JACKIE HINKSON

REVIEWS

Newsday, Thursday, February 10th 2005
by Anne Hilton (excerpt)

Jackie Hinkson's Carnival 2005
FOR THOSE with eyes to see there is biting political and social commentary in Jackie Hinkson's monumental mural of Carnival currently on display on the outside walls of the National Museum facing Memorial Park.
For those who value Carnival there are King Sailors, Minstrels, Bats, Dragons, Devils, the Bookman, Pan, Police and Thief, Pierrot Grenades, at least one Burrokeet (look for her), Midnight Robbers and masqueraders galore to show our children and our visitors.
This 110 foot-long mural is arresting enough by day; floodlit by night it is a work that, like the same artist's "Christ in Trinidad" cries out to be preserved for posterity Yet who, in this supposedly culture-rich nation, will buy- for themselves or for the country - these extraordinary, important works of art?



Trinidad Sunday Express, January 23 2005
by Gerard Best (excerpts)

This is Mas
For this artist, perhaps best known for his plein air, watercolour depiction of architecture an, land and seascape, this hulking eight-and-a-half foot tall, 110 foot long oil and acrylic mural, comprising 22 panels on canvas, is a significant departure from his, well, pigeon-hole.

.... The mural, after all, is in a manner of speaking, a graphic timeline of the evolution of the world's biggest party.
In its first panels it presents a George Bailyesque Queen Isabella of Spain, playing a burrokeets mas and in a later section fastforwards to contemporary "pretty mas" masqueraders in spare bikini costumes.
Subtle social commentary oozes from the early scenes of the canvas. Juxtaposed with a dark-skinned buxom Dame Lorraine a group of gaily costumed upper-middle-class local whites playing mas on the back of a truck.

The underlying social tension gains in force as the mural unfolds, although the social commentary retains its subtlety throughout the first half. There, the focus seems almost to be on recording as many old time characters as possible. One sees moko jumbies, book men, jab-jabs, imps, dragons, bats, firemen and Pierrots and "hears" some traditional Carnival sounds, such as tamboo-bamboo, pan-round-the neck and minstrels.

....The satire is particularly noticeable in the second half of the mural, where Hinkson's more overt statements on modern society are made though the deliberate inclusion on the elaborate headpieces of the Fancy Sailor, of familiar objects like a Visa card, a cell phone, a brand-name sneaker.

 


Newsday, Sunday October 10 2004
by Anne Hilton (excerpt)

Hinkson exhibit opens Tuesday

Once Hinkson has fixed his subject, his total focus shifts to technical considerations. He edits, distorts and simplifies. He searches for the correct weight of tone, for the correct juxtaposition of shape, for the right light. And it is this intuitive search for a particular light and mood that has characterised his career as a painter. A wall, a roof, a shadow, a doorway, a cloud, a strip of sea all have the potential to function as light, tone and shape, while simultaneously evoking symbolic meaning.

Jackie Hinkson believes he is no closer to adequately explaining his art now than he was decades ago. He sees art as a complex process and he believes a work can simultaneously have several layers of integrated meanings. One of these layers of meaning is communicated through imagery and can be literal or symbolic.

For Hinkson, in the end, the meaning in the work must come through as something felt rather than analysed.

 


T&T Review
December 1, 2003
New challenges of seeing
LeRoy Clarke reflects on the exhibition put on by the NCC (excerpt)

Jackie Hinkson's charcoal drawings are unceremonious. They brood. Those who know the artist, may be led to believe that these are self-portraits. yes, perhaps, but more than that, they should serve us as psychological texts that remove our masks, unveiling our sham, our hollow revelry. Under our fine silks and their commercial laughter, our dirty drawers! His closeness to his subject almost always eradicates subtlety, leaving that brittle indictment or our/his lack of power to will. These are assertive of our contradictions. They are unflinching judgements.



Sunday Express, April 20, 2003
Letter to the Editor
Dana Mahabir-Wyatt - via e-mail ( excerpt)

... This time, looking at the exhibition entitles Christ in Trinidad, I felt as if I were going to cry. I fled, eventually knowing that I would have to go back when I had collected myself enough to be able to behave myself in public/ This had nothing to do with religion. The paintings themselves don't speak to religion so much as tough your spirit, which transcends all religions.

