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
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