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Fielding’s art-ful legacy

Ricky Jordan

Fielding’s art-ful legacy

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FIELDING BABB’S patience and eye for detail are amazing, as he captures the buildings, monuments and landmarks of Barbados; so that when they are gone, posterity will have no problem recognising their architectural strengths, imperfections and veritable aura.

In fact, the visual artist’s exhibition spanning Heritage Month at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination is such a labour of love that one can only be proud of his deserving legacy and rewards.

“I would advise any youngster going into the field of art never to start for the love of money. Start for the love of the arts,” Babb told EASY.

“Money will follow afterwards. It sounds jokey in a time when we need money, but to be creative and to have a legacy left for generations to come, we should never concentrate on money. Painting for the love of money will cramp your creativity,” he added.

No wonder the paintings covering the period 1969 to 2013 echo his commitment to document the changing landscape of Barbados for the last half-cenury. Inspired by a female painter of the 1950s, Babb has captured a still-developing Barbados in vibrant colour.

“Photographs at the time were mainly black and white so I was able to capture colour in the paintings and it worked out nicely for me today, because I do not now have to look back and create colour. I can actually look at it and say this is the colour it was 20, 40 or 50 years ago,” Babb stated.

The exhibition, curated by Janice Whittle with assistance from Hartley Alleyne, includes Babb’s 2008 painting of the Mutual Building in Bridgetown with its numerous windows, precise angles and curves, the Savannah Clock angles and curves, the Savannah Clock and neighbouring George Washington House, the Fountain Garden from 1996, and an interesting profile of Sunbury Plantation.

He also views Codrington College from the perspective of its wide pool and woods, reflects on the Jetty at Speightstown from 1969, and takes viewers on a trek of Alkins Road in Carrington Village and Round the Town in St Peter.

Sandy Lane is also captured in the 1990s before reconstruction, while a 1973 painting of Palmetto Square recalls the pre-vendors’ market days, and the now deconsecrated St Joseph Parish Church, reconstructed Masonic Lodge, and Carnegie Library (1981), complete the pieces – all of which are oil on canvas.

Babb said while he had built his home on art between the 1960s and ’70s, he kept some on the advice of the late Karl Broodhagen.

“He told me, ‘Never get rid of pieces that you truly love’, but as a young man needing money to build, I was forced to limit my selection. This is one which I never want to lose,” he said, pointing to the Palmetto Square piece. This exhibition, according to president of the Barbados Arts Council, Rashid Boodhoo, also speaks loudly to the fact that art needs a home: a national art gallery.

“There’s nothing keeping us back but the people behind it who can make it happen. The economic crisis doesn’t affect us because we already have the collection, and there are so many buildings that are sitting there doing nothing. It just needs someone brave enough to make the start and go forward. With this present committee, we are brave enough to push it, and with the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley backing us and wanting to see this happen, we hope soon that this will become a reality,” Boodhoo said.

Basically ruling out some of the older buildings because of their mould and the massive infrastructural work that would be needed, Boodhoo said a few newer buildings could be available for the national art gallery.

“One thing the minister has been pushing, and I’m fully behind him, is getting the work into current Government buildings, and within the next two to three months we will be moving out 200 to 300 pieces into these Government-owned spaces,” he added.

Meanwhile, the exhibition of one of Barbados’ best loved visual artists continues.