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BARBADOS - art - Edmund Gill

Edmund Gill

Mon Feb 27 2006 By Patricia Thangaraj

Compliments of the Barbados Advocate

Edmund Gill, who sees himself as an observer of society rather than a participant , captures the journey of Blacks from their arrival on the island to holding prominent positions in Parliament. :

Detailed imagery, depictions from the past, present and future, bright colours and metaphorical representations are some of the aspects of the work of Edmund Leon Gill.
Each art piece tells a story of success, dreams, hope, anticipation, love, loyalty, pain, endurance and survival. The series currently on display at the BCC as part of the celebrations for Black History Month, Survival: The Emancipation Series , captures the history of Barbados from Africa to the New World with emphasis on Barbados. Born in 1935, he lived in Barbados until he was 21 and then he immigrated to England as one of 76 persons that went to work for the British Transport System and lived there from 1956 to 1969. He worked in London as a messenger, but after six months he set and passed the clerical examination and got a job as a clerical officer where he worked until he left England. He also attended the London School of Economics where he studied Economic Geography and Contemporary Transport Studies for two years.
While in England in the 1970s, he used to exhibit twice a year through the Caribbean Artists Movement, but when he returned to Barbados he worked mostly for advertising and printing agencies until he resigned at age 52, after he became ill and was out of action for six months. He doesn t like to talk about that period of his life now and after having spent 13 years behind a desk and 18 years behind a drawing table , he avoids both. Instead, he prefers to put all of his time and energy into his art.
It is a passion that he has had since he was 11 years old. In fact, he talked about rummaging through his mother s items one time only to find the watercolours that he used in the early 1950s. As for the ideas for the emancipation series, it came to him in 1988, although he couldn t start painting until the 1990s because he had lost control of his hands for almost a year due to the illness.
Although he did do some courses in graphic art when he was in England, he is a mostly self-taught artist because in those days there weren t many courses available for persons interested in art. In fact, persons engaging in any art form were considered weird, he said, as he recounted a story of his good friend Carl Broodhagen whose schoolmates at Combermere used to laugh at when they saw him walking around the premises with his art pad and paints. Broodhagen, famous for his Bussa statue, is also one of the influences behind his art. The others are Ivan Payne, Goldie White and Madame DeKuy. Since there were not many painters at the time, we all saw each other s work as an inspiration for us, said Mr. Gill.
The subjects from his work are now drawn from inside the heart and soul as he paints things like emotions and reactions to events and circumstances. He used to love to drive around Barbados and paint the landscapes, but he now feels that the beauty of the landscape as he knew it in the early 1970s has been destroyed by the construction of buildings. A lot of the images that he grew up seeing like the old Marine Hotel and the Ocean View are now gone. Now that these images are disappearing, there is nothing left that differentiates us from other parts of the world. However, he says, shrugging his shoulders, I guess that s the price of progress. He is glad to see that the red buildings around the Garrison Savannah still exit and hopes that at least one of them will become the National Gallery. Some of the materials that he uses in his work are water colours, oils, acrylics, newspaper clippings, and he has also done some experimental work in calligraphy, draftsmanship, technical drawing and carving hard board. Mr. Gill s influences come from various events, images, African history and African art, masks and artifacts. It is not recognised but a lot of African art has influenced modern art parti-cularly Cubism, he pointed out.
Aside from painting, he loves gardening and reading and when he was in England he would spend three months at a time reading up on everything that he could get his hands on about a particular place or thing.
Mr. Gill, who always had an inspiration to draw and paint and only ever wanted to be an artist, advised the future generation of artists to always seek opportunities to express themselves, to paint what they want to paint and to take advantage of the art education and training that is now available .i


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