Hinkson launches book of watercolours

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A report by Debra Greaves for Trinidad’s Newsday.

Jackie Hinkson has been working in watercolours in half a century, and that milestone was marked last Monday with The Light in Paint: 50 Years of Watercolours, an art exhibition and launch of a book of his watercolours.

That evening, was followed on Tuesday by a free public lecture at the Art Society, St Vincent Avenue, Federation Park.

The lecture, by British curator and art historian Tim Wilcox, was presented to a packed gallery with standing room only. A very informative exposition that contextualised Hinkson’s work within the international and Caribbean space, the lecture examined three aspects of Hinkson’s paintings: architecture, water and light and colour.

It began with Wilcox’s interpretation of Hinkson’s Wet Day, a painting that took a quotidian scene – a wooden gate reflected in a puddle – and showcased the artist’s ability “to take nothing and make it into something,” in Wilcox’s words. The painting, juxtaposed with John Sell Cotman’s The Drop-Gate (1805, was a fitting beginning to a lecture that focused on the internationalism of watercolour painting and the making of a Caribbean painter.) The year 1805 notably also marked the first exhibition held by the Society of Painters in Watercolours, now the Royal Watercolour Society, in Britain, an important point, for as Wilcox pointed out: “We live with this legacy of watercolour painting.”

Hinkson’s work was further compared with other artists like Winslow Homer, Paul Cézanne, one of Hinkson’s personal favourites, John Singer Sargent, and Robert Hills. Through these comparisons one can safely say, as Wilcox noted, that: “The tradition of watercolour painting is not solely British or European.”

In his final section on light and colour, Wilcox drew a comparison with Cézanne’s fascination with properties of light and quality of light, noting that impressionist landscape had been based in the north of France and Cézanne brought it to the South to Provence to try and work with southern light.

Similarly Hinkson had spoken about “the challenge to him looking at European landscape painting and comparing it with what he sees and finds around him here when the quality of light and colours of the landscape… are nothing like Europe. But, in Wilcox’s view, ‘much of the essence of his art he seems to have worked out for himself…”

The painter Paul Signac had once noted that “there were only three painters who had taken watercolour seriously, Turner, Jongkind and Cézanne.” The first, he categorised as an idealist, the second as a realist and the third as an analyst. If we are to look at Jackie Hinkson’s work, Wilcox remarked, “we find elements of all of those qualities in his work…so we don’t need to ask any more whether this picture has anything to do with Cotman…or…Winslow Homer or even Cézanne…because when you look at this…you immediately say, it’s Hinkson. And that is the quality of his art” –a fitting conclusion to an enlightening evening in tribute to the work of Jackie Hinkson, our own master artist who successfully embodies the ability to look at the world and its knowledge and make it his own.

The exhibition, 50 Years of Watercolours runs until October 21 at the Art Society. The Light in Paint: 50 years of Watercolours is available at Paper Based Bookstore, Normandie Hotel. The events and book were possible with the sponsorship of bpTT.

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