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QRC boys say it with art

...joint exhibition with Tara Bobart until Saturday
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Sixth form students at Queen’s Royal College enjoy expressing themselves during art class. Work by the students and artist Tara Bobart is on show at the College hall from October 30 until Saturday. Photo courtesy Sabrina Charran

Brightly painted parrots, black and white graphic prints and collage experiments are among the art on display in the roomy hall at Queen’s Royal College (QRC) at St Clair, Port-of-Spain. This group exhibition by QRC students and self-taught painter Tara Bobart has been on since October 30, and continues until Saturday from 2–6 pm.

It’s an exciting use of the hall space: the room, with rotating uses as backup classroom space and an assembly room, metamorphosed into an art gallery this week in a creative collaboration between an artist, an art teacher, a principal, his students and some very helpful businesses.

In the process, QRC students—many of them science students—discovered a whole new form of expression many had never previously considered—or had practised secretly, as a private hobby, never to be shown on a wall until now.

“I am very excited about the show,” said student Kamau Romano: “It’s the first time I am getting to show my work, and share with people what I felt through the process of making it,” he said. His artwork The Tide of Time, he says, is all about how to bring the past back into the present. It uses glued jigsaw puzzle pieces, overpainted as a grey wave, which washes over a more contemporary patio scene.

“I liked learning about the different techniques, like papier-mache” said Stephon Gilbert, a 17-year-old science student who experimented with building up different layers of texture in some of his art.

From nature to the surreal

Although clearly all student work, the pieces show different styles, interests and emerging voices. Some are naturalistic (depicting realistic objects in a natural setting), such as beach scenes, landscapes, animals and plants. Others have influences from graffiti and Leroy Clarke, such as Mikael Gilbert’s ink piece.

Aaron Raghunanan shows a clean graphic style in his black and white lino cut prints, while David Neils explores use of framing/bars in Melman Memories (about Melman the giraffe in the Emperor Valley Zoo), and the use of layered tiny symbols to create an atmosphere in Napa Air. 

One interesting artwork is strongly surrealist, even Dali-esque: Xavier Peter-Henry’s collage piece called Heritage. This explores an imaginary, dreamlike world, where precise objects are arranged in an illogical, violent scene that evokes strong emotions about our attitudes to our own T&T heritage. He paints a detailed human heart being pierced by a tall wooden stake. Arteries from the heart radiate from it, ending in melting clockfaces: time running out as we murder our heritage? 

Curated by Sabrina Charran

Having the confidence to create the images was half the battle, says QRC art teacher Sabrina Charran, who curated the exhibition and who first approached her principal to make it all happen at the QRC hall.

A slim, energetic Indian woman with glossy black hair which whips around her neck as she talks, Charran was a 2006 first class honours graduate of UWI’s Visual Arts programme. She began teaching art at QRC in 2008. 

Dressed in jeans and a denim blue shirt, she said on Tuesday that part of her job as an art teacher is to help children express themselves, and teach them different techniques. In this, she has been successful. In the process of organising this exhibition, she has also taught the boys about curating, how to mount an art show, and the importance of cooperation, planning, and hospitality skills to manage successful event projects.

Charran credited QRC principal David Simon for his support in allowing the space to be used in this way. And she emphasised the truly collaborative nature of the exhibition. It couldn’t have happened without artist Tara Bobart, and without the generous loan of the Central Bank art gallery’s mounting screens, as well as invaluable help from Arnim’s Framing Solutions. Sponsors Royal Bank and Republic Bank both helped pay for lighting on the opening night.

Artist Tara Bobart: ‘I paint only what makes me happy.’

Artist Tara Bobart could have shown on her own – but she told the Guardian her intention was to help others, and give the youth a chance to show their work too.

Bobart’s work is inspired by nature and she is all about “cultivating a love for art.” For her, art is a way to have fun, relax, and express herself: “I paint only what makes me happy.” A former geology teacher at QRC many years ago, she later got into cake decorating for fun, and became a noted “sugar artist and wedding cake designer,” creating fabulous towering confections with great delicacy and detail, sculpting orchid petals out of white sugar paste and then “blushing” them in coloured dusting powders.

“If I can do this with sugar, I can do it on canvas,” she thought, and so began to paint in watercolours, oils and acrylics in the early 2000s. She paints landscapes, seascapes, still life images, animals, and nature scenes.
“One of my past QRC geology students, Neil Lewis, now a geologist at Petrotrin, was the one who suggested to me: ‘Why don’t you have a show at QRC with the boys?’ I loved the idea of sharing space with them,” she said.
“We are lucky to have a space to exhibit here,” said art teacher Charran, who said one of the biggest benefits of the show has been the interaction the art works have generated. 

“These boys love to explore, and make things. New artists may always feel threatened by the flatness and emptiness of white paper, and then may feel shy to display it. But I feel it’s important to show work on a wall, to have people interact with it,” said Charran, adding:
“I hope this is the first of many exhibitions to come in this space.” 


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