Capturing the charm of everyday life, Barbadian artist, Neville Legall.
Words by Laura Collacott
"Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary," mused French philosopher and scientist Blaire Pascal. Absorbed by life’s ordinary tableau is artist, Neville Legall. Working in capricious watercolours he captures vivid scenes of everyday Barbadian life in his vivacious, sanguine style. A rainbow of colours enliven mundane scenes of la vie quotidien: a solitary woman carrying her shopping home; workers toiling in a potato field; ladies in full skirts and wide brimmed hats gossiping at a makeshift fruit stall; ramshackle houses; demure pensioners in their Sunday best waiting for the bus. He deals in modern impressionism, blurring faces and hinting at texture, rhythm and shade with broad strokes of his brush and bleeds of colour.
Pride of the village (2007), watercolour.
“I am inspired by the Barbadian outdoors,” Legall explains. “I grew up in a village and like to paint the old houses and village scenes. The rural landscape especially on the East Coast of the island has a special charm. I feel a sense of freedom exploring the rugged hills which allow me to explore paint without concern for photographic accuracy, and to explore shapes, colour and textures.”
The hills at lakes (2012), acrylic.
His path has been one of vocation. “I became interested in the art of drawing around the age of 12,” he recalls. “I was a student at high school and one evening my friend came by with his sketch pad. I was greatly inspired by his drawings and gave him money to buy me a drawing book. I drew from illustrations in magazines and also anything I saw which seemed interesting. My first efforts at watercolour were challenging but as I read and experimented my technique developed and I eventually grew more comfortable with the medium.”
“I feel a sense of freedom exploring the rugged hills which allow me to explore paint without concern for photographic accuracy, and to explore shapes, colour and textures.”
Mose bottom (1998), oil.
Emboldened by early success, Legall studied art and art history and continued to hone his skills in his native Barbados with success. He has been holding and participating in exhibitions on the island since 1984 and has shown abroad in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Cuba.
Corner at James Street (2009), watercolour.
Beyond a celebration of the seemingly prosaic, Legall muses philosophically on his motivation for painting commonplace scenes. “Today, man is enslaved,” he explains; “shackled by the pressure of survival and belonging in a materialistic society. Constant hustle and chaos preclude seeing, thus many people fail to observe and experience the treasures of nature.”
The once glorious (2013), watercolour.
Whilst broadly similar, experimentation can be traced in Legall’s work. “I considered myself a watercolour purist,” he reveals. “I love the transparency of watercolours but today I am willing to explore.”
The potato field (2010), watercolour.