What a treasure for the nation that series of paintings is! Every one tugs at your heart. You recognise the buildings in the background, the body language of the people whom you recognise from Woodford Square, the beach in Mayaro, a parang in Paramin.
You know those police officers, that crippled young man.

The paintings are Trini to de Bone for those who are Trini to de Bone. I want to beg for them to be properly mounted and placed permanently in some public building where every proud Trini can sit and wonder and reminisce, and every tourist from away can sit in awe of the talent that can be found in this country.

 

Newsday- Sunday March 30, 2003
By Donna Yawching (excerpts)

From the profane to the sacred

Those who are accustomed to Hinkson's work being mild or moody watercolour landscapes, fairly small in size, will experience (to coin a US-military phrase) "shock and awe" when they stand before this new collection of massive oil paintings. Measuring at least 10 feet across, the series represents episodes from the life of Christ, transplanted into a totally local context.

The idea of a non-traditional Jesus is by no means new: black Christs and Madonnas have been done before, and I suppose it's only a matter of time before he's depicted as Chinese, or Amerindian. What is novel about Hinkson's approach is the way he marries the biblical conventions with, as he puts it, "my experiences here in Trinidad."

Hence, every scene is palpably recognisable: the rumshops of Piccadilly St. line the Road to Calvary; the baptism of Christ occurs in a bamboo cathedral, with a river lime in full swing, bikini girls and all; the Nativity is the occasion for a parang, while Palm Sunday sees Jesus braving the maxi-taxis of South Quay on a donkey, to the accompaniment of panmen.

Judas' kiss of betrayal takes place, all too appropriately, in front of Whitehall; and the crucifixion is atop a TTEC pole, raising uncomfortable echoes of the Pier One electrocution.

Scattered throughout the series are recurring motifs that lend a surreal slant to these brutally figurative paintings: traditional Carnival images that are an inescapable part of our collective unconsciousness. Blue devils, pierrot grenades, midnight robbers, and most ominous of all, the silent Bookman with his Book of Death, all haunt the edges of the frames, sinister harbingers of bacchanal and doom. And passing by on the outskirts, curious but uninvolved, is the side-glancing onlooker, ever ready to gossip, but never to help. How much more Trinidadian can you get?

...He claims that he is not trying to communicate any particular message to the population, or to get too clever with the social commentary, but there are resonances in each painting which no local could miss.

There is, for example, invariably the presence of Authority: a police car somewhere in the background, or a policeman wearing "that look" of petty authority. There are the Carib girlie posters on the rumshop walls, the KFC box on the ground. When Christ heals a vagrant on a park bench, the windows of the church in the background are very pointedly closed.

And which Trini, having lived through the last three years, could possibly miss the sardonic message of the "Vote for Judas" placard in front of Whitehall?

Perhaps Hinkson's most and bitter social comment is in his painting of Christ seeking out his disciples after the resurrection: he finds them in a KFC restaurant, with a huge portrait of The Colonel (America personified) overwhelming the scene. In view of Iraq, this painting is almost prescient.

Rather, it is the way he captures the underlying melody that is Trinidad. Imagine the Last Supper being in a Re. Club, with its numbered rooms, its No Obscene Language sign, the well-known door-curtain of garish plastic strips, the Coke cooler in the background and the ubiquitous Carib bum-shot on the wall. Sometime, somewhere, you've been there.

These paintings are not saccharine images designed for tourists, of swaying palms and friendly natives.
They are hard-edged and unsentimental, interpreted in hot lurid colours that capture the weight of sun and cloud, dust and water. There is little kindness in them. Jesus is an island in a sea of indifference.

And yet, their essential humanity shines through. Harshly compassionate, Hinkson knows us better than we know ourselves.

 


SUNDAY EXPRESS March 16 . 2003
by Anthony Milne (excerpts)

Life of Christ made local

... He said if there was one thing he was proud about in himself it was that when he got an idea like that in his head he didn't procrastinate.
"I jumped into it, because any time you stop to think time passes and you lose courage and you fail to make the initial step," Hinkson explained. "I started doing research, making notes and sketches and took a few rough measurements in the church and began to paint.
"The result is that I am now working feverishly on the fourteenth piece, oil on board, depicting events in the life of Christ interpreted in a Trinidadian environment," he noted.

