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Nick's Jamaican Art is the website of choice for visual artworks. We do self- portraits, murals and just about all types of visual arts.

Read the latest article on Nicholas Barrett and his artworks at  http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130707/arts/arts3.html.

God, Faith And Artistry

Published: Sunday | July 7, 20130 Comments
Barrett's portrait of a Rastaman. The artwork encourages Rastafarians to embrace the beauty of their unique physical identity.
Barrett's portrait of a Rastaman. The artwork encourages Rastafarians to embrace the beauty of their unique physical identity.

Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor

Nicholas Barrett is a son of the soil, a young man who grew up on Mannings Hill Road in St Andrew. He is the quintessential artist - knowledgeable, intuitive and resourceful. In our one-hour exchange, he immediately recalled his upbringing. Quiet and unassuming, he reminisced before venturing an opinion on his hometown. "Things were so much different back then," he said, seemingly nostalgic, as if wishing away the new commercial hub that has transformed the area.

Like so many Jamaicans, Barrett's religious background is rooted in Christianity but the influence of traditional and indigenous spiritual expressions has also shaped his perspective on the physical and metaphysical world. And his natural penchant for art has only added to his expansive philosophical tableau. "It is through art that I gained a great appreciation for God, because He has bestowed on me an extraordinary talent to recreate visual representations as a means of expressing and teaching," he noted.


He viewed his profession as an educator as a mandate from Providence to impart knowledge to those who thirst for "the panoramic world of art." In fulfilling his life's mission, his love for God has strengthened. It is an ineffable feeling that he described as "emotionally overwhelming". Pressed further, he likened the experience to the often used biblical expression, 'moved by the spirit'.

Of the artistic process and delivery, he was detailed. He described art as a spiritually organic process, of absorbing inspiration from a spiritual reservoir in the dead of night. "When drawing or painting, I create a mental imagery that entails the topic, the research involved, specifications, ideas, mock-up sketches and a final art piece. Through my research, I gained knowledge on the unique spiritual beliefs of various groups, such as Christians, Rastafarians, Maroons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others. That wealth of knowledge has garnered my respect for native and foreign spiritual practices."

Ancestral Inspiration

Barrett is no doubt moved by the primordial Being, but he is also keenly aware of ancestral inspiration. He related the challenges of the enslaved and those who struggled for Independence. Their grit and unswerving drive for sovereignty and selfhood are reflected in Barrett's artwork. He deliberated on the determination and creativity of the Maroons. "Their life in itself is art in its most revolutionary and ecstatic form," he opined. "I do not fear the possibilities of failing in my application of paint, ink, charcoal, and pastel, nor do I dread the construction of lines, shapes, colours, textures, form and space. This is because I strive to be brave like Maroons such as Cudjoe, Quao, Cuffee, Johnny, Accompong and Nanny."

In 'Rastaman', one of his most dramatic portraits, he explained, "My aim is to expose the beauty of the Rastafarian culture and the unique physical appearance of their hair. The artwork encourages Rastafarians to embrace the beauty of their unique physical identity. It is also used as a motivational piece for students where I teach visual arts at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level."

Barrett sees an indissoluble bond between spirituality and art that spans the ages. "Visual arts have always played a major role in religion, politics and society," he asserted. "Throughout history art noted in churches, temples, mosques, public spaces and in the dwelling of leaders and rulers. Its close connection to the church is testimony to its ability to persuade moral values and practices as illustrated in the Bible."

Displaying his complete grasp of the artistic concept and its relevance to society, past and present, Barrett sees art as a catalyst and a prophetically influential tool. "Art movements have always come to the fore in times of war in order to influence peace". He referred to Dadaism, an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century that began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916. And of the artistic scene in Jamaica, he extolled the work of Natalie Barnes, whose painting 'Justice League' "features figures from Jamaica's contemporary political landscape partially clad in costumes of superheroes from the popular DC comic books."


Barrett is optimistic about the future of art and culture in Jamaica.

"There is the steady promotion of young and seasoned artists through competitions, exhibitions art galleries, art festivals, art groups, art schools, and art programmes in print media." He also named the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, Liguanea Art Festival, Jamaica Guild of Artists, The Olympia Gallery, and the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts, as invaluable to the development of young artists. Yet, he maintained that more can be done.

"Private investors should play a bigger role in promoting native talent, and post-graduate programmes are needed," he argued. "Similar to the recording labels, there must be investment and professional management of our artists if they are to achieve global recognition."

Send feedback to glenvilleashby@gmail.com/Follow me on Twitter@glenvilleashby. You may also contact Nicholas Barrett at: nnbart92@yahoo.com. 

All images © 2013 Nicholas Barrett

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