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Rhythms on canvas
Bernard Stanley Hoyes on his new exhibition
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Copyright© 2000-2001
 Jamaica Observer
SOMETIMES it takes an entire lifetime to explore a subject that has special meaning, and it's that way with this imagery," said Bernard Stanley Hoyes.

A prolific artist known to do as many as 12 shows in different countries over a year, the 55-year-old has been dubbed Pan-African, Afro-Caribbean, magical realist and even spiritual colour master. But the title he likes best is Jamaican.

Hoyes' career has been built on his own drive to record his memories of home. The majority of his subject matter draws on childhood memories of revival and spiritual ceremonies.

"You can't have a good understanding of where to go if you don't know where you're coming from," he told SunDay.

"With these images," he explained, gesturing to his well-known revivalist scenes of head-wrapped women praying and dancing, "...there's a universal sense of what's taking place, and it becomes about the ceremony, and the colour. Many people from all walks of life can relate to the imagery. They understand the gathering aspect, the celebrating aspect."

At home to visit family for a few days before departing for a June show in Los Angeles, Hoyes gave SunDay an interview about the remarkable journey his art has taken him on - from his beginnings in downtown Kingston to becoming a master painter and printmaker.

From as early as the age of nine, he began creating pictures influenced largely by the Junior Art Centre at the Institute of Jamaica. When he was 15, his life took a dramatic turn - he left his increasingly volatile surroundings in North Street for New York. 
"Everyone around me then was kind of a thug. I was a junior thug myself... but then my father decided to take an interest in me and sent for me, so I left for New York.

"All of my male relatives - and school friends from that time 
- they're all dead now [from gang violence]. I have one brother, an older brother in his 60s who's still alive but he's basically a

'Festival', oil on canvas

 vegetable now. Sits in the corner and keeps to himself," he mused. "The women are mostly all alive though. For some reason the women seem to survive."

The move to New York was the tipping point in his growth as a young man and budding artist. 
From evening classes at the Art Students League on 52nd Street in Manhattan, Hoyes used the opportunity of being in the US to continue learning about art.

He went on to attend the Vermont Academy and the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California.  He worked as a designer at the California Museum of Science and Industry, and gave his time to workshops with schoolchildren across the US and the Caribbean.

Guardians of Rag Culture (above), a monoprint from the Rag Series

In the 1970s, he founded the Caribbean Cultural Institute and Caribbean Arts, Inc to raise the profile of regional art in the US. 
Early in his career Hoyes wanted to make a strong social comment on the world as he saw it.

The result: his 1970s Rag Series of prints, which attracted international attention, as well as a series of partner shows with fellow Caribbean artist Andy Jefferson, including a controversial early 1980s wall-mounting of paintings in the burnt-out former Antillean ruin on 91 Harbour Street in downtown Kingston.

Since then his works have been bought by the likes of Natalie Cole, Oprah Winfrey and the late Richard Pryor. In the late 80s he even had a spot on the sitcom It's a Different World, as his serigraph 'Passion of Hexing Graphs' was a central part of the storyline between Whitley (Jasmine Guy) and Dwayne  (Kadeem Hardison).

'Passion of Hexing Graphs' was a central part of the storyline between Whitley (Jasmine Guy) and Dwayne (Kadeem Hardison).

"I've painted so many pieces,  I can't keep track of where they all are," he said. One day, he recalled, he knocked on a door in Hartford, Connecticut for directions and was greeted with the sight of one of his paintings in the foyer. "I thanked them for the directions and pointed to the piece and said, 'good artist'."

In his current show of small-scale etchings, prints and watercolours, 'Kensington Press Chemical Revival', at the Mutual Gallery, Hoyes' style has taken a distinctly more geometric turn from the fluid revivalist and spiritual portraits and scenes his career was built on. 
"I guess it's just changing. Everyone's style evolves as you mature as an artist," he chuckled. "With the etching I'm able to use the linear aspect and really bring it to life."

While one can appreciate the intimate scale in the detailed etchings, it would have been nice to see some of the larger watercolours and oils that Hoyes is known for.

Along with the black and white etchings, the distinctive Hoyes wash of primary colours and repeated imagery is apparent in the watercolours and oils included, with the simple palette a deliberate technique employed by the artist to leave the sense of place and movement as the dominant feature in the work.

In these early pieces, as well as in the monoprint on display from the Rag Series, there are some geometric leanings apparent, but only as the figures meet each other or open space, as the movement and experience are central to the fluidity and energy of the pieces. 
"With the simple, but bright colours, and the repeated figure, there is an implied line that I use in a flowing, literal sense," he explained.

Hoyes' current work retains the same subject matter that he is so passionate about, but manifests itself in a different manner. 
The pieces present a more intimate portrait and landscape, drawing the viewer into the rhythmic scenes on paper from peering intently within the linen matted frame.

Hoyes' journey has left him a humble man, who loves his history and his country, and channels that passion into his art. 
"One thing I learnt is that in life, ideas are a dime a dozen," he said. "So it's what you make real that's important. We live in a physical world so in order to demonstrate that physicality you have to make 
it apparent."

- Bernard Hoyes' 'Kensington Press Chemical Revival' runs until June 10 at the Mutual Gallery, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5.


                                                       Flow with the Rhythm


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