Chinese Artists in Trinidad and Tobago

 

Exhibition Catalogue for an Exhibition of Chinese Artists of Trinidad and Tobago for the 200th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Chinese in Trinidad and Tobago

Foreword

On October 12, 1806 one hundred and ninety two Chinese men arrived in Trinidad on the ship ‘Fortitude'. Historical records reveal that this was the first organized settlement of Chinese in the Americas. It is felt that the 200th Anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in Trinidad & Tobago, October 12 2006, is a significant milestone in the history, not only of the Chinese community, but of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, with its multiethnic, multicultural society.

The activities and events to celebrate the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Arrival of the Chinese in Trinidad & Tobago will promote an increased awareness and appreciation that our life and culture have been shaped and enriched by persons of different ethnic origins. We hope that the 200 years experience of the Chinese in Trinidad and Tobago, their integration into society, their life styles, achievements, contributions, struggles and impact will help to restore harmonious relationships between persons of every racial and ethnic origin in our country.

It is not by accident that of the 20 odd planned events, 6 are directly concerned with paintings or photography and 5 others with culture. I am certain that this reflects the major influence of the Chinese in these areas. This current exhibition brings together under one roof a collection of arguably the best work of Chinese artists of Trinidad & Tobago. We gratefully acknowledge the deep interest, knowledge and commitment of Mr. Geoffrey Maclean, the curator of this show.

David Picou
Chairman
Chinese Bicentennial Committee
September 27, 2006

Introduction

It can be said that the Chinese brought with them from their homeland traditional artistic techniques, forms and calligraphy, but it wasn't until the late 1920's that the first recognizable talent from the Chinese community emerged. It also began a tradition of artistic pioneering by the community.

Amy Leong Pang (b.1908 d.1989) was a founding member of The Society of Trinidad Independents. The Independents gathered in private homes, painted and discussed the arts and developed their ideas. Leong Pang became mentor and teacher to several of the young artists of the time, including Carlisle Chang (b.1921 d.2001). The Independents disbanded in 1939 giving way to the formation in 1943 of the Trinidad Art Society. Leong Pang and Sybil Atteck (b.1911 d.1975) were founder members of the Society. Atteck's knowledge and experience of European and pre-Columbian art provided an intellectual validity to a growing and independent expression from Trinidad and Tobago.

Atteck was tireless in promoting younger artists, including Pat Chu Foon (b.1931 d. 1998), who became known for his public sculptures, and Ou (Edwin) Hing Wan (b.1932 d.1976). Between 1951 and 1975, Hing Wan produced some of Trinidad and Tobago's finest watercolours inspired by the landscape of Mayaro and Guayaguayare.

The pre-Independence years of the late 1950's and early 1960's provided Carlisle Chang with a platform for his expression. He is best known for his public murals - The Inherent Nobility of Man at Piarco Airport, destroyed in 1977; Conquerabia for the new Port of Spain City Hall; Cosmic Event for the façade of the new Textel building and The Elements - Air, Earth, Fire, Water at The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. Chang's influence on the artists from this period can be seen in the work of Willi Chen (b.1938) and Audley Sue Wing (b.1939).

Sue Wing's New Dawn was a prize winner of a competition sponsored by the National Independence Committee in 1962. Chen is perhaps best known for his mural, Solar Marinorama, commissioned in 1962 for The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, but since removed from its original location. No other artists in Trinidad and Tobago have produced work on the scale of Chang and Chen.

Innovation and originality continued into the eighties and nineties with the work of Cynthia McLean (b.1941) with her combinations of media including copper, brass and aluminium and traditional acrylic and canvas; Greer Jones (b.1955) with her textile prints and multi-dimensional views; and James Amow (b.1947) with his painted clay and wood. Amow works almost exclusively in black and white. His style is based on his experience as a graphic designer and his appreciation of Chinese calligraphy. Kathyn Chan (b.1960) works in several mediums producing a range of works from traditional painting to kinetic sculptures.

Younger artists, including Susan Dayal (b.1968) and Brian Wong Won (b.1970) continue the traditions of independent expression, Dayal with her wire sculptures and Wong Won with his playful depictions of carnival figures and distorted buildings. Raymond Yawching (b.1969) uses photo-realism in extraordinary representations of popular figures and scenes.

After two hundred years, the Chinese community continues to foster pioneers of artistic expression. Their contribution to Trinidad and Tobago's art and culture remains invaluable.

