Rhythms of Life
Viewing Jeffrey Samuels' body of work feels a little like taking a walk around his neighbourhood in Montego Bay.
Words by Natasha Were
At the beach, young boys stand knee-deep in water, watching to see if they’ll hook a fish. Possibly nearby, a man is cleaning the day’s catch beside his boat. On a porch, friends sit on upturned crates, absorbed in a game of dominoes. And at a bend in the river, a baptism is taking place.
Although Samuels has no formal training in art, there is nothing naïve about his painting. He may paint the simple rhythms of life in a small fishing village, but his ability to capture the atmosphere of any occasion is uncanny, whether it’s the exuberance of a jamming session, a moment of quiet contemplation, or the serenity of the village streets. His paintings tell us more about how life in and around the village of White House unfolds than any travelogue could.
Stylistically, his work sits somewhere on the impressionist-realist spectrum – something he tentatively calls ‘semi-impressionist’. Although both style and subject matter can vary tremendously depending on his mood, the one common denominator in his artwork is people. Whether portraits, distant figures going about their daily chores, or cricket players frozen in action, it is the human form that particularly fascinates Samuels.
“I enjoy the shapes, the muscles, the features, the various skin tones and the culture of the Caribbean people,” he says. “And it’s not just people, but people in particular surroundings. I especially enjoy painting people in a rural setting.”
From as far back as he can remember, Samuels says, he has felt seduced by art.
As a child, he began to draw almost as soon as he could hold a pencil, copying from comic books and drawing stick men. He didn’t pick up a paintbrush until he was in his 20s, believing that to paint some kind of training was required. Once he did though, he discovered a natural aptitude – something he calls ‘a gift from God’.
Since then he’s devoured films and books on art, teaching himself everything he knows. He never took a class, and never had a mentor, but cites Picasso, Monet and Jamaican Master Painter Barrington Watson amongst his biggest influences.
Painting, he says, is not an activity or pastime he chooses to pursue. It’s a calling he cannot ignore. “To me a hobby is something that you pick up. A gift, however, is something that is in your DNA. You cannot pick your DNA, your DNA pick you.”
He has been able to share his gift directly with the likes of Michael Jackson and Barack Obama, both of whom he presented portraits to, and his paintings grace numerous other prestigious homes around the world.
Samuels holds around four exhibitions a year and also sells his work at galleries in Kingston and at his own studio. But, a humble man of faith, he points out that even if you cannot afford to buy original works of art, you need only look outside to see the greatest art there is – God’s creation.
To see more of Samuels' work,
visit: www.jeffrey-samuels.pixels.com or
Image 1: Street Scene Old Time Jamaica, acrylic on canvas, 2013
Image 2: Daddyo, acrylic on canvas, 2011
Image 3: Fisherboys, acrylic on canvas, 2012
Image 4: Domino Game, acrylic on canvas, 2014
Image 5: Contemplation, acrylic on canvas, 2015
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