I am often asked the question what is my work about which is a little like being asked what is life about because in art as in life each person must bring their own experience and provide their own answers. Quite simply my work is about life and the enigma that surrounds existence. I make reference to specific experiences or draw on visual reality to act as a frame to the broader content and people bring their own interpretations as well.
When I began painting in the 60's I was focused on talking about natural phenomena that I found around me in Jamaica, such as the sea, the mountains, or the moon but I was also trying to find a language that expressed the essence of that place I called home.
In 1980 I travelled to Baltimore USA and my visual surroundings changed completely. This city had none of the natural landscape but it had beautiful stained glass windows and during my year at the Maryland Institute I produced a large body of work called "Windows". This included prints as well as paintings of the secular as well as the ecclesiastical windows. Someone looking at the work once said a window is either for "letting something out or letting something in" and I found that expressed the essence of the window paintings whether they were Rose windows in churches or old art nouveau stained glass windows in some of the homes or windows in modern buildings.
This series was followed by "Old Book" a series about the medieval manuscripts of the Koran. I had long wanted to do a series of paintings about these manuscripts because this art is one of the most "abstract" and yet has such emotional power. It was my most successful series. People enjoyed these paintings for some reason maybe it was the emotional content I mentioned
The work briefly returned to nature with serial paintings of the 90's with "Garden" series "Night" and "Clouds" but time and changing events took me into different, more political subject matter.
2011 Mutual Gallery - "People and Their Stories - Then and Now"
1995 Musgrave Laureate Exhibition National Galley of Jamaica
1993 Chelsea Gallery paintings from the Night Series shown in conjunction with ceramics by Jag Mehta
1989 Mutual Life Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica The Garden Series, an exhibition of 14 paintings depicting the garden
1986 Bonagree Gallery Commonwealth Institute, London, England
Caribbean Focus, an exhibition of 16 pieces of work drawn mainly from private collections, and representative of almost two decades of the artists work. June December 1986
1986 Bolivar Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Old Book Series, a one-woman exhibition of 14 paintings in tribute to the highly decorative abstract art of the illuminated manuscripts of the Koran
1983 Bolivar Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Window Series, an exhibition of 33 paintings and prints, completed while on study leave at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore
1980 Upstairs Downstairs Gallery, Kingston
The Sea Series, a series of 15 paintings, completed between 1979 and 1980, with the sea as its theme
1978 Bolivar Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Shell Series, inspired by shells found in the sea and on land, their beautiful colours and textures
Gallery Giammaica, Los Angeles, California
Exhibition at Madge Sinclairs Gallery
1976 Bolivar Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Exhibition of diverse collection of paintings ranging from trees, tree trunks, to the moon and moon rise over the mountains, reflecting the experience of living in the mountains of Jamaica.
1974 John Peartree Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Earth Collection, a series of works based on man-made and natural (found) objects that came from the earth, and which through a process of decay were returning to the earth
1972 Bolivar Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
Mountain Series, an exhibition of paintings about the mountains of Jamaica, as seen from the Palisadoes International Airport
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
2005 - Grand Valley State University (GVSU), USA
Modern Jamaican Art through the work of six female artists
2004 Curators Eye National Gallery of Jamaica Installation Exhibition curated by Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, Executive Director Studio Museum in Harlem
2003 2004 Rousings Exhibition of Jamaican Art, National Gallery of Cayman
2000 2003 Soon Come The Art of Contemporary Jamaica touring exhibition organized by Exhibits USA, the Nebraska Arts Council and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts
1997 Black as Colour, curated exhibition, National Gallery of Jamaica
1995 One of six artists selected for the SITES Exhibition (Smithsonian Travelling Exhibition Service) titled New Jamaican Art, scheduled to open Summer, 1997
1992 Exposicion Entretropicos, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Caracas, Venezuela, April 1992
1992 1492/1992 Un Nouveau Regard Sur Les Caraibes, Espace Carpeaux, Courbevoie, France
1991 Invited to participate in the National Gallery of Jamaica, Dunkley Centenary Exhibition
1986 2006 National Gallery of Jamaica Annual Exhibition (unjuried artist)
1983 Exhibition at the Eubie Blake Cultural Centre, Baltimore, USA
1983 Male & Female Created He Them, special theme show, at the National Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
1983 Jamaican Art, 1940-1980 exhibition of the Smithsonian Institute Travelling Exhibition Service (SITES), USA, curated by the National Gallery of Jamaica
1981 Carifesta, work selected to represent Jamaica at the Caribbean Festival of the Arts held, Bridgetown, Barbados
1975 Thirty Jamaican Artists cultural exhibition in Mexico City, Mexico
1975 Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Organization of the American States Washington, D.C.
