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Patrick Roberts: Painting many rivers
Artist Patrick Roberts recently hosted the exhibition Rivers of Trinidad’s Northern Range and Foothills at the College Hall of his alma mater Queen’s Royal College, Port-of-Spain. The exhibition included 25 pastels showcasing rivers from Chaguaramas to Toco. These paintings are the second collection in a series called River of Life, River of Hope.
His first collection, East Dry River, Maraval River was also shown at the College Hall in August—a fitting gallery space for Roberts, who discovered his love for art in a QRC art class nearly 40 years ago.
Now, Roberts is using his art for the good of current students in different ways. The exhibition will raise money for QRC’s Helping Hands programme, art room and various sports teams. The Helping Hands programme assists QRC students who are in need financially. Roberts is also sending a message to young men: “Art is a rewarding career.”
He has been speaking with students from QRC and other visiting schools. “Today too many of our young men do not understand that they have the capacity to do whatever they want and whatever good they want. So if I can do it, they can do it too,” he said during an interview at QRC.
Roberts spoke about the various aspects of the exhibition. “Doing this has reminded me of how picturesque and beautiful our country is and if we would just take a moment out of our busy schedules we would see that,” he said. “It’s about dealing with the beauty that we have and understanding that we here right now are just custodians for generations to come and we must treat with the things that have been given to us in trust by those who came before us.”
Roberts hopes that viewers of his work are inspired to take better care of the natural environment.
When painting the collection, he was shocked by some of what he encountered such as a poisonous chemicals in the Marianne River in Piarco.
While Roberts hopes for the exhibition to be an inspiration for young men and for environmental awareness, he also found solace in painting and in rivers. Two years ago, Roberts experienced a personal tragedy, which is still difficult for him and his family to speak about. Painting was one of the ways he coped with grief. He also coped by taking long walks along the river. “Painting is a very personal time when you have to face all your hopes and fears and doubts and joys and sorrows. This was one of my salvations,” he said.
Roberts also went to the US for an extended stay to get further away from the source of pain. While in the US, he experienced Hurricane Sandy and it helped him to slightly change his perspective on tragedy. “We tend to attach importance to who we are and what we are, but because we are here for such a short time everything is important and nothing is important. The world has been here for millions of years and none of us are lasting anywhere close to that.”
His painting outings also presented him with metaphors for life found in rivers. “Rivers teach us all kinds of things. Rivers are cyclical and if you parallel that to one’s life there’s many similarities. The same way a river starts within a mountain, small and somewhat insignificant, we come into the world small and for the most part insignificant and pure. The river starts nice and clean and as it comes off the mountain, it builds and gets powerful. Then it runs into town and starts to get corrupted and collect bottles and trash and all kinds of things. When the river hits the sea the question is has the river died or has it transformed? That is the same conversation we have about eternal life.”
Most of the paintings in the current exhibition focus on Trinidad’s rivers in the mountain ranges, but the East Dry River and Maraval River paintings appear again because they are close to Roberts. “East Dry River is both a physical place and a mental construct and most people do not know where East Dry River starts and stops so they just label this area. But I wasn’t dealing with that. I was dealing with the physical river and watching it move from the green of St Ann’s into the concrete of town. The journey also spoke about this boy from East Dry River moving to the Maraval River, which is QRC, and that mental construct underlying it.”
Roberts was born and grew up on Laventille Road, East Dry River, but struggles with identifying with the area. “I was born in East Dry River, but if I’m from there, I don’t know what that means because there are so many perceptions and labels and misconceptions about where somebody is from that I don’t know how to answer that,” he said. “People tell me I don’t look like I’m from East Dry River and I want to know what does someone from there look like? It’s the same way people tell me I don’t look like an artist and I say, ‘What does an artist look like?’ Those kind of labels don’t mean anything to me.”
Patrick Roberts is an artist and former interior and graphic designer. He taught art at Trinity College East for nearly 15 years. He has exhibited work both locally and internationally.
For more information about Patrick Roberts and his work, contact [email protected]
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