close this bookThe Courier - N°158 - July - August 1996 Dossier Communication and the media - Country report Cape Verde
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View the documentThe works of Ainsley Yearwood: Bombarded with colour

The works of Ainsley Yearwood: Bombarded with colour

by Claude Smets

Ainsley Yearwood is a Trinity dadian artist based in London. me Courier had the opportunity to meet him recently when an exhibition of his works was staged at his country's embassy in Brussels. Brought up in Trinidad, he moved to London to study fine arts at the Chelsea Art School. Feeling unable to express himself fully in this discipline, he ended up taking a degree in graphic design. Mr Yearwood is still based in the UK capital where, in addition to his work as a painter, he also designs costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival, a cousin of the famous Trinidad Carnival.

The artist is fortunate to be able to live from his work. Besides the present exhibition which is touring Europe (Manchester, Brussels, Geneva and London), he has other works currently on show at three galleries in the US. He finds that the reaction of the American public is different from the European one. Americans, he believes, are more spontaneous and openminded. 'Europeans tend to stick more to things they already know; to which they are more accustomed.' The titles he gives to his art pieces are for him 'a basis for artistic conversation' with his audience. They express his emotions, feelings, and thoughts, but do not try to impose a specific interpretation of the painting on the viewer. Ainslie Yearwood dislikes the idea of being labelled or categorised - or as he describes it, 'to be put into a box'. As such, he rebels against people who try to make him conform.

A world citizen

Although Ainsley Yearwood recognises his African roots within Trinidadian society, he sees himself as 'a world citizen'. The influences in his paintings are many and varied - deriving from the multicultural background of Trinidad and Tobago, European art and graphic design, the memories of his own childhood and his recent experiences. 'I am like a sponge', he says. 'Everything influences me in my work... people, places and all that I see around me. They help me to view things from a different perspective.' These all then flow together to be visualised through his 'inner eye' (expressed, for example, by two blue dots in his work In the Company of Nature which represents the Grand Canyon). By paying particular attention to what he sees, his 'visual view' is transformed into an 'emotional view'. Thus, for example, his painting Evolution appears to be a landscape. A :loser look reveals that the rocks are in the shape of hands.

The artist also uses symbols in dome of his work, as a personal means 'or him to express life. The butterfly :rapped in a jar, for example, in Love lost, is a symbol of the fragility of life. The glass of water in Soul of a Mother symbolises the way a child looks at the world as something exciting and new. he also draws strongly on the imagery of candles, inner eyes and doorways.

Strong colours, strong emotions

What unifies Mr. Yearwood's work, is his use of colours. As he says, they are 'strong colours to express strong emotions'. In this, he has been inspired by his childhood in Trinidad which, in his own words, 'was an environment that constantly bombarded you with colour - from crystal to aquamarine, sapphire and emerald - a perpetual rainbow of red, yellow, green and blue'. One painting where colour is used to striking effect is Carnival Bacchanal. This depicts Trinidad's Carnival and reflects both the island's multicultural society and its vividness.

Ainsley Yearwood has also produced more surrealist and psycho-biographical works, under the influence of artists such as Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. Emotions are revealed through the use of darker though still vivid colours. These works (such as Evolution,

Translucent State and Suspended in Limbo) show a fragmented self, stuck between past, present and future, looking for a way forward. They come in stark contrast to the brighter mood of paintings of island scenes - which are in a more African style - or of jazz musicians (such as Soul of a City or The Musician). According to the artist, this is being realistic. If he wants to paint life, he must show the different and contrasting emotions a human being experiences. 'You get up in the morning and you are feeling a little bit happy. You come home in the evening and you are feeling a little bit down. So emotions are continuously changing. If I said that I was always happy, that wouldn't be true.'

As mentioned above, a number of Ainsley Yearwood's pieces portray jazz players. He enjoys going to New Orleans to listen to jazz bands and in Soul of a City he portrays one of the musicians. The title underlaines the importance of performers in a place like New Orleans - where indeed, they form an integral part of city life. In A Musical Love affair, the painter uses techniques learned as a graphic designer to help him express his feelings. By drawing graphic lines, the cello player and the instrument flow into one another. He explains: 'The cello player was not just playing the instrument. She was actually part of it. It is as if she were making love to the cello.'

It is clear from the foregoing that Mr. Yearwood's art is primarily visual. The onlooker is bombarded with strong colours - which are used, together with abstraction and symbolism, to express both optimistic and pessimistic feelings. The artist uses his multicultural background to great effect, drawing on influences from Trinidad, Africa and Europe, to create different modes of expression. These are the essential factors which make his paintings interesting and refreshing to look at. c.s.

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