Walking in to the Opening of the Michael Wong Loi Sing exhibition at the Alliance Francaise in Castries, my immediate thought was that I can’t remember seeing so much art from one artist at one time in St. Lucia before. (Wong Loi Sing pictured on right talks to one of the guests)
You could hardly decide where to turn, as at every degree of vision there was something more to see. Art everywhere, hanging from the doorway, draped across the floor, worn with pride by many of his co-workers from St. Joseph’s Convent where he currently teaches Visual Art (my successor). Moments after arriving I saw a teacher walk in and in 5 minutes or less, her dress became his latest artwork. I was advised to go and look at the coconut trees in the car park – they were clad in art too.
Wong Loi Sing, originally from Suriname, comes from a family of artists and firmly believes that art has a vital place in society, in developing personal and cultural expression and in developing the depth of our characters individually and nationally. He has exhibited in many countries; Denmark, California USA, the Netherlands, France, Trinidad and now St. Lucia.
His academic qualifications are unquestionable but what captures people’s interest is his obvious enthusiasm for his work, the vibrancy of his painting, the layers of images and meanings that no matter how many times you look, are never exhausted, leaving you wondering if he popped back and added something else in while you weren’t watching.
Where many of us artists hesitate, he seems to sprint effortlessly forward, and I think it’s safe to say that every artist that attended this evening felt drawn to follow. I joked that I felt awfully lazy surrounded by his prolificacy, but more so I felt encouraged and inspired to produce more work.
It truly would be refreshing to see more artists - of all genres - producing this kind of quantity; granted, it wouldn't be right for everyone, there are those whose work requires days, weeks and months of careful subtle adjustments, and that is the nature of its beauty, but for many, working this freely and enthusiastically might yield much more depth and strength of character than they may conceive possible.
Well, giving local and visiting artists the opportunity to hold workshops with their peers and with teachers would be a good place to start. We have seen many positive developments in more recent years - the run of various exhibitions at the Alliance Francaise being one of them, as is the development of more local galleries like Inner Gallery, St. Lucia Fine Art, and Olivette Wallace's new gallery at the Blue Coral Bldg right in the centre of Castries, but we certainly have a marathon ahead of us.
The loss of our annual Fine Arts Exhibition for the past couple of years has not helped either- and this after in 2006 having a visiting judge from St. Vincent - Vonnie Roudette - who led a wonderful day's workshop for the participating artists afterward. Unfortunately as is most often the case, the enthusiasm of the attendees withered away as not one of the concepts for activities or facilities managed to break through the wall of inertia that still stands resolutely and intact, impeding the way forward in St. Lucia's Visual Arts scene.
So, CDF, Government-Cabinet, Ministry of Education, Private Sector, Hotels, Restaurants, Architects, City Planners, what are we going to do about this?
At least, before Mr. Wong Loi Sing departs our island, someone, fund and organize for him to hold a workshop with Art Teachers and another one for interested artists...
As always, your thoughts, ideas, queries, suggestions are most welcome - please do contribute in the comments section.
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All art copyright of Micheal Wong Loi Sing
Photos by Finola Prescott