Geoffrey MacLean
September 2006

 

Featured Artists:

 

 

James Amow

(b.1947)

 

 

Balance James Amow (b.1947) | 4'0" dia. Acrylic on wood

 

Warriorship is a continual journey. To be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life. The goal of warriorship is to express basic goodness in its most complete, fresh and brilliant form  - Chogyam Trungpa.

 

Born in 1947 - the year of the pig. Born of Chinese stock, a dash of Trini magic and here I am, an artist by genes and love. Most of my years, no matter where, I would return to my birth village, Enterprise - a pelau community on the fringe of the Caroni canes. After elementary school, finished at Presentation College, Chaguanas and with no tutor, secured a pass in art. With the love of art close at heart but far from family tradition. A round d road trip to now has been my life.

 

As a graphic artist I have designed several corporate logos - Kirpalani, Petrotrin -notable entries into the art world.

 

No formal art education. I have participated in several Art Society shows. My first solo exhibition in the eighties at Art Creators, and in the nineties at Aquarela Galleries. Many of my pieces are in private collections, here at home and abroard.

 

My choice of material varies. Maybe I create like my father when he was cooking:

 

A bit of this
A bit of that
In the end
It tastes goooooood
My work follows no standard pattern.
I work
I create
I use this
I use that
My soul
My inner truth
Out until it's done
No more to give
Of late I find myself walking in my ancestors' shadows.

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Sybil Atteck
(b.1911 d.1975)

 

Still Life with Fruit
1955
Sybil Atteck (b.1911 d.1975)
Oil on canvas
Panmen
(c.1960)
Sybil Atteck (b.1911 d.1975)
Oil on canvas

 

Sybil Atteck was born in Rio Claro in 1911. In the mid 1920's her family moved to Port of Spain.

Atteck joined the Botanical Department of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1928, where she produced botanical renderings. In 1934, she studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic, London.

In 1942, she continued her studies in Lima, Peru, with a particular interest in Inca pottery, a form of expression that she related to the Caribbean's pre-Columbian art. In 1943, she attended the School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri, where she was a student of the German Expressionist, Max Beckmann.

Atteck's images and style form the nucleus of Trinidad and Tobago's first recognisable school which prevailed throughout the 1950's and '60's. She celebrated the birth of a new nation with images of Trinidad and Tobago's landscape, birds, dances and festivals as the new symbols of national identity.

As a sculptor, Atteck is best known for her ceramic murals in the reception area of the Hilton Hotel and Stations of the Cross at Malick Roman Catholic Church.

Shortly after she was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) for her contribution to art in 1975, Atteck died of cancer.

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Kathryn Chan

Old Port of Spain
Hidden Agenda
2004 
Kathryn Chan
Archipelago
Kathryn Chan
Fresco

Kathryn Chan's installations aim to capture feelings, moments in life and states of being that are fleeting, yet last forever in the psyche. Her vision encompasses her own journey and identity, as well as current social situations and natural phenomena.

This genre of work derives from a background of social commentary in the ole mas' and calypso traditions of the Trinidad Carnival. Her current work has evolved from her formative years as a painter and later experience as a theatrical designer for large-scale productions in the Trinidad carnival and of costumes and sets for contemporary dance within the traditional theatre.

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Carlisle Chang
(b.1921 d.2001)

 

Inherent Nobility of Man 1962 | Carlisle Chang (b.1921 d.2001) | Study for mural at Piarco international Airport Arrival Hall 1962
Destroyed for airport's extension 1977.

Son of a Chinese immigrant, Carlisle Chang was born in 1921 near the Croissée, San Juan. After the death of his father, Chang grew up close to his sister, Beryl, who he helped by tracing designs for the dresses she made.

Chang met artist Boscoe Holder in the mid-thirties. Holder introduced him to painting in oils and also to Amy Leong Pang, who gave him art lessons. In 1939 Chang exhibited his first paintings at an exhibition by the Society of Trinidad Independents. In 1942 he won the Porter Competition to execute a mural for the Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board.

In 1945 Chang went to New York to study photography and for the first time he was introduced to serious art.

Chang was awarded a scholarship in 1950 from the British Council to the Central School of Arts and Crafts to study mural painting and ceramics. Returning to Trinidad in 1955, Chang immediately gained recognition.

Throughout his career, Chang has been a leading designer of Carnival costumes.

Chang no longer painted seriously after 1970 as a result, he says, of the deliberate destruction of one of his murals, The Inherent Nobility of Man at Piarco Airport. Chang died in 2001.

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Willi Chen
(b.1934)

 

Solar Marinorama 1983 | Willi Chen (b.1934) | 14'0"x64'0" | Steel, copper, brass and acrylic enamel

Willi Chen was born on October 23, 1934, to John and Iris Chen, immigrants from Guangdong Province in China. His father owned a shop in Cedros and Chen remembers stumbling upon his passion for art and design while sitting and drawing on brown paper.

