Educated at the Jamaica School of Art, Margaret Chen left Jamaica after graduating with distinction to pursue post-graduate studies in Canada at York University, Ontario. It was in Canada also that she began her career as a sculptor, exhibiting in a number of Toronto galleries with increasing success. It is significant however that in the 1980s Margaret chose to return to Jamaica for her first solo exhibition at the Upstairs Downstairs Galleries; to establish her studio, and to become a important contributor to group exhibitions locally and Jamaican exhibitions abroad.
The development of Ralph Campbell’s career as a painter parallels similar developments in Jamaica’s modern art history. It is not surprising that his maturation as a painter mirrors the same process of maturation in Jamaica’s cultural institutions, since a great deal of his artistic achievements were due to their foundation. In his lifetime as an artist he experienced the birth of Jamaican art as well as its rise to public acclaim.
In an era when pottery was still regarded as a lesser art form Cecil Baugh was a pioneer in educating Jamaican art lovers and gaining their respect for its fine art status.
Cecil Baugh first developed an interest in clay making and ceramics as a young man living in Kingston. His first contact came through the Trenchfield sisters who lived in his Mountain View community. Originally from St Elizabeth, the sister made ‘yabbas’ in the traditional African way, and Baugh who had never seen these techniques in his home parish of Portland, became fascinated. He also recognized that making pots was a lucrative business, especially in the days before refrigeration when ‘yabbas’ were used for cool storage. Along with a fellow potter Wilfred Lord he established the Cornwall Works in Montego Bay, but later transferred to St Ann and then back to Kingston. Always innovative, Baugh worked to develop his techniques in pot making, experimenting with glazes and learning the intricacies of kiln firing to perfect his skills. Increasingly he moved further from the African tradition towards Western and Asian styles achieving his own distinctive coloured glazes.
Born in 1913, Abrahams like so many schoolboys took up caricaturing his schoolmasters while in his teens at Calabar College. Similarly, he applied his skills to drawing automobiles (the rage of that era) and emulated his father who also created car designs. It was a schoolboy talent that he was reluctant to outgrow and encouraged by his headmaster Rev. Ernest Price he began copying old master paintings as well as documenting local Jamaican scenes. In addition, he became fascinated with spiritual and mythical topics and tried to depict the scenes he visualized from his reading of the Bible and Greek classics. These are the themes that he would return to repeatedly during his long career as an artist.
There is something heroic about Barrington Watson's commitment to the painting of Jamaica and it's people. He paints for posterity. In the vein of French salon painters such as Eugene Delacroix or Cabin Al, he documents the culture's history; it's myths and fantasies. Although he might balk at constantly being described as a painter steeped in the European academic tradition, he has no qualms about being described as a figurative painter. He is steadfast in his efforts to paint figuratively and to accurately depict what he calls the Caribbean's temperate influences, its light, its colour, tropical feel and vagaries of the Caribbean's flesh tones. Of course, he relishes working with oils, since no other medium could so obviously suggest his respect for tradition. In a similar manner, each major work is supported by series of preliminary charcoal drawings and watercolours demonstrating his deft draftsmanship and his commitment to this historically validated process of painting.