In black and white
Arlette St Hill has been a prominent player in the Barbadian artscape for many years, as artist, art educator and multimedia specialist, to mention a few of her many involvements. She is perhaps best known for her mixed media and pastel works, but she has chosen to explore a more graphic approach which, executed in stark black on white, has proven to be her most powerful work to date.
“In Black And White my choice of medium lends itself to the expression of my interest in the bold graphic representation of my work. My exploration of line, texture, contrast, and movement help me to communicate the visual expression of my ideas,” St Hill said.
“Through the rhythmic content of my themes I seek to convey the connection I feel between music and spirituality. The content of this body of artwork is a repetition of the themes of womanhood, ancestry, and spirituality, the very beat of the soul as every breath embraces the rhyme of life.”
The figure is still the dominant motif, but its interaction with the environment in which it is placed creates a new dynamic. This dynamic is mystic and rhythmic. The omnipresent drum summons the viewer to dance in Roaming Minstrels, to pray in New Dawn, to be awakened to our inward spirituality in At The Temple Gate, or it calls us to worship indeed as in Call To Worship.
The relationship between figure and ground, man and nature fascinates and intrigues the viewer. There is no disconnect here; the two are intrinsically entwined. The environment has been created by the artist herself with occasional reference to perspective or landscape. Indeed in Worship Valley the figures form the landscape.
There is, throughout the works, an organic growth that drives the composition, creating a satisfying and complete wholeness. Yet there is no dull repetition here. There is variety, as there is in nature.
In Boardwalk Blues the drum has given way to wind instruments. There is instead a jazz vibe, but the rhythm, the music lives on within the varied widths of black and white lines, swirling, strident and sensuous all at once. The works are enhanced with tribal markings and design motifs that provide texture and balance to their strong linearity.
In this St Hill’s latest showing, one senses that the ancestral voices are present and are speaking loud and clear. And could anything be clearer than black and white?