Versatile and inquisitive in his daily approach to life, Chen, is a respected businessman, artist, playwright, poet, journalist, author and mentor and feels he has achieved his wildest dreams.

Chen has been honoured for his many contributions to Trinidad and Tobago, including the Chaconia Silver received in 2006 and Hummingbird Silver medal he received in 1989. In 2000 Chen was voted the most important Caribbean writer of Chinese origin and in 2005 was given the San Fernando East Constituency Award for Art and Culture.

He attributes his experience in construction to his love of sculpture. Purchasing a welding machine to complete construction on his parents home, he used to create his work. Solar Marinorama is one example of his skill in metalwork. 14'0"x64'0" long, Solar Marinorama was the winning entry in a competition hosted by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in 1988.

Chen conducts free painting and drawing workshops for his students.

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Patrick Warsing Chu Foon
(b.1931 d.1998)

Abstract Scupture
Patrick Warsing Chu Foon (b.1931 d.1998)
Reconstituted Stone
Tranfinite Passage(c.1990)
Patrick Warsing Chu Foon
19.25"x23.75"
Acrylic on board

Patrick "Pat" Warsing Chu Foon was born in Port of Spain on 3rd October 1931. He attended Rosary Boys R.C. School and later Tanquillity Intermediate.

In 1963, Chu Foon received a scholarship to study at the University of the Americas where he gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine and Applied Arts. He continued his studies in sculpture at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico, Academia San Carlos. He was the first Trinidadian to exhibit work at the International Salon, Museum of fine Arts, Mexico.

Several of Port of Spain's public sculptures are the work of Chu Foon: The Spirit of HopeTribute to the Steelband MovementMother and Child5th World Netball Series and Lord Kitchener. He has also produced private commissions: Aspirations for L.J. Williams & Co. Ltd. and Claude Noel for ISCOTT. In 1963 he was the first artist to receive Trinidad and Tobago's Hummingbird Medal for sculpture. Until his death in 1998, Chu Foon demonstrated an unusual ability to master expressions in a variety of mediums.

About his work Chu Foon says: "My paintings deal mainly with spatial elements ....... My sculptures are extensions of my paintings, occupying an area of positive space - a point of reference within space which we all share in relation to the infinite."

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Susan Dayal
(b.1968)

 

Circus Freak | Susan Dayal (b.1968) | 12"x8"; 11"x9" | Acrylic, nails and wire on plywood

 

Susan Dayal was born in 1968. She studied art at the Croydon College of Art and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Scotland, where she received a degree in Fine Art and Sculpture.

Since graduating, Dayal has been developing as both artist and crafts person. Much of her work as a student was related to the translation of linear drawing into three dimension and then using light and shadows to translate the three dimension back into two dimension. She works with wire, sheet metal and mild steel to make life-sized and larger scaled work. She says that although these works were not born in a mas' camp, the technique is reminiscent of wire bending.

In 1993 Dayal began to design and make a line of commercial craft out of wire, which she sells locally and exports. The discipline of making commercial work on a daily basis has provided technical experience that has formed a basis for her more conceptual art work.

Dayal has exhibited both locally and abroad. In 1998 she participated in a group show organized by Caribbean Contemporary Art. Later that year, she exhibited in Lips Sticks and Marks, an exhibition of seven Caribbean women, which showed in Barbados and Trinidad. That same year she also participated in the Tulipamwe International Artists' workshop in Namibia. That year she also represented Trinidad at the Carivista, Visual Art Exhibition in Barbados.

In 1999 Dayal participated in the first Big River International Workshop. She mounted 13 Lunar Months in 2002 and in 2004 participated in a group show called Beauty Queens. The exhibition began in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and traveled to Vancouver, Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2005, Dayal mounted her fourth solo exhibition, She Show 2, in Martinique.

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Ou Edwin Hing Wan
(b.1932 d.1976)

 

Mouth of the River 1975 | Ou Edwyn Hing Wan (b.1932 d.1976) | 15"x22.5" | Watercolour

 

Ou "Edwin" Hing Wan was born in St Margaret's Village, Mayaro in 1932. Moving to Port of Spain, he attended Tranquility Intermediate School and later Queen's Royal College, where together with his friend and classmate Noel Vaucrosson, he was selected by the British Council to attend art classes. His greatest influence at the time was the watercolourist Eliot O'Hara.

