CLR Dub

Che Lovelace

I made this painting of a J’Ouvert morning on the Carnival streets of Port of Spain; and placed CLR James in the middle of it among the revellers.

Portrait of CLR James. 2020. Che Lovelace. Acrylic and dry pigment on board panels. 60x50in

I was thinking about that entire generation of artists, musicians, writers, scholars and people in various fields who had to leave…or felt compelled to leave the Caribbean especially after World War II, for the possibility of a better life and opportunities.

The Windrush generation who emigrated to the UK between 1948 and 1970 represents such a movement.

Detail. Portrait of CLR James. 2020. Che Lovelace

Of course while so many individuals went on to contribute in profound ways to the societies where they settled, I always wonder about that sense of longing  and sacrifice that surely goes along with a displacement so significant.

The notion of ‘Home’ as a place to operate from, as a place that inspires the voice with which one calls out to the world…this notion would suddenly have a new meaning.

But one also carries this ‘Home’ across the seas and protects it like a precious locket, sacred and treasured; not just for comforting but as an active tool with which to carve a little space out in what must have been a dense new place.

I have always felt for example that the underlying ethos of inclusion and participation as it relates to Carnival; Mas as we call it, is such a potent example of how, armed with small fragments of this idea called ‘Home’ a migrant community can help give shape to new places. Help those places somehow see themselves and their potential more clearly.

Maybe it was because the Caribbean immigrant had already sensed the potential for an inclusive society back in the West Indies, at least its beginnings, and had begun to find progressive ways to frame, process and heal from the harsh legacy of colonial history.

Detail. Portrait of CLR James. 2020. Che Lovelace

Maybe they saw human potential as bonded together, through street theater, music and communal creativity.

They may very well have held a secret optimism and expected the same potential from these new places.

Detail. Portrait of CLR James. 2020. Che Lovelace

While many of the Caribbean writers, from that generation especially, operated outside of the Caribbean; they seemed to really value that umbilical connection to the Caribbean space. These little dots of islands and the concerns and character of the people here remained a subject in their work.

Some returned periodically, some much less. But in a sense maybe part of them was always here.

Detail. Portrait of CLR James. 2020. Che Lovelace

So while I did make the painting as a homage to CLR. it really is his homecoming picture…a return to his original source.

Che Lovelace was born in San Fernando, Trinidad and grew up in the east coast village of Matura. Now based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Lovelace’s art originates primarily from his experience of living and working in Trinidad and Tobago. His paintings which are rendered in a vivid assortment of pigments on combined  board panels, are strongly rooted in depicting the dense, highly charged layers of the Trinidadian landscape which he sees as physical, social and spiritual. 

Che received his fine art training at l’Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts de la Martinique. He has been a principal collaborator on  several arts, Carnival and entertainment projects including the Studiofilmclub and the recently established Friends For The Road J’Ouvert, a traditional Carnival project. His practice increasingly includes elements of performance which he absorbs into his painting process. 

Lovelace currently lecturers at the University of the West Indies Creative Arts department and has an upcoming solo exhibition at the Los Angeles gallery, Various Small Fires.

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