1975 Caribbean & Afro American Female Artists New York, USA
1974 Contemporary Jamaican Art Exhibition, at the Casa De Las Americas Museum, Havana, Cuba
1969 Joint exhibition and first exhibition in Jamaica, after returning from Edinburgh, with Pat Bishop, Trinidadian artist and staff member of the Jamaica School of Art, USIS Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
WORKS INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING REVIEWS AND PUBLICATIONS
1998 Caribbean Art Thames and Hudson World of Art series, Thames and Hudson, London
1996 Feature article in BWIA inflight magazine, by Dr. Petrine Archer-Straw published, June 1996
1996 Work included in UWI publication, titled Modern Jamaican Art, published, November 1996, with lead essays by Dr. David Boxer and Mrs. Veerle Poupeye-Rammelaere
1990 Jamaican Art an overview with a focus on fifty artists, by Petrine Archer-Straw and Kim Robinson, Kingston Publishers
Sky Writings Air Jamaicas inflight magazine. Special edition on outstanding Jamaican women, interviewed by: Winnie Risden-Hunter
1986 National Gallery lecture series titled Masterpieces from the National Collection Lecture given by Petrine Archer-Straw on the work titled Pomegranates
1984 Arts Jamaica Volume 2 No. 4, page 12
1982 Arts Jamaica Volume 2 no. 4, page 5, The Women as Artists a historical perspective by Jean Smith
1982 (April) Arts Jamaica Volume 1 No. 1, page 4, The Landscape as Medium, by Sonia Mills
1972 (March) Jamaica Journal Volume 6 No. 1, page 44, Abstract Art in Jamaica by Rosalie Smith-McCrae
BY LEISHA CHEN-YOUNG
"Everything has a surface quality," Hope Brooks tells S O over the phone, her voice a little raspy. Known for her pieces that speak to a realism born through texture, and themes that contemplate the natural world, Brooks is retiring although, thankfully, not from art. Her exhibition, A Tribute to Hope Brooks, opened the previous night at the CAG[e] Gallery, but tying Brooks down for a chat then proved impossible. What with demands from students, family and friends, she barely had time to pause for air.
Twenty-four hours later, however, the dust has settled. Brooks is much more relaxed and her mind is clearer. She speaks of her journey through art, her progression as an artist, and where she hopes she will go once she officially retires after 40 years as a teacher at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
With a continued quiet yet influential presence in the Jamaican art world, Brooks has maintained an intimate and personal connection with the natural world. "I like themes that have eternal life to them," she says, adding that its only been the last 10 years or so since she ventured into the world of politics and autobiographical pieces. "I find these not so satisfying to work with," she says, "although they are important to human existence, and talk about the freedoms of people, they are still transient themes."
Evidently, Brooks confronts issues that are elemental to the human consciousness. "I am drawn to the natural world, the world of spirits and emotions. I don't want to divorce myself from the way that I feel."
Back in the CAG[e] Gallery, it is the following of these emotions that has led to Brooks being so inluential in the art world. Paying tribute to her, a section of the exhibition embodies the direct influence she has had on some artists, while others speak to a shared artistic pursuit. Petrine Archer-Straw, Margaret Chen, Nicholas Morris, Petrona Morrison and Ebony Patterson each in their own specific ways whether by style or subject have been influenced by Brooks the teacher and Brooks the artist.
"It's important for a teacher to be a practising artist, because it's only then that you can really understand what the students are going through, and really help them," Brooks notes. But it is ironically her role as a teacher that has also led to a development of her art. She shares perhaps a 'selfish' benefit of being a teacher: "It forces me to articulate why a piece of art works and why it doesn't."
Confronting her students with the question, 'Why does this work?' she says that many could not answer. "Each artist needs to be their own best critic. It may just be the most important part of an artist's development."
Characterised by a strong sense of texture and colour, Brooks' pieces are broadly meditations on the Jamaican landscape. Titles like The Garden, The Sea, Clouds and Mountains and Four Pomegranates dominate the show with rich earth tones, and deep texture, drawing the viewer in to decipher the image.
"People call my work abstract, but I'm simply talking about what I feel", Brooks says, clearly in disagreement. "How can that be abstract?"
She does agree, however, that while her work is not "representationally realistic", she uses texture to replace the image in her work. Using different mediums like Plaster of Paris, gouache, and moulding paste, Brooks recreates organic surfaces that speak less to the direct subject, but more to the essence, to a sensation. As website and a marketing plan with her Mac computer. "There is no use in creating all this work, if people don't know about it," she says.
And she's right. Who knows, this may be another layer of Brooks herself: Brooks the businesswoman.
The show runs at the CAGE[e] Edna Manley College Art Gallery until April 22 Patrick Stanigar, the architect for the original building that now houses the college, said as he opened the exhibition: "She is a painter, but hers are built on, and also applied to, the canvas." Her work is multifaceted and multidimensional.
With a physical journey that took her from Scotland to Baltimore, Brooks explains that her connection with the landscape was drawn from her desire to connect with her surroundings. However, her fascination with surfaces stems from much further back. It was in fact, while she was at school ,that she became fascinated by a book on prehistoric paintings.
"I call it the 'patina of time'," she says, of how the passage of time has built up on these artistic renditions, contributing to the depth of existence and its inherent texture. "I love that surface," she says, "and I wanted to recreate and recapture that essence."
It was for this reason that Brooks was drawn to specialising in mural painting while at art school in Scotland, and one of the artist's motivations for creating in general. Drawn to everyday surfaces and fascinated by the texture of ordinary objects, she continues on a journey that speaks to nature. "For me, the journey is about seeking out and talking about the organic world of the sea, moon, mountains, shells and tree trunks."
Brooks, then, is much like her work: organic, tender, and calming. Speaking with her exposes a sensibility of peace and contentment, and it is understandable how this quiet force in the art world is so revered both personally and artistically. It is work that is deep, multi-dimensional and created by the unique and complex relationship between texture and colour. And she assures us that, while it may be
goodbye to Edna Manley, she certainly will not be retiring from the art world. In fact she is working on her
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