...Hinkson explained that he hasn't always stuck strictly to the biblical story. He has been asked if the 14 pictures related to the 14 stations of the cross, and they may, they refer to events in the life of Christ.

Estate houses, northern valleys, parang, steelband, Carnival characters, rumshops, all of which he has sketched before, creep into these pictures.
It is up to viewers to interpret what they see, the religious or the local. And Hinkson stressed the importance of the composition and balance of the pictures, to lead the eyes of viewers and bring the paintings alive.

He isn't sure what will happen to the pictures now. The offer to All Saints is still open, otherwise some other arrangement will have to be made for the paintings that cost Hinkson tens of thousands of dollars to create.

In the interview at his home, Hinkson kindly showed all the pictures and spoke about some of them.
The birth of Christ, for instance, is set in a valley of the North Range, an estate house in the background, and the Child Jesus surrounded by paranderos who have come to celebrate the birth.

"For years I have admired a big painting by Piero della Francesca with musicians singing in a shed for the newborn Christ" he said. "Experiences like that can make an idea gel."

Another painting depicts Christ carrying the cross along what could be Piccadilly Street, a jab jab with a whip I next him, and a bookman taking a note in his Book of Death. A police car is parked nearby. The Laventille shrine is visible.
The resurrection is set in Lapeyrouse cemetery, Christ standing outside of an open tomb with armed policemen asleep nearby. Tatil rises in the background, and the heavily armed policemen could say something to the viewer about the contemporary role of armed police her.
Hinkson stressed though that he didn't want to be too overt in political or social commentary.

Other pictures depict the mocking of Christ outside the Red House. Christ's baptism in the Caura river, with a couple leggy women not sure what to make of what is going on.

There is the calling of the fishermen, at Mayaro, the tempting of Jesus on a hill above the city by a devil mas, his fork pointed to the Twin Towers,centre of power and wealth, the healing of the sick in Woodford Square, and the kiss of Judas outside Whitehall.

All are full of innuendo, aided by composition, showing more than first meets the eye in a way that brings the historical and contemporary together.

 


Tuesday, November 14th 2000
by Gail Levin and John Van Sickle, City University of New York

Hinkson 2000 Down South

Hinkson's lively paintings of Trinidad's vernacular architecture, seascapes and landscapes inject new life into a time-honoured technique in a venerable medium.
Hinkson gives his viewers a direct and powerful vision of what he observes. His confident painterly gifts capture and translate island sightings into vision for a wider world.




Newsday, Sunday September 19, 1999
by Anne Hilton ( excerpt)

Nude figures carved in wood

For those accustomed to seeing his watercolour, Hinkson's figures in wood are a surprise. All are nude, except for a cricketer's sun hat, a load carried on a woman's head, the fantasy wings and tails of a figure that is half-angel-half-devil.

Has he seen a figure in the wood before he began to carve? He says not, or not completely. He studies the wood. A knot here, a burl there suggests a gesture; he relates the potential gesture to in his vocabulary of imagery, of drawing, sketching and painting.

"When my reading of the gesture comes together with the image in my mind - a robber, a batsman, child, woman - I make sketches, only then do I attack the wood."

"Attack" seems the right description for Hinkson's work in wood. The entire surface of the statuary is dimpled from marks of the gouge, the mallet.

Each stroke of the creative process is left for all to see. Hinkson doesn't sand his carvings sleek and smooth; he prefers the raw, robust effect of the figures as they emerge from the wood.

He says he doesn't understand all the work he does, he works intuitively, that he is not verbally-conscious (yet, it seems, he is able to speak of his creative process in words that need no editing).

He trusts his instincts, leaves much to the sub-conscious, hopes his work speaks for itself, yet is never really satisfied with what he has done. He is forever observing, sketching, drawing, recording images, incidents, gestures.

