Culture

Artwork of the Month: John Paul Saddleton, Harbour View

September 23, 2016

The collection at The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas grows in various ways: we might purchase works or commission pieces; artists endow us with their own works, or we are gifted items by collectors and patrons. In all cases, the work still needs to be approved for official acquisition, as we are unable to accept everything offered to us for space reasons, among other concerns.
It is always a happy moment, then, when we are gifted a work that fills a hole in our collection, is by a renowned artist, and is in excellent condition. This week's highlighted painting--John Paul Saddleton's shimmering "Harbour View" (2014)--is one such work and the acquisition was doubly sweet as the donor purchased it at the annual Charitable Arts Foundation of The Bahamas (CAFB) event and auction. In such, ensuring that the funds spent to purchase the work, are directly set in motion to support a Bahamian artist.
The CAFB--formerly the Endowment for the Performing Arts--was established in 1995; the Board organizes events throughout the year to raise the funds required to continue the goal of supporting endeavours in arts and culture throughout The Bahamas. Their annual art auction and dinner (or luncheon), usually held in November or December, is one of the main events on their calendar and much of the work is donated very generously by local artists who wish to support their younger, up-and-coming colleagues.
Through the grants awarded, the CAFB has supported myriad young persons in their search for excellence through their continued studies or the support of particular projects. It was therefore already of immense satisfaction to see the Saddleton artwork sold at auction after a rather intense bidding war! When the collector offered to then donate it to the National Collection, we at the NAGB were all ecstatic.
This particular painting--a small but striking acrylic on card that commands attention despite its slight size compared to other in the gallery--is a wonderful example of the artist's practise and, since we had not yet acquired work by Saddleton, it was immediately accepted into the collection. His technique is very recognizable: shimmering color is applied quite thickly to the brush and dotted or stroked with a very visible gesture onto the canvas, building up color and the image. It is a much looser version of Eddie Minnis--who also piles paint onto his palette knife--but then applies it to the canvas in a much tighter, controlled gesture. Both are masters at their techniques and revel in the colors of our landscape, but approach it from different viewpoints.
Saddleton was born in Nassau but at the age of seven, his parents moved to Luxembourg, where his eyes were opened to the broad range of art accessible in Europe. He later studied at University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where he earned a BA degree in Commerce but he continued his studies at one of London's best art schools: Central St. Martin's, where he studied watercolor, glass manipulation and advanced color theory.
Clearly, his time in Europe introduced him to the Impressionist movement, as his style is very close to many of those French masters and, like them, he paints "en plein air" or, more simply, outside. Painting from life, in the moment and not from photographs, out in the streets, was what distinguished the Impressionists from their colleagues, who were still tied to the studio. It also lead to the invention of oil paint being packaged in tubes, to make it easier to work outdoors, where they speedily put down their "impressions" of light and darkness. Saddleton's process is an outstanding example of this approach and his use of color truly scintillating, capturing the clear almost unbearable brightness our landscape in full sunlight.
Saddleton's subject matter--like MInnis--is generally is all the glory that surrounds us: scenes abound of markets, fruit stands, our glistening waters. These are painted in a variety of sizes but are almost more precious when minor in scale. A suite of such images--from the Dawn Davies collection--is currently on show in the exhibition in the NAGB's lower galleries and includes such charming pieces as, "Doc Sands Fresh Conch" (c. 1999), "Vendor with Yellow Umbrella" (c. 2000), or "Oleander Harbour" (c. 2002).
What is a little unusual--and one of the many reasons we treasure our own "Harbour View"--is the inclusion of something as huge and even a little crass or shocking as a cruise ship, our own Bahamian Moby Dick--the white whale that we both love and hate in equal measure. Saddleton's landscapes are often quite idyllic and--even when he clearly shows the urban environment of Nassau, such as the soaring Paradise Island Bridge and shambolic structures of Potter's Cay in "Oleander Harbour"--there is still somehow an out-island feeling, as though the foliage and blossoms make up for the intrusion of concrete into our "paradise."
In "Harbour View," the ship tries to camouflage itself, as though almost ashamed of its monstrous size, with the pink and blue tones of clouds and water reflecting on its gleaming surface; but its humongous dimension, dwarfing the seemingly tiny sailing boats below it, betray its attempt to blend into its surroundings.
This contrast and tension, between the version of Nassau we remember from our childhoods and the version that we see every day, is something touching and even melancholic in this particular piece and, for our purposes, also acts as an archival document attesting to the changes to which our nation has been subject.
It is not surprising that this artist--known as JP to many of his friends and colleagues--would be someone to donate this absolute gem of a work to the CAFB auction, since JP is known as an incredibly generous yet humble practitioner. He is not the kind of artist to toot his own horn; he stays under the radar but quietly makes stunning works that have a large and appreciative audience. JP gives back to the community in many ways, not only through the donation of objects, but through his time. He has been known to teach at local schools, lecture at the NAGB, and oversee workshops here, generously sharing his knowledge and expertise.
Saddleton also donated a haunting and beautiful piece to the NAGB : it is a painting on public view every day in the street, there for all Bahamians to enjoy. As we work on the development of a Sculpture Garden on the grounds adjacent to the NAGB, we felt that the wooden hoarding enclosing the historic doorway to the property on Hospital Lane and West Hill Street had to be covered. JP very generously created and gifted to us a painting on plywood specifically to fit this doorway depicting--rather fittingly--a lush garden, giving locals a taste of what they will eventually meet behind the door when it is finally opened.

