. Over the decades I have produced hundreds and even thousands of drawings and sketches of steelband and mas and traditional costumes and so on. It becomes part of my visual vocabulary.”

Hinkson explained that the display presented “for the main part” are not intended to be a literal presentation of Carnival, but used its imagery to express something about social life and general observations. Asked what impression he wanted viewers to leave with, he chuckled and said, “I don’t expect anything. I explain to people when I bring out imagery that alludes to social phenomenon, I am not making a moral judgement of anything. I am just bringing out a reality as I see it and feel it.”

His work makes no pronouncements on what is “good” or “bad”. Hinkson knows interpretations can vary with meanings so he expects a range of reactions.

Some of Hinkson’s work were erected at Archbishop’s House, Port of Spain, February 2020.

Judas and Christ infront of the White Hall, Port of Spain

They are copies of larger pieces created showing Jesus in local settings. The series was called ‘Christ in Trinidad’. The “starting point” was from the life of Christ, the biblical story, but the focus is not religion. “It is more focused on my reaction to things happening in the society,” Hinkson said. He gave the example of one called ‘The Last Supper’ whose backdrop is a rum shop or recreational club and the figures are animated. “That is as much of a reference to the original story as it is a reference to the conflict happening in our national political life where there is a constant back and forth accusing who is right, who is wrong, denial and so on.” Details such as the scantily clad woman in an advertisement for alcohol, and even the stray dog add to the “multi layered” meanings.

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Email: snrwriter.camsel@catholictt.org

Twitter: @gordon_lp

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