 


TIMES UNION - Albany, New York Sunday, November 8, 1998
(excerpt)
Exhibit: Paintings express light mood

If Walcott paints brightness, Hinkson is an artist of shadows. His scenes of beaches and palm groves and island houses that share the gallery with Walcott's have a weight that belies tourist-type images of the Caribbean. A consistent basso runs through Hinkson's palette - his blues edge towards steel, his greens toward olive, his browns toward umber. There are few high notes in his work - not much yellow or red - and even his beaches are the dark duns of wet sand.

Hinkson's West Indies are chilly, the way the world looks when it's thrown into shadow by a solar eclipse. To a Northerner facing the onset of winter, it feels oddly familiar. What it lacks in exotic warmth it makes up for in a sense of credibility. You tend to believe what Hinkon's reporting, that some days in paradise are cloudy, others so hazy everything glares without sparkling.

In paintings like "Country Shop" and "Caretaker's House," Hinkson captures a certain realist calm of life amid tradition and poverty. What's more interesting, though, is what he does with the light. His shadows alternate from inky dark to open in the same picture, producing a subtle effect of movement, as when the sun winks in and out behind a cloud.

In another series, Hinkson paints life beside the sea, not as beachfront idyll, but a place where the elements of wind, surf and tide are so close they're claustrophobic.

Here too, Hinkson pulls off some neat atmospheric effects, but one of these paintings,"Purple Clouds" also strikes the exhibit's most startling lapse.

A threatening sky roils the sea and pushes hard against a pair of buildings. The wind violently shake a coconut palm. A passing thunderstorm? An approaching hurricane? Yet just as you get caught up in the moment's intensity, you notice that the laundry is hanging limp on the clothesline, not flapping wildly in the turmoil.

A neat trick, to be sure, or maybe just an unfortunate ambiguity in the artist's visual clues. Whatever, the painting dashes some of the reportorial faith you've invested in Hinkson. Still, it's a small sin in the end, taken against the painter's unexpected and compelling tale on island life.

 


Galerie Magazine Vol 1 Issue 2 - 1992-3
by Derek Walcott (excerpts)

Jackie Hinkson
Hinkson has reached a point of achievement so reassuring that it is now shrugged at as predictable, even repetitious. EWe must remember that there are always people who will ask a Cezanne to stop painting jugs and apples over and over, or Degas horses and women in hats, or Morandi bottles, but such painters do not merely repeat their subjects, they devour them.

Hinkson, like any masterful artist, is a devour. this means the highest form of energy, even of possession, and those tempters who dismiss him as lacking distortion, of not knowing the grotesque, of evading the propaganda of foreign movements, for their own reasons prefer to ignore the power of his reductions.

These reductions are not simply the swift economy of the drawing, in which mass is indicated without detail, but by the instant weight of water in copious brush-strokes, strokes which contain not only form but light and not merely light, but the precise time of day, if possible to the very half hour.

...Hinkson's best paintings are close to Homer's ........... Hinkson could want no better epitaph, the further away the happier for his country, than "he got the light right."

 


Sunday Express, March 15, 1992
by KIM JOHNSON (excerpt)
All Works Tobago - Alliance Francaise

Though he has used other media Hinkson has concentrated on watercolours. "It took me 20 years to know how much pigment and how much water to put on the brush to get the effect I want", he says. This is exaggerated, of course, but only slightly. Because watercolours, like improvised music, cannot be changed, painted over, put aside until the solution to a problem offers itself to the artist. Working in the open, shadowless days of scorching overhead light, the pigment dries fast, within a minute, and allows no room for error. "The quality I look for is swiftness in execution, immediacy of effect," he explains, "because the quality of light changes quickly in this climate and if I move slowly I end up doing two paintings on one surface. The faster I work, the surer the strokes, and the bolder the colours."

