The Painter Warrior From Gonzales Hill

The sage notes that the double 11 number event which happened on November 11, 2020 was the first in 101 years and marks a cycle of change in the universe with new endeavours to be embarked upon while old life-style fade away.

For Leroy Clarke who celebrated his 82nd birthday on that day, it may well mark a major change event on the national landscape for a native son who has worked long and hard in the field to help raise fresh, young, strong trees to spread across this ever-reverberating land.

Cave

It’s now been nearly a year since he welcomed people to his cave at Cascade where rooms are stacked full with paintings completed in moments of frenzy and calm in these winter years.

Today, the painter warrior who walked tall and proud down the hills of Gonzales is now lying half-mast as he waits for a maker who beckons him back to the plains of Africa where he was a great hunter.

Writing in “Caribbean Beat” magazine on September, 1995. Jeremy Taylor had this to say

Symbols

“Artist LeRoy Clark has spent 25 years on a Caribbean epic which charts man’s spiritual growth from the depths to the heights. There’s no mistaking a LeRoy Clarke canvas: the size, the richness, the inimitable style, the recurrence of the basic symbols. LeRoy insists that his work is obeah, a deliberate evocation of untainted African energy and spirituality, both he claims — erased from modern consciousness.

De Woman (1976, Oil on Canvas). Courtesy the Collection of Clayton Gibbs, Trinidad. Photo by Aqualera Galleries)

“I paint with an intention for revolution. Every stroke of my painting is a suggestion of destroying the enemies of humanity, particularly African humanity. I paint for enlightenment, to bring us closer to parting the darkness and opening up the way to our origins.

Weapons

“If I were a medicine man involved in herbs I’d be doing a similar thing. In earlier periods there were obvious mutilations of the psyche, obvious attacks in terms of reducing the African man’s pride and dignity.

But now the tools are extremely sophisticated, wiping out all African sensibility. If you lack a sensibility, then you’re completely open house. I’m terrified of the new weapons being used”

Scenes from Trinidad and Tobago

Derek Walcott, the Nobel prize-winning St Lucian poet, once said of Le Roy’s work, “LeRoy does not suffer from influence.” Certainly, LeRoy doesn’t see his work as the product of other influences. “I live in the world, but I’m not of it. I eat up everybody.”

Mansion

He dislikes comparisons with other Caribbean painters, feeling affinity only with the almost mystic Guyanese writer Wilson Harris. “He’s like a mentor in terms of his bravery and courage. He’s not as iconoclastic as me: he’s building a universal mansion, whereas I’m building my mansion.”

Another acceptable comparison is with the Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian Shadow. “My painting is revolution, it’s not about pretending at making you happy. The only artist I know doing the same thing in terms of art is Shadow.”

A view of Port of Spain from the Lady Young Road

Stay well, man of the hills. Your paintings will live on in our hearts, minds and souls – until we meet again

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