Through classes at the Trinidad Art Society, he became a student of Commander Jack Wilson, who was stationed at the time at the United States Naval Base at Chaguaramas.

Shortly after he graduated from QRC in 1952, he developed a cyst on his spinal chord. Despite extensive treatment, he remained paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Despite his physical difficulties, his technique is mature, his use of colour distinctive. His subjects were the beaches, rivers and rural scenes of Mayaro, Manzanilla and Guayaguayare.

In 1975 Hing Wan mounted his only one person exhibition, at the National Museum and Art Gallery.

Hing Wan died in 1976 at the age of 43, succumbing to the desease that had left him paralysed for 23 years. He was posthumously awarded the Chaconia Silver Medal for Art.

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Greer Jones Woodham
(b.1955)

Potted Light 2005
Greer Jones-Woodham (b.1955)
36"x36"
Acrylic on canvas
Potted Light on Pink Anthuriums 2005
Greer Jones-Woodham (b.1955)
32"x32"
Acrylic on canvas

 

Greer Jones-Woodham was born in San Fernando in 1955. Her grandfather, Walter Lam See, was a Chinese immigrant from Guyana.

Educated at St. Raphael's Grade School, Jones-Woodham attended the John Donaldson Technical Institute where she studied Graphic Design. She later attended the PRATT Institute in New York where she received an Honours Degree in Fine Art and where, she was a Ford Foundation winner as an outstanding student in the field of Fine Art.

On her return to Trinidad in 1981, she received an award from the Trinidad Art Society for Frills and Pleats, a conceptual piece executed while she was at PRATT. Also on her return to Trinidad and Tobago, Jones-Woodham pioneered original screen-printing on textiles.

Her first exhibition was in 1985 at the Art Mart, and later at Art Creators, where she mounted her first textile exhibition, and at Gallery 1234. In the late 1980's and early 1990's she participated in several group exhibitions, including at Aquarela Galleries. In 2003 she mounted Two Frames of Mind, at Art Creators, an exhibition in which she allowed the viewer to look at two sides of one picture through double frames in a multi-dimensional view of life.

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Amy Leong Pang
(b.1908 d.1989)

Santa Cruz Landscape
(c.1935)
Amy Leong Pang (b.1908 d.1989)
8"x10"
Oil on board
Fish Market
(c.1935)
Amy Leong Pang (b.1908 d.1989)
8"x10"
Oil on board

 

Amy Leong Pang was born in Princes Town in 1908. As a young person, she was sent to school in China where it is known she painted. From the late 1920's she lived in Port of Spain.

During the politically restless years of the 1930's Leong Pang was one of the founder members of a group which called itself The Society of Trinidad Independents. Established in 1929 its members included CLR James, Alfred Mendes, Albert Gomes, Ivy Achoy and the painter Hugh Stollmeyer.

The Independents ignored all class and social barriers, gathered in private homes, painted and discussed their ideas. Socially condemned as being outrageous and bohemian the group survived only until 1938. Leong Pang, however, was not deterred, participating as a founder member of the Trinidad Art Society in 1943.

Being an extremely private person, few people were previleged to know her. Her influence can be seen in the art of the 1940's, particularly in the work of Hugh Stollmeyer and early examples of work by Boscoe Holder and Carlisle Chang.

Until her death in 1989, Leong Pang continued her interest in other artists, always quietly supportive at their exhibitions and salons.

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Cynthia McLean
(b.1941)

Persistence
Cynthia McLean (b.1941)
13.5"x18.75"
Copper and oil on canvas
Fishing Boats
2005
Cyntha McLean  (b.1941)
Oil on canvas

Cynthia McLean was born in 1941 in San Fernando. She attended St. Joseph Convent where her greatest influence was her art teacher, Sister Alfonso. Later she attended extra mural courses with M.P. Alladin and the Southern Art Society.

 

McLean's work was initially predominantly three-dimensional in copper, brass and aluminium. Later she combined sculptural forms with oil and acrylics, with an emphasis on the relationship of colour and light.

In her work she captures the spirit of the Caribbean and its people, reflecting their surroundings: from the awesome rainforests to the sweet rhythm of pan.

McLean's work captures the energy, passion and spiritual beauty of her people.

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Audley Sue Wing
(b.1939)

Yellow Bananas
1963
Audley Sue Wing   (b.1939)
24"x24"
Cannes Brullee
1965
Audley Sue Wing (b.1939)
27"x32"

Audley Sue Wing; artist, painter, print and visual arts consultant was born 16 August 1939, first of eight sibilings of an African/Scottish mother and Chinese father, at Tunapuna, Trinidad. He started drawing at an early age. This impressed his first tutor M.P.Alladin, who encouraged his efforts to be an artist.