To paint outdoors directly confronting the subject, to give light its primary role in the work, to chose natural, everyday, immediate subjects rather than hackneyed motifs and legends or artificial models all of this must have seemed a liberation to Hinkson when he returned from Edmonton, Canada and took up watercolours. Much as it has been to the Impressionists who preceeded him by a century. And as with his forebears, Hinkson must have felt the pull to nostalgia and eventually, sentimentality. What after all is an impression but a fleeting instant? What can such art evoke, once its technical effects have been mastered, other than a sense of loss?
But this does not apply to Hinkson, not at his best, and the Tobago Exhibition seems to be his attempt to find a a solution to the pull. "Ten years ago I couldn't the weight of those darks," he says, "perhaps because the intensity of feeling wasn't there or the technical control wasn't there to match it." The darks he refers to are everywhere, literally as dense clouds that hang over even the most placid unrippled seascapes. Or the inscrutable greens that cover a hillside. Or the invisible winds that bend coconut trees alongside an otherwise peaceful trace. Even coconut trees painted at dawn are black. But the "weight" more amenable to oils than watercolour is not darkness alone: in one seascape the white is so bright, so glaring, the light seems to have been poured on the paper like molten metal. The unshaded walls of his many shacks almost vibrate with the heat they radiate, because hot sun is no joke. They tilt slightly, with a broken window or two boarded up. "I've noticed that hint of menace," he says "perhaps it's because I'm constantly aware of threats to any stability, that's how life is."

There are hardly any figures feature in Hinkson's paintings and when they do their haziness is extreme, they are hardly more than suggestions. "I don't want the man in front the rum shop to look like any particular man, explains the artist, "I want him to be universal, like any old man, perhaps waiting for death." But there may be another reason, because Hinkson has also felt an urge to paint human subjects with the same immediacy as his landscapes he has worked from models and from memory aided by sketches but is held back by what appears to be timorousness.

"For weeks, months, I watched a lady vagrant up the road and l always wanted to paint her. One day I finally gathered up the courage to approach her and she cursed me," he recalls. "West Indians object very strongly to that kind of thing and perhaps are very superstitious. I'm very sensitive and lack the courage to approach."

 


SUNDAY EXPRESS April 29, 1990
by Judy Raymond (excerpt)

Watercolour works

There are hardly any human figures in these paintings, and when they do, they are treated like any other small feature of the landscape, with no special significance. Hinkson would deny that his work bears any message other than an interest in light: for instance Broadway and Corner Maraval and Tragarete.

Hinkson has been reported as saying in recent years that he wanted to increase the density of colour in his work without losing any of the luminosity. The paintings in the second room of the gallery perhaps show sign of this: the colours are more intense, muddier, harsher. Two of Hinkson's favourites (a reluctant disclosure) are among them: Caparo Earth and Arnos Vale Water Wheel. For me all these paintings conveyed not so much light as an oppressive sense of heat; they were redeemed by the clarity of their skies, as in Sea Lots and Sea Lots House; and the composition of John John, a jumble of houses climbing down a hillside.



Trinidad Guardian, Monday June 10, 1985
by Denise Cobham-Albo ( excerpt)

Change of Direction for Hinkson

Fortunately for us, Hinkson has stayed in this country and we can see what a stimulation effect his experiments have had in all directions.
Skies are treated with saturated intense hues or broken into abstraction with stony clouds.
I particularly like his condensed views of mountains, the starkness which indicates that he has seen so much and eliminated so much.



1978
Jackie Hinkson - the artist who paints poetry
by Nina Squires ( undated)

JACKIE HINKSON is a serious, honest and consistent painter. For someone who has been viewing his work since 1962 when he appeared with Minshall, Greenhall, Bishop and Berkeley, it is interesting to note that his paintings still contain the lyrical qualities which then channeled the eyes from one area of the canvas to another.

In those early days, Hinkson worked more in oils than he does presently. In fact, in the last few years he has been disciplining himself in the fine art of drawing and has been delighting his viewers with the most precious drawn landscapes and landmarks.

For me, the seriousness with which he approaches the whole business of painting earns respect. He never seems to want to move from one type of experimentation to another without first accomplishing a high standard which he obviously sets himself.

He is honest as an artist in the sense that at all times his work seems to be contained and without blatancy. His titles are down to earth and he seems obsessed with certain places. In a way, his works clearly reflect some of his interests.

