Jamaican art lovers in New York are in for a rare treat as two of the island’s widely respected intuitive artists, Paul Blackwood and Courtney Morgan are heading to the Big Apple soon for a one week exhibition at the Jamaican Consulate in Manhattan. Both artists grew up together near the seaside fishing village of Whitehouse in Westmoreland and each has been painting for over thirty years.
The upcoming exhibition will be open to the public from June 4 to 7 and the two-man show is being billed as a retrospective to celebrate an astonishing journey for both artists that spans three riveting decades.
The two self-taught artists who work mainly in oil and acrylic describe their journey as ‘astonishing’ because both relocated from rural Jamaica to Kingston armed only with a passion for art, raw talent to create exciting visual images and a relentless dream to someday make a mark on the very elusive high altar of Jamaica’s art scene.
Thirty years later, due to sheer perseverance, their works are now included in the personal collections of His Excellency Xi Jinping, recent vice president of the People’s Republic of China, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, Carlos Menem, former president of Argentina and Prince Akishino, member of the Japanese imperial family, Other collectors who own their works include American R & B icon Roberta Flack, Hollywood actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, Sabrina HoSang of Caribbean Food Delight (USA) and Lowell Hawthorne, president/ CEO of Golden Krust. Their paintings can also be found in every major banking institution collection in Jamaica.
Looking back at the careers of both artists, their journeys have been almost identical. Morgan is the older of the two and he moved to Kingston first, when he was seventeen years old, eventually carving his early niche on Trafalgar Road near the old Courtleigh Manor Hotel where he became one of the founding members of the Trafalgar Artists Co-Operative. A few years later, Blackwood moved to Kingston too and was encouraged by Morgan to join the Trafalgar group. Without formal training, both understood the urgency to continuously polish their craft and they worked assiduously to deliver the best creations possible.
In 1990, with the help of Jamaica’s former ambassador to the United States the late Keith Johnson, they were invited to mount their first exhibition in the US at the Martin Luther King Library in Washington, DC. “This first show was like a dream come true”, Courtney Morgan reflected. “We were awed by the excellent response, we knew that new doors were being opened and we saw this exhibition as our unofficial international seal of approval”, he added.
Morgan’s themes are landscapes, abstract and still life, and his creative juices flow when he takes long rides around the Jamaican countryside to inhale the magnificence of the island’s natural beauty.
Blackwood says his rural upbringing has impacted on his art in a big way. His medium is oil and canvass, sometimes with semi-abstract collages. Rural landscapes are his dominant theme but with a special zoom on old country houses wrapped in tapestry of lush, verdant backdrops.
“Art for me is a divine inspiration and I feel extremely blessed to live in Jamaica where I can wake up to the tropical sights, smells and sounds of art in motion”, Blackwood affirmed. “Sometimes my inspiration comes in the form of a dream, and when that happens, I can’t wait to wake up in the morning to start caressing the canvass with my brush”, he beamed.
Morgan and Blackwood have been able to share the joy of their art through exhibitions internationally, with their main markets being USA, Canada, UK, Europe and the Caribbean. “For this upcoming exhibition in New York at the Consulate, we plan to dazzle art lovers there with the best of our creations over the last thirty years”, Morgan promised. “We look forward to seeing old art friends from the Jamaican community and we also hope to embrace many new Caribbean art lovers in New York so we are very excited about this trip”, Blackwood noted.
The show on Monday June 3 will be a private showing. On Tuesday June 4 the exhibition will run from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM and on June 5, 6 and 7 the works can be viewed between the normal opening hours of the Consulate, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. However, persons who wish to view the exhibition between the normal working hours at the Consulate should go to www.paulblackwoodart.com to RSVP. Event sponsors are Golden Krust and Caribbean Food Delights.