January 23, 2018

My language concept and life

Artist Carl Anderson talks about his life with art and what art must mean to people

Talented Guyanese-born artist, Carl Anderson continues to astound with his distinct art for which he has become famous in many parts of the world.

Anderson and his “Laschicas” ribbon series piece which won at the 2001 International Art Biennale, Malta

Anderson (47) has become recognized as one of the specially “gifted” Guyanese artists, and continues to create a resounding message through his artwork.

The photo-realist’s work has been described as provoking when he transforms photographic information into paintings in every tiny detailing of the subject matter.

He remains one of the rare breed of artists who has turned to Latin America for inspiration and professional development rather than Great Britain or North America.

Currently resident in Guyana, his paintings are in American and European private collections, as well as many public collections, including Castellani House. His paintings have been exhibited across Europe and the Mediterranean, Latin and South America and the United States.

In an interview with Guyana Times Sunday Magazine at his Durban Street home, Anderson described art as his language, concept, and life.

“We cannot live without art, because art is around us; we eat from it, we sit on it all of that makes art, and it is an inner passion that tells me “Hey, you have to do it, it’s not just your job, it’s beyond your job.

So, it’s my inner vocation, it’s a gift from the Supreme Being …,” he declared.

In 1978, Anderson studied art at the Adult Education Association of Guyana with Stanley Greaves before given special permission to enter the Burrowes School of Art.

He first completed the London based General Certificate in Education (GCE) in art in his native city, gaining a Grade A, and two years later he received a Fine Arts Diploma, in painting, drawing and sculpture from the local art institution.

“Windows to the Caribbean” 2004

As a student, Anderson stood out with his talent, accepted at the school before his sixteenth birthday and the youngest student on their register.

“I didn’t have the age to enter but they waived it … I believe they saw my potential as a young artist,” he explained.

In 1995, Anderson completed a marketing art course in Guyana.

He is the creator of more than 170 pieces and about 15 sculptures, though the latter is not a major aspect of his work.

Anderson’s describes his signature, “ribbons” as expressing “on a two dimensional surface, images that portray a complex universe, blending colour, light, life and the female form into a unifying theme of the cosmic.” He is also working on a “Carnival Series”, which he notes is all about lively carnivals, laughter, joy, glamour, enjoyment and beauty. This series, he says, would include about 40 pieces, nine of which are already completed.

As soon as he is finished with a reasonable number of pieces, the renowned artist plans to exhibit on the international scene.

Awards and Exhibitions

In 1997, Anderson won a special distinction award at the International Art Biennial, Malta.

The following year, he copped the International Grolla D’Oro in Italy second prize for painting. In 1999, he gained fifth prize at the International Art Biennial, Malta for painting. In 2000 and 2001, he received a Diploma Di Merito, Grolla D’Oro, Italy, and the International Art Biennial Malta first prize for painting respectively.

From the period 1980 to present, Anderson conducted several solo exhibitions in US, France, Greece, Paris, Egypt, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy and several other countries.

His life struggle and success

Anderson was brought up in Bent Street, Wortmanville with his mother and siblings, before moving to Durban Street in 1980.

The youngest of three children, his father died when he was just three. His sister, the eldest, and brother are both abroad.

He attended the St Thomas Moore Primary RC School and continued his secondary education at the same school. At the time of common entrance examinations now called Grade Six Assessment, he recalled being ill and unable to write the exams. He also recalled art competitions he won during his school years.

He remembered admiring his neighbour Rodwell Singh, who was a commercial artist specializing in signs. “He had his workshop in the bottom house, and one day he called me and asked if I like drawing; after responding in the affirmative, this was the beginning of our relationship. He had contracts to do: billboards for BWIA and with the police force to design their costumes. I was working right alongside him gaining experience at every turn.” This continued until 1978, when Singh, his mentor, died.

As a child, Anderson said, he had always wanted to be an artist and nothing else.

By 1980, he exhibited at the National Visual Arts Exhibition at the Umana Yana, gaining honourable mention. But after clashing with an expatriate teacher at the school, he left before the end of the course; a decision he never regrets.

Still a teenager, Anderson then left for Venezuela with a cousin in 1983, where he lived for 13 years.

In January 1984, Anderson said he went to the city of Maturin with an acquaintance with whom he lived for a year. It was the beginning of a period of great hardship, and included near starvation and uncertain accommodation, as he determinedly challenged and extended his technical skills in painting, and to a lesser extent sculpture.

In 1986 his perseverance paid off with his selection for important group shows, notably the “Confrontacion ” exhibitions of 1986 and 1987 showing the work of selected artists representing eastern Venezuelan states, and the “Homage to the Plastic Arts” exhibition at the School of Art in Maturin.

It is truly a mark of Anderson’s talent and sophistication that his work could take its place among the Venezuelan community of artists.

However, he returned to Guyana in 1996, following conflict with a conceptual artist whom he claims took credit for a painting sold to him.

“The artist bought the painting from me depicting Simon Bolívar, the liberator of Venezuela, and I did not know that he bought it to use it as one of his conceptual ideas, and later he won a huge award using my painting behind my back,” the still furious Anderson remembered.

Anderson related that he found out about the plagiarism through his writer, Rogelio Leon, who told him about what had occurred.

But he expressed gratitude to Venezuela which he said has set him up on the pedestal to success.

“In Venezuelan there were “big time” artists like Jesus Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz Diez and Juvenal Ravelo from Latin America who all inspired me,” he noted. Venezuela’s Luis Gonzalves, another artist, he said opened up his horizons to research art and photorealism in the library.

“The artists inspired me to jump the mountains, and go beyond the mountains towards the sky … These guys did that… Their works are incredible and they have made history. When I was in Guyana I never got that inspiration in comparison to when I went there,” Anderson lamented.

In 1997, he left Guyana again for the U.S. on his journey to exhibit his art. While there, he was involved in lobby exhibitions at the World Bank and at the IMF. After spending close to five years, he came back to his home country and soon ventured to Malta, Europe to enter the Malta Art Biennial competition.

The 47-year-old artist, who sees himself becoming more famous in the future, has decided not to start a family yet. He feels that marriage and family life will sidetrack him from his passion. He says he wants to continue to focus on art in its climax to persist in making his name “big time”. “Probably I’ll consider starting a family later on…,” he chuckled. (Taken from Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)