With deep regrets, The National Gallery of Jamaica announced today that the Jamaican Intuitive artist Gaston Lascelles Tabois passed away earlier this week, on November 20, 2012.
Gaston Tabois was born in Trout Hall, Clarendon in 1924 but grew up in the small community of Rock River. He spent quite a bit of time on his parents’ small farm, but it was the solid work ethic that was instilled in him by instruction and example particularly that of his mother who insisted on the importance of him taking his educational opportunities seriously.
His artistic talent was apparent from an early age as his elementary school teachers regularly tasked him with making charts for the classes. His dedication to self-improvement saw him teaching himself Latin, Spanish, History and Mathematics but it was art that remained a constant in his life, even with his entry into the civil service. Tabois eventually became the Acting Chief Draftsman in the Ministry of Construction but it was his artistic production that brought him national attention. As a self-taught painter, he held his first solo show at the Hills Gallery in Kingston in 1955, where he was immediately hailed as one of the era’s most significant “primitive” painters. He continued exhibiting with the Hills Gallery for several years and his painting Road Menders (1956), which is now a prized part of the NGJ Collection, was originally shown there.
His early paintings typically depict Jamaican country life with a loving eye for detail and key sense of observation and his “naive” disregard for scale and perspective gave them a lively quality that appealed to the patrons of what was then regarded as an emerging “primitive” Jamaican school. The terms “primitive: and later “intuitive” were however never a comfortable fit for Tabois as it was his goal to be considered in the same light as the European masters. Tabois had been quoted as saying “there’s always room for improvement,” and he constantly sought to evolve as an artist.