Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Monk's Tale

The artist disappears. For three years. The occasional facebook postings show photographs of a hillside 'fastness'* a figurative walled garden overlooking the sea, somewhere on Trinidad's remote north east. Rows of bodi and melongene, heart-shaped dasheen leaves unfurl and are reaped. The daily bread delivers a melting pot - yam, green fig, pigeon peas, ochros, seasonings, fish. The admonition, "plant food," becomes his mantra. He photographs house renovations and angled views; from the studio, frames of early morning light and cloud hover on the coast. This domain envelops the artist like a cocoon, cell of solitude and transformation.

Looks like home: detail from Landscape with Two Hills
acrylic and collage on paper
Eddie Bowen describes this time on the estate in Sans Souci - translates literally "no worries" - as the monastery. Away from the noise and the bustle, the niceties of social living, the saying one thing to cover another, the artist's infrequent forays into town make him strange if not a stranger. At Sans Souci, monastic discipline turns daily routine into a telling of the hours - garden work, kitchen work, housework, drawing and painting as meditation. So many hours of contemplative pen stroke and brush work and re-work deliver detail, colour, shape, pattern, complexity.

Garden Drawing, black ink on paper

Detail, Garden Drawing 
Detail, Garden Drawing

Whose secret indoor garden? - detail from Tenement
acrylic on canvas
It is now late in 2012 that Eddie Bowen re-appears. He looks like the country-bookie farmer, a little diffident, a little hobbit-y, a little glassy eyed, a lot pleased with the years' bounty. He is changed. Here is the artist as wizard, his hands the masters of straight lines, conjurer of maps, patterns and order, symmetry and architecture. His fellows are the Jouvert mystics, otherworld personages "dropping in" to provide an outside perspective.

Detail, The Wizard 
acrylic on paper
Detail, Mystic Jouvert
acrylic on canvas
Here are landscapes that are intensely familiar but other.  Look at the tropical rainforest and see beyond the bush, for in these wild gardens are abundance and mystery; the primordial wildness of imagination. Use wizard's eyes to see: Landscape with Spire; Two Hills; Pyramid House with Red Tree; Jumbie Tree. These are hopeful landscapes of unbridled energy. Complexity - a cypher for biodiversity - rules in Bowen's trees, dwellings and structures exposed or sheltered, on his island, in his cell.

Detail, Caribbean Cell
ink/acrylic on paper
Detail shows a boat on a busy sea, Island
acrylic inks on paper

Detail, Island

Composting and planting in recycled containers, replanting in cycles of root and shoot, flower and pod are techniques that delivered more than food. Here on the land, light, rain and dirt provided an education which tutored the mind in fullness and sufficiency. Study the Garden Drawing as the world re-drawn into the Sans Souci garden.

It's no wonder that humans in these worlds are imbued with powers:  Wizard Juggling Vortices; Warrior Queen; Goddess Meditating and the Carnival Babe as fertility goddess.

Wizard Juggling Vortices
acrylic inks on paper
Tales from the monastery - Sans Souci 2009 to 2012 - come out of Bowen's unique Caribbean cell, out of solitude and wildness. The artist as monk has turned his meditations into a Jacob's ladder linking heaven and earth. Eddie Bowen's Paintings from the Monastery continues at Medulla Gallery, 37 Fitt Street until November 13, 2012. These are Trini landscapes that imagine the way to re-integrate culture and the wild.

A pleasant land of counterpane: Landscape with Spire
acrylic inks and oil pastel

*A secure refuge, esp. a place well protected by natural features.

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