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Art is Life

Gail Pantin
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Gail Pantin

Born in Trinidad, Gail Pantin loved art from the tender age of five. She recalls creating different things with her hands and interweaving thread where she made embroidery into art. Now at 51 years old, everything has fallen into the right place and Pantin’s experiences inspire her art. With a Master’s of Design History and Design Studio from the University of New South Wales, Gail has worked as a Commercial Designer. This has been to pay the bills. Today she is also an art teacher in Singapore. At the age of 15, Gail emigrated to Canada with her mother. She always had a passion for geography at Holy Name Convent and has travelled to different countries including Bali, Cambodia, India, China, Burma, Japan and Singapore. It was not just the geography but being exposed to different cultures in Trinidad had made Pantin curious to understand these people, to live amongst them, to study them and to make them the subjects of her art.


This gifted artist uses all forms of media including pencil, watercolour, acrylic, oil, pen and ink, or Japanese brush pens.  She does not box herself into one style of doing things; she continually explores her talent, constantly discovering new things about herself and art. Before she chooses though, she first surveys her subject and then selects the medium that best reflects her concept. Pantin’s works echoes real life and places.  Her sketches and paintings can be best described as a play between contrast and colour. An integral part of her work displays where she has travelled – and her experiences along the way. “A painting does not have to be beautiful, however it should be symbolic to the artist,” says Pantin. An avid traveller, Pantin captures the realities of her environment in every country she visits. One painting that encapsulates this is an acrylic of a boy called Sathiya. Although the painting is an exact replica of how Sathiya looks, when his father put the painting on display in the family’s home, visitors actually suggested they ask the artist to lighten the colour of Sathiya’s face. Pantin refused.


She has had to deal with people’s prejudices all over the world and knows by now that no one interprets art the same way when they look at it. But she speaks the truth in her art, seeing the beauty in everyone and everything around her and stands by her work, every piece of it. In every sense Gail’s work depicts the essence of life. “Art is my life”, she says. It does not matter the conditions around her or the situation, if she wants to capture a moment she draws on her dedication to make it happen. “I have sketched in the 110 degree heat in Cambodia, I have sketched till I had a sunburn on the top of my head, I have sketched till the temperature reached about minus 10 degrees and my fingers could not move, I have done it in difficult conditions all alone or amongst crowds of people, between people moving around and jostling you in the temples.”


Her work echoes the realities of life and can be best described as detailed play of contrast and colour. Pantin is never without her sketchbook; it’s her life and every moment she is at it.  The days that she does not feel the energy, her inner psyche pushes her to overcome this.  Her love of people and nature are symbolic of her journey. One such moment was a chance encounter with the President of Singapore President S R Nathan. Soon after, she was commissioned to replicate places and buildings in Singapore.  These works later developed into a limited edition book titled ‘A day at the Istana’. It is now presented to dignitaries when they visit the President’s House.


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