Tuesday, April 1, 2014



People in the arts tend to function on a deeper realm of concentration, which demands some form of spirituality and meditation.  The intent of this painting Pianist & Teacher was an investigation into an intense moment of detailed study and analysis of a musical score, a discourse on clinical approach to handling melodic line/musical passages and scales that was being instilled through sound pedagogy and collaboration between the student and teacher. This painting is definitely a subject I have ruminated about over the years, in terms of how to approach the painting. Our journey to this point has been a spiritually guided mission. Therefore, I wanted the painting to capture the soul of the moment. 

This painting documents the pianist’s strife for excellence. Even though some consider the student to be a prodigy, I see an ambitious musician who wants to achieve greatness against all odds.  This is a musician who has recognized his God’s given talent. Like Tiger Woods, Venus & Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan, who have all mastered their crafts, they will tell you that as much they have been endowed with the gift, a lot of it has been the result of hard work and dedication. That is the case with this pianist whose relentless hours of practice on the piano makes one ponder how hard it is for him, and how much I would have been able to absorb or even handle if I was in his shoes. The level of expectations from great schools/conservatories and the competition out there in the field of classical piano is fierce! It is a discipline that seems to be dominated by mostly Asians, Russians, and Europeans etc.  Most people just think they are outstanding! Where does a boy from Sierra Leonean descent fit in this equation?  It makes me ponder how high or low the expectations are set for him when he competes on that level. Are they surprised to see him?  It seems as if the ratio to successful black classical pianists might be fewer comparatively, and even the few seem to have lesser access to opportunities. Despite, that grim reality, he looks forward to carving his path and follow the footsteps of Andre Watts, Leone Bates, George Walker and Herbie Hancock. Some of them are classified as Jazz pianist, but their powerful technique equipped them with the ability to play most classical repertoire if they choose to.

The student’s musical journey started as a regular lesson after discovering his talent at home, on a Yamaha keyboard when he was only three years old. It was evident that his talent would blossom if it were nurtured.  At the age of 12, even though he played a MOZART SONATA K545 by memory, there was an obvious need for a more technical prowess to be achieved. His education demanded a more experienced clinician in the field of piano performance.  At this point, he was already researching some of the “Greats” like Glenn Gould, Rudolf Serkin, Georges Cziffra, Arthur Rubinstein and Sviatoslav Richter. He would watch DVD’s on their recitals.  One of his favorite DVD’s was “The Art of the Piano.” He admired Georges Cziffra with his prodigious technique. He also enjoyed “The Art of the Violin.”  

Through this pianist, I was introduced to classical piano. It is a different means of poetic clarity and communication.  It became a discipline that I had to research, in order to be in this journey with him and impart discipline that only an adult can instill. The discipline to practice! Most importantly, he needed to recognize his talent, he needed to be humble about it, and realize that God has given it to him for a higher purpose than himself. That higher purpose is to serve him and humanity.

Where did all this inspiration come from? Well, I started singing at the age of five in the choir and engaged in choral music up to this point. Yes, God gave me a beautiful voice as a gift. His gift has been ordained by the almighty.

While I grew up in Sierra Leone I was not privileged enough to study the piano, however, I grew up singing in the choir. My earliest exposure to classical music was through my grandfather, who played different records in his collection on Ludwig Van Beethoven, Beethoven, George Frederick Handel, Felix Mendelsohn, Antonio Vivaldi, and certainly, Johann Sebastian Bach. Did I listen to piano music? It was mostly choral works like Handel Messiah, Vivaldi Gloria, and “The Creation” by Joseph Haydn.  I could hear the gentleman Jim Reeves, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson. In that home there was a deeper appreciation for music, an appreciation that was eclectic and it transcended genre and racial restraints.

What is the relationship between his music and my art? We all function in society to keep the body, mind and soul together. We paint colors to give psychological meaning through this poetic syntax. We ultimately engage in invoking a special emotion and response from our viewer and listeners. It is important for us to capture a moment, time and place in cultural and historical relativity. Such dialogue can only be achieved when the artist or the musician submerges himself or herself into a deeper meditative and spiritual realm; a realm that is encapsulate, in a magical connection between the body, soul and the mind. The artist and musician must be one spiritually with the canvas or the instrument to uplift or touch someone with our art forms. My admiration goes to this young dedicated classical pianist, Richmond Denzel Garrick, my son, who is a subject of this painting.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


ARTIST: Richmond Garrick

As the news unfold of the Boston Trajedy and more information were revealed about the Bombers plot in destroying such a memorable event,  we were all tortured emotionally by mourning the death of loved ones both close to us or also symbiotically and passionately connected in grief. It's painful to see many innocent people get hurt through reckless act of violence. As we watch the news, new questions are asked that is not necessarily new, but questions perhaps asked during 9/11. For instance,  "Why would people seek to kill with sadistic pleasure?" We will all examine this situation from different perspectives, but as an immigrant, I am also concerned about the ripple effect it would have on the discourse of immigration, especially since good people from other countries, with good intentions who want to assimilate themselves into the american society would face serious backlash. It is almost evident that "One Bad Apple Spoil The Bunch" which I hope those who are against immigration for whatever reasons will not capitalize on this trajic, ungrateful and irresponsible actions of these two individuals who bit the hands that fed them, to smear all immigrants. Let me also add that while it seems as if those boys their dad, as an attorney filed for them and got political assylum, then a green card, not all immigrants are that lucky. Infact, the good ones, with love and good intentions for this country are faced with difficulties irrespective of their achievements in this country at times, when dealing with immigration. The painting "Immigration Reform" tend to look at the subject meditating on the issue of immigration, while in a prayer position.

