Saturday, 07 March 2009 06:00
By Simply XQuisite
When walking along the beach, I often come across oddly shaped, white and weathered pieces of driftwood that have washed ashore. For some, it is rotting wood or waste. But an artist sees it differently; through their eyes, this can become a masterpiece.
Georgie Tuson is one such artist. She lives on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou since 1994, and is a native of Brazil. She began painting calabash bowls, tiles and boxes to support her family. Today, Georgie also paints driftwood and offcuts of wood from traditional Windward sloops. Her work can be seen throughout the Caribbean in boutiques and art galleries, and they decorate homes around the world.
A mother of three (an eight year old girl and two boys, ten and fourteen), Georgie’s work has evolved from her experiences as a female, struggling to provide for her children. As such, the focus of her work tends to be mostly about being a Woman and the uncompromising strength needed to survive and to protect her children.
I recently had the pleasure to interview Georgie, whose first solo exhibition will be held at Harmony Hall on Sunday, March 8th, 2009.
Q. Is this your first exhibition in Antigua?
A. This is my first solo show at Harmony Hall in Antigua. For over fourteen years I have been painting calabashes, tiles and boxes which have been on sale at Harmony Hall, Rhythm of Blue Art Gallery and the Fig Tree Gallery. I have also exhibited my work in group exhibitions and sold to buyers as far away as New York, Zurich and Ireland.
Q. What is the theme of this exhibition and why have you chosen it?
A. It’s mostly about ‘Woman’ and how strong we have to be, and how hard we have to work to provide for our children. Sometimes we don’t even notice how fast they grow and before we know it they’re off to explore the world. In addition to ‘Woman’, some pieces focus on ‘Eyes’. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and the eyes of my people both reveal and hide deep emotions.
Q. How long have you been an artist, and how did you discover your talent?
A. I’ve always been creative. For many years I was living and traveling on a boat and this gave me the freedom to explore my creativity.
Q. Have you had formal training or are you self-taught? How did you acquire your knowledge and skill?
A. I did a one year Art Foundation Course. They wanted me to be a painter but I wanted to do everything. Instead, I went sailing! Living and traveling on the boat gave me the time and inspiration to work in many different media and I had the chance to explore themes and ideas while mastering various techniques.
Q. Is there a distinction between Georgie the ‘Woman’ and Georgie the ‘Artist’?
A. Georgie, the ‘Woman,’ is mostly concerned with caring for my children and creating a loving, happy environment for them with my partner Dave. But Georgie, the ‘Artist.’ is always in the background observing colours, textures, and situations.
Q. What are the most important influences that have inspired or motivated you as an artist?
A. The cultures of the Middle East, Africa and South America countries are always in the back of my mind; however, I’m always most influenced by where I am. Presently, I live and work in Carriacou and its colours, lifestyle and, most of all the people influence my work. My partner, Dave, and I live in Windward where traditional wooden sloops are still built. Some of my work is painted on off cuts from the building of those sloops. In parts of Carriacou, life is still simple and people use open fires for cooking, cisterns for water, buckets for washing.
Q. How do you go about choosing the material and subject for your projects and what sort of preparation is involved before you actually begin to paint?
A. The children and I walk the coast picking up likely bits of driftwood. Dave and I raid the boat building sites for off cuts. Sometimes the piece of wood itself suggests an idea or I might have had an image in my head for a while of something or someone I’ve seen. I also collect bits of broken pottery from the times of the Plantation life and stick those on to some of the pieces with sea glass, shells, stones and odd shaped bits of flotsam.
Q. What are you trying to achieve in this exhibition? What sort of impact do you expect your current showing to have on viewers?
A. I’m trying to show there is more to being a woman and more to being a child of the Caribbean, than sun and fun. There are hidden depths. I hope that viewers will revel in the colours and textures but look deep into the eyes of the people and see more.
Q. What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out and contemplating painting driftwood?
A. Don’t expect miracles at first and be sensitive to what makes that particular bit of wood different and special.