Early works in pencil, charcoal, pastel and gouache were exhibited at the Evening Institute and Bi-annual Art Festivals. At 15 he met Sybil and Evril Rawle owners of Deltex Art Shop and Sybil Atteck, painter and founder of Trinidad Art Society. They introduced him to oil painting and junior membership of the Trinidad Art Society. He is still an active member.

He studied with foreign and local artists at the British Council, attended exhibitions and admired the paintings of Atteck, Chang, Cromwell, and Lamming. He received art and design instruction from Carlisle Chang and painted with Sybil Atteck. Like other young artists, Patrick Chu Foon, Leo Glasgow and George Lynch, he sought to create his own identity. He exhibited regularly at Atteck, Carlart and Nina's Art Galleries and TAS's annual November exhibition and designed several exhibition catalogue covers.

His painting "The New Dawn" was awarded ‘Best Work of Art' at the 1962 Inaugural Independence Art Exhibition. His works hang in several business, private and public collections notably Chase Manhattan Bank, NYC, Commonwealth Institute in London, Trinidad Hilton Hotel, the National Museum and Art Gallery, Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and the University of the West Indies. He has exhibited locally, regionally and internationally at VII and VIII Sao Paulo Bienals, the Commonwealth Institute and the UWI campuses, Art Creators, Kiskadee Cultural Laboratory and Fine Arts Gallery.

His print references include Through the eye of the Artist, Shared Visions and The Central Bank Art Collection. His art education embraces London College of Printing, School of Visual Arts and Art Students League in NYC and more recently UWI, graduating with a Visual Arts Special honours degree.

Sue Wing continues to paint and exhibit, currently experimenting with water media and creating collages at his Santa Cruz studio.

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Brian Wong Won
(b.1970)

 

Sonja's War Paint | Brian Wong Won (b.1970) | 24"x36" | Gouache on paper

Brian Wong Won was born in 1970 and grew up in Woodbrook, Port of Spain. He attended St. Mary's College and later studied art at Florida International University where he received a Bachelors degree in Fine Art.

He describes his art: My paintings try to compress everything - every detail, every emotion, every energy, and the atmosphere - everything into one. The take the viewer back into the carnival atmosphere making him lost, enraptured and entangled in the intricate sea of form, line and colour.

Wong Won works primarily in gouache, a water-based medium that has its origins as far back as the Italian Renaissance. A slightly flat and chalky medium, it proves amenable to his style and nature of painting. It gives him the clear, flat and precise colours that he seeks. He terms his work at times a reality in an animated existence. His paintings do not seek to be realist interpretations.

Representational in nature, his work takes on a different perspective with regard to visual and aesthetic elements. Colour plays an integral part of the picture, as does the compositional treatment in the construction of the work.

Delineation of foreground and middle ground of his paintings are blurred, becoming a combination of eschewed perspective that flows with the beat of pan and calypso.

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Raymond Yawching
(b.1969)

 

Banking Barker 1 | Raymond Yawching (b.1969) | 28"x48" | Graphite on paper

Raymond Yawching was born in San Fernando in 1969. His interest in art began when he was a child of five, sketching shoot-outs between cowboys and World War II scenes - but always had an amazing love for aeroplanes.

Yawching was educated at Presentation College and the San Fernando Technical College.

Denied his wish to be a pilot he says that he decided to draw aircraft so much that I wanted them to look like they were real. This opened a new world of art for Yawching: sign-painting, portraits, landscapes, bikes and boats. Working in graphite and acrylic, these he executes with extraordinary realism.

 

Acknowledgements

The Artists and their representatives:

James Amow, Phil and Helen Atteck, Kathryn Chan, Willi Chen, Mikael Chu Foon, Greer Jones-Woodham, Cynthia McLean, 
Rodney RamlogaN, Sonja Sinaswee, Audley Sue Wing, H. A. Selby Wooding

Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, National Museum and Art Gallery, Kudoz Exhibition and Design Services

Sponsors:

Digicel, The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, National Lotteries Control Board, Republic Bank LimitedTelecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited, Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago LimitedSynergy Entertainment Network

Algico, Albrosco, BG Group, JTA Supermarkets, LJ Williams Limited, Scotiabank, William H Scott Limited, York Garments Limited96.1wefm, 107.7fm, 95.5fm, Red 96.7fm

Original Catalogue:

Graphic Design: Isabel Brash
Biographies and text: The artists and Geoffrey MacLean
Printing: Scrip-J Limited

Copyright Geoffrey MacLean © 2006