Grenadian Artist Judith Jarvis - Sunshine & Shadows
Grenada based artist, Judith Jarvis, brings to light her adopted home's vibrant characters and quotidian rhythms.
Words by Natasha Were
Sunshine and shadows, expressive faces and the rhythm of daily life radiate from Judith Jarvis's giant canvasses. Whether it is vendors selling their wares at the market, fishermen hauling in their nets or a dog resting in the cool shadow of a boat, the artist captures life in mid-flow on Grenada.
Old Barber's shop, St Georges, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2011.
Although not native to the island (Jarvis is British born and has twice been short listed for the BP Awards at The National Portrait Gallery in London, and has lived in Grenada since 2006) she depicts the people and their lifestyle so authentically that, in viewing them, one feels a profound sense of place, as if one can feel the heat, smell the aromas and sense the easy pace of life.
Yellow boat, Duquesne, oil on canvas, 2012.
"I'm a travel painter at heart," she says. "I've always loved wandering the world and when I paint scenes from places I have visited it brings back the sensations, the excitement of travelling."
Maureen with Mahi Mahi, St George's fish market, oil on canvas, 2012.
Just as a photo-journalist documents a story through candid, spontaneous photos, Jarvis' paintings reproduce quintessentially Caribbean scenes, in a natural, un-posed manner to capture the prosaic beauty of life's daily pulse. It is the deliberate inclusion of imperfections - the paintwork on the boats that is faded and flaking; the dry, dead palm fronds lying tangled in the undergrowth, or the stained, pitted wall of the fish market - that make the scenes so real.
Although not aiming to be photographic in style, Jarvis does take scores of photos before starting each piece. She then sifts through them, enlarging some, cropping others and moving different elements around until the composition satisfies her fascination with textures and surfaces, colour and lighting.
"It's the lighting that lends a painting a sense of reality."
"I don't paint unless there is something interesting happening with the light," she says. "Without that there are no tones and the picture looks flat."
In order to adequately reproduce the play of sunlight and shadow, the reflection of light on skin, the pearly sheen of a freshly caught fish or the lucid glow of a wet T-shirt clinging to a torso, Jarvis paints on a large scale - many of her paintings are on canvasses measuring approximately 6' by 4'. Even as a child, she recalls, her drawings could not be confined to the page, and years spent working in theatre, painting vast stage sets and backcloths, have only reinforced this need for dramatically oversized artistic expression.
Bringing in the nets, Duquesne Bay, oil on canvas, 2012.
Beyond her mastery of the technical, what makes Jarvis' art so remarkable is a deep resonance that pervades each work. Engaging her subjects, she talks to and sketches them for hours, unearthing stories contained within to know the individuals behind the faces to compose a painting that reflects their unique personality.
Blue Boat, Duquesne Bay, oil on canvas, 2013.
In the same way that a travel writer aims to convey the essence of a destination through the sounds, smells, tastes and characters he finds there, in Grenada Jarvis does the same through oil paints and canvas. Brimming with colour and character, sunlight and warmth, her art transports the viewer directly into the genuine, unedited lives and activities of Grenadian islanders.
To view more please visit: www.judithjarvis.com
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