We are hoping that the elements will not be too unkind and that this painting will also be able to join the collection, alongside its more diminutive sister to further increase the holdings and prestige of the National Collection, for the enjoyment of all Bahamians.

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Our Reading Room

September 23, 2016



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Warm welcome home for Caribbean junior minister of tourism

September 23, 2016

GRAND Bahama's Gabriele Josephs, the new Caribbean junior minister of tourism and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Youth Congress, was welcomed home in grand style on his arrival at the airport by tourism officials, his teaching coach, and family and friends.

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Mandara Spa Atlantis celebrates its Balinese roots and 15 years of Bahamian heritage
Mandara Spa Atlantis celebrates its Balinese roots and 15 years of Bahamian heritage

September 23, 2016

One of the world’s most sought-after healers, Guru Made Sumantra, will visit Paradise Island in October for nearly three days of personal sessions as part of award-winning Mandara Spa's 20th anniversary and in celebration of 15 years as a Bahamian entity.

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Gabrielle Josephs wins CTO Youth Congres title

September 21, 2016

Bahamas Junior Minister of Tourism Gabrielle Josephs is the first Bahamian to win the Caribbean Tourism Organization's (CTO) Tourism Youth Congress.

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The Governor General attends straw and wood craft workers appreciation service

September 21, 2016

Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling attended the Straw Vendors and Wood Carvers Appreciation Worship Service at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, September 18, 2016.

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The NAGB's Eleutheran Adventure

September 19, 2016

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is locally known as the NAGB; however, many people make the mistake--in speech and print--of calling us the "Nassau" Art Gallery.

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Mother Tongue Ties

September 17, 2016

As Bahamians, our culture — like many others — is tied to the tongue.

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Rock Sound Regatta to be held in honor of 'King' Eric

September 16, 2016

One of the many regattas in the country that was either started or conceived by the late legendary sportsman and entertainer "King" Eric Gibson is just about a week away.

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Conchman Triathlon launches corporate challenge cup on November 5

September 16, 2016

Fitter employees can result in a more efficient company, and organisers of the Conchman Triathlon want to harness that fact to encourage local companies to get involved in this year’s 30th anniversary event on November 5th.

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Preserving our physical heritage

September 14, 2016

Though independent from Britain for 42 years, the history of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people hardly started in 1973.

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National Symbols Coloring Book presented to the Governor General

September 12, 2016

Dwainette and Monique Walkine presented a copy of their publication, The National Symbols of The Bahamas Coloring Book to Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling...

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Expo 2020

September 12, 2016

The Bahamas is set to be a focal point at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Bahamian culture featured at Shrines 2016 convention
Bahamian culture featured at Shrines 2016 convention

September 09, 2016

Conch fritters, conch stew, fried fish and many other Bahamian dishes were featured at a "Party in da Backyard" Bahamian styled event, that was one of the highlights at the recent Shriners Annual Convention that took place in Tampa, Florida.

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Tru Tru return

September 07, 2016

THE Ministry of Tourism yesterday announced the return of the Tru Tru Festival.

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Studio Visit: Dominique Knowles

September 05, 2016

I had the pleasure of visiting emerging Bahamian artist Dominique Knowles as he settled into his new space at Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts.

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What's on at the NAGB?

September 05, 2016

September marks the start of yet another school year and we can already hear the teachers and students mentally trudging their way back into that regimented mindset after this scorcher of a summer.

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A Bahamian Aesthetic

September 03, 2016

We often ask what makes art Bahamian? Is it about living in The Bahamas?

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From craft to commerce in China

August 31, 2016

In recent years, ceramic art has resurfaced and undoubtedly gained renewed respect internationally within contemporary art.

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August artwork of the month

August 30, 2016

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas was an idea long before it was a reality. Many artworks, therefore, had been purchased and earmarked for the collection before its eventual incarnation in 2003.

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