Over the years, since 9/11 or before even that trajic event, I have indulged myself mentally and in my creative process to question human actions, not their reasons to kill,  but their mission to kill with sadistic pleasure. As a native of Sierra leone who was lucky to escape the brutal civil war that lasted for ten years. The war consumed innocent lives including my brother, and left many people maimed, scared with violence after losing loved ones. It destroyed childrens' lives by converting them to monsters and indoctrinated them into a machine of rapists and killers, as they now try to rehabilitate themselves; all of us in different disciplines are facing a different paradyme in our thought process. What can be done to stop this madness? One salient point of agreement is that Yes! The world around us is changing and even though we dont not want to be grappled with fear, still fear is infiltrating into our lives..

Artists in the past have been influenced by what was happening in their society. Obviously, it's hard for an artist to divorce his creativity from his background. As we face this era of the unknown and the unpredictable, and we get emotionally charged in this new era of violence, to what extent is it going to affect everyone especially us artists, dancers, sculptors, musicians or any field that requires the soul, mind and the body to be in the right restful place to create their art? Time will tell!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Painting: “Peering Into The Future”


Recently, I was reading the “World Street Journal” dated Saturday/Sunday, January 2-3, 2010. As I continue to read, I decided to peruse through the section “Leisure & Arts”. In that section, I was struck by the title, under exhibitions entitled “Art That Defies That Definition” The sets of articles tend to review different museum and gallery shows. Without reading any of the articles, it was intriguing and baffling in its implication. It almost felt like a paradox to me. This is a statement that provokes the truth. If I can stretch my reasoning a little further, it provokes human conscience in academia and art. What is Art? & What can be considered Art? The article written by Lance Esplund about the show “Gabriel Orozco” at the Museum of Modern Art running through March 1, 2010 borders on a controversy encompassing the art world. “Orozco” organized by MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculptures; Lance said, seems to focus on the “transformation of the concept of sculpture-via innumerable mediums and methods”. The part of the article that touches the most sensitive artistic fiber of my creative soul was the fact that a two year old girl pounce on one of the artworks, “Recaptured Nature”(1990) comprising of two inflated inner tubes fashioned into a sphere, and looks like a big black rubber ball. The little girl reached out to probably to play with one of the pieces and was scolded by her mother, and museum guards. The screaming girl was carried out of the show Lance said. Wow!! While I do not want to jump to any conclusion based on her action, because a 2 year old would do that with any piece. On the contrary, I’ve heard my 14-year-old son question certain work that is considered art as well. What I question is the curatorial decision to consider such a work as art against the ones they deemed unfit or reject. What is the paradigm that they use to arrive at such decisions? As an artist, I am open-minded and try to look at every art within its “TRUE JUSTIFICATION”. But at the same time, a piece of that nature provokes dialogue in-terms of curatorial decision as they write their philosophy and approach to defining the playing field in art. I search for reasoning & explanation relating to their judgment between what they chose to consider or accept into such shows, as they question another piece or artist work that carries a more technical and artistic approach. This brings me to my painting “Peering Into The Future”

Peering Into The Future is a painting that resulted from my painful consciousness and conscience as an affected, symbiotically connected “War Artist”. This painting does not provide the root for escapism or fantasy. It examines a stricter dialogue with human rights, ethics, and confronts the viewer face to face with such issues in the painting. The painting becomes a mirror for their reflections whether personal or psychological. Well, who cares about such a topic when it does not affect them? Why do some of us want to engage in deliberate negation or denial anyway? The curator in a museum that I exhibited refused to show this painting because she felt it was too strong. But in that same museum, works by two of my influences “Sheeba Sharrow and Leon Golub have been exhibited. Sheeba Sharrow had a major exposition there. We have all experienced an innumerable amount of art works of such nature ranging from the crucifixion, Goya and Lucian Freud’s tormented pieces etc. These artists progressed and emerge as the influential figures in art. Such decisions of what is art or what they want to show in museums or galleries is becoming more personal, preferential based on their own appreciation, sense, reasoning and the artistic dialogue that they seem to embrace and propagate. Should the artists continue to play into the philosophy pretentiously while engaging in such a creative process? In my role as an artist, this is a responsibility I handle with serious intent and inner soul-searching dialogue. Duchamp for instance was accepted and a clever spin was placed on the appreciation of his work. He was celebrated as an Avant-Guarde artist. While if it was not for Dr Barnes, who decided to develop his own approach how to look at art, Chaim Soutine’s paintings would have been rejected. Dr Barnes "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." from a different perspective. Who would have even thought a toilet would make it into a Museum? Therefore, Critical judgment of art is more political and preferential than such institutions would want to accept.

As a result, I am determined to continue to explore my inner true soul and practice this discipline with a safe conscience. One that looks into my soul as an artist, but seem to put the basic approach of its premise first to provide the vehicle for my creativity. This is the reason why this painting reflects my inner thoughts and emotions through the didactic and emotional nature of the brush strokes. My style is characterized by thick, convulsive brushwork, through which I can express my frustration, tenderness, as well as turbulent psychological states. It looks at pain, anger, in-humanity, injustice, and provide a dialogue within the sancrosanct temple of painting. It combines the technical approach of painting and sculpture with such physicality in the process. This I hope conveys my feelings as an artist, which I hope would affect or touch my viewers. Therefore, my viewer’s reactions are much more rewarding and fulfilling than a decision from an intellectual that would engage in a bias decision.