Jamaican master going strong

Private collectors generously loan their pieces for art showing

This week saw an exhibition of works by prominent Jamaican artists at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.

Organised by the Jamaican consulate, it featured paintings generously lent by private collectors and included such notable artists as Barrington Watson, Albert Huie and Alexander Cooper.

Cooper is one of a handful of master painters in Jamaica, and even as he approaches the age of 80, he is still actively working. His “Then and Now” exhibition is slated to open on 16 August, 2012, at the Mutual Life Gallery with pieces that depict life in Jamaica from the past through to modern times.

Early on

He was born in Enfield, St. Mary in 1934 and knew from the age of about 12 that he wanted to be an artist. His mother, like most parents, was not keen on him following this particular path and originally suggested accountancy instead, but young Cooper would not be swayed. When he made it clear that art was what he wanted to pursue, she said “If that’s what you want I will continue to assist you.”

His contemporary and inspiration, Osmond Watson attended the Jamaica School of Art with him, which was later renamed the Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts. They were two of only a few budding artists, as the arts in Jamaica were in their infancy and were only just beginning to get more recognition by the public.

Early fame

By the time Cooper was about 22 years old he was able to sell his work and five years later he was a household name.

He was interviewed on television and held travelling exhibitions throughout the country. He also went to the United States for some time to study others’ techniques, but eventually returned to Jamaica to teach at the school that had helped him jump-start his career. Needless to say his mother was very proud of his accomplishments.

In the early days of his life as a painter, tourists were mainly purchasing his pieces, yet nowadays his own countrymen are some of his biggest supporters.