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Noel's dream

St Ann artist plans to elevate quality of art, build interest among youth

Alesia Edwards

Monday, August 20, 2012    

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NORWOOD, St Ann — You may not immediately recognise his name, but some of his work is available in major galleries in Kingston.

Noel Whittingham's creations include landscapes, nature and rustic settings, and architecture such as the painting of the 20th century clock tower in St Ann's Bay. The artist intends to use them as a fillip to elevate the quality of visual arts in his native parish.

He believes the potential on the north coast is vast, and his aim is to bridge the quality divide he said has existed for many years.

"We have craft markets and all that, but the type of upscale kind of thing you don't have much of that around here, or least for the public," explained Whittingham who recently hosted a three-day art exhibition at Seacrest Resort in Priory.

"It's kind of sensitising people towards appreciating and accepting art in general, and the finer side of art [in particular]," he added. Whittingham, who studied art at Jose Marti Technical in Spanish Town, St Catherine, in the 1980s, said he plans to make his exhibition an annual summer event with a view to build interest among young people. His plans also include adopting and developing the art programme at Clarksonville All-Age School in Borobidge, St Ann, as of this September.

The former art coordinator at Breezes Resort in Runaway Bay told the Jamaica Observer North East that he wants to help young artists raise their motivation and self-confidence as well as build the Jamaican brand of artwork.

And his own work is intrinsically Jamaican.

"I enjoy doing landscapes that depict the various cultural things in Jamaica that we often forget. I also enjoy historic sites. I pay quite a bit of attention to Seville Heritage Park in St Ann's Bay," Whittingham said.

Having spent many years honing his craft, the 41-year-old Whittingham is now poised to share his passion and hopes it will serve to keep young men, in particular, off the streets and out of trouble.

"This (need to impart) knowledge to the young people is in hope of getting people to become more aware of art as a subject and hopefully these young people will be able to participate in the annual festival that we're looking at," he said.

Whittingham also dreams of getting Jamaican artists and their work more recognised, not just on a national level, but internationally. He believes there is enough talent in the country to take it there.

"Art is evolving, and I want to see it evolve in a better light for Jamaica. I want to see art reach to the point where someone in Australia or Europe would plan a trip to come down and get some Jamaican art. That is what I would really want to see happen for Jamaican art," he said.

Added he: "I think that if we can get to the point where people will mention the Jamaican art by name, plan a trip to come here for our art, and the art can become a topic of conversation on the international art scene, then I will feel better."

He explained that while he does not expect to see a local paintings being sold for the US$120-m for which Edvard Much's The Scream was recently sold during an auction in New York, he anticipates the day when Jamaican artwork commands much more attention.

"If we can get to the point where we can command the kind of attention that is happening in some of the First World countries or even developing countries that are now making an impression on the art scene, I will be happy," Whittingham said.

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