Hinkson does not set out to preach or teach, but his work speaks for itself. His titles Picton Hill I and Picton Hill II; Queen's Royal College I, II and III; Estate House, Start of Day; Old Building; Bridgetown Rooftops; Jeffers House, St. Clair; Plaisance, Mayaro and Early Morning Sun all point to one thing, his observation of people, what they are doing, how they live, the type of houses they lived in long ago, the type of houses they live in now.
Yet, somehow one feels that these are not taken merely from a sociological point of view, but more intently his actions can be related to the play of sunlight on a shingled roof and the way a palm frond blows in the wind at a particular time of day. He is drawn and draws us to the subtle lines and movement in a backyard scene.

The artists then is also a poet. He is gentle as is evident in his earlier paintings of fish and landscapes, soft blues and pinks, handled with a spaciousness which obviously led him to his short period of sculpting. Long term results of this deviation are the subtle forms and definite planes which appear in most of his paintings, some to a greater extent than others.
In one particular painting, Rooftops, his geometric design is so strong that one detects his eagerness to push this aspect further; but alas, the careful, timid Hinkson makes him stop.

On entering his current exhibition at the National Cultural Council, the paintings seem to be cluttered. There is difficulty singling one watercolour from another; and this should not be so since each painting has its own merit as one finds out sooner or later.
Because of his basic palette and because of the medium (watercolour, mainly) light plays a very significant role for the viewer and what is lost at close range is a beautiful passage at another angle of the room.
Although this exhibition is hung at a better advantage than last, there is still much room for improvement with its arrangement. For example No 45, Early Morning Sun, is a delightful piece, which captures the feeling of the morning sun and the suggestion of soft breeze playing with clothes on a line. Its colour combination is excellent but when viewed in close proximity to eight other paintings carrying predominantly the same oranges, yellows and browns, it is lost.
What Mr. Hinkson really needs is space, or better use of space; or maybe we need a Mr. Kynniston McShine to have us view the paintings as we should.
Nevertheless, the National Cultural Council has provided us with an interim outlet for exhibitions and that is important. We must make full use of it.

During the next two weeks we should make a point to visit 11-18 St. Clair Avenue, to the the work of an artist who is truly consistent. His sepia drawings are strong and definite and continue to take the eye on various limitless excursions.
His style though now mature, maintains much of his earlier qualities- his subtle juxtaposition of light and shade, his lyrical handling of colour, clarity of expression and an economy of line. These are worth seeing.

What happens when the paintings are in a different environment from the exhibition is another experience. Alone, the work is quietly powerful, seeping into the senses and arresting the imagination. At no time is the work boring and one feels that careful consideration and precise action must have mattered greatly in generating this long lasting interest.
Mr. Hinkson is serious.


Trinidad Guardian, Friday May 23, 1975
Mood poems from Jackie's pencil

Jackie Hinkson, 32, has come a long way since he joined four other young artists in a first exhibition at the old Woodbrook Market about 15 years ago. How far he has matured from those boyhood abstracts can be seen in the 50-odd drawings comprising his second one-man exhibition which opens to the public today at Dine Arts, 109 frederick Street, Port of Spain.

Jackie's drawings in this exhibition are abstract pieces on the human figure and on buildings in the city which have captured his fancy, many of them from the Piccadilly Street and Laventille areas.

His work is concerned more with a personal mood and feeling than with documentation and he uses the shades of his pencil as a masterful vehicle in this pursuit.

 


The Nation Newspaper- August 1961
by Sybil Atteck (excerpt)
Jackie Hinkson: A Rare Talent

Jackie Hinkson has the quality of a very talented artist. Jackie has been able to create forms and colour harmonies which are both original and sensitive. In his earlier work his style and technique is influenced by Peter Minshall: "Waterfront", "Entrance to the Warf", "Richmond Street".
His paint is applied in small areas of colour built up to create form. In his later paintings his areas are larger and his photographic concept has changed to a more lyrical, poetic one. His colour is more richly conceived and applied in a more subtle manner, at the same time he has not moved away from the figurative, but uses shapes from nature. He does not always have control of his composition but in "Shanty Town" and "Fish Bowl" I think he is at his best.

 

1961
by Derek Walcott (excerpt)

Young Painters show Maturity

Jackie Hinkson's low keyed still-lifes have a poetic economy which is to be commended, and he shares with Minshall the caution and studiousness of the good apprentice.