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Barbara Thorburn’s Watercolors Light Up Red Bones

By Norman Munroe Entertainment Editor
From Lifestyle, page 23 of the Daily Observer Monday, September 24, 2001

Artist Barbara Juliet Thorburn has 19 delightful watercolor paintings currently on show at the Red Bones Blues Café’s gallery, 21 Braemar Avenue. The title of the exhibition is From The Rose to the Amethyst.

All 19 works demonstrate, as any good watercolorist must, a wonderful eye for colour and detail, superb technique and a delicate touch. The result: beautiful, touching renditions of, in this case, mostly flowers and landscapes, with names of flowers and names evoking flowers, such as Impatiens, Moon Flower, White Begonia, Roman’s Garden and my favourite Rockfield Lime. Somewhat unlike the other pieces, this work depicts the near-bones of a tree (presumably a lime tree) set starkly against the luminescent sky, with a green meadow and other vegetation, the foreground.

The title of the exhibition reflects a critical element in the work displayed, where many of the paintings are imbued with shadings of amethyst (mauve or violet), which highlights and attenuates the other colours employed.

Thorburn, who received much of her training in the United States and Italy and was a finalist in this year’s Artist of the Year competition, also has a particular ability to capture the quality of light in her work which gives it that extra lift and dimension, making all the more appealing, in her case, happily so. Of the 19 pieces, only about four did not show a red sticker indicating that they have found purchasers, by the end of the opening day of the show.

Managing director of Super Plus Foodstores, Wayne Chen, who officially opened the exhibition last Friday, spoke of Thorburn’s quest to find herself spiritually and artistically and of the reflection of the dual struggle in her work.

“…Trying to make sense out of life in the widest sense of the word. Luckily she is articulate. Many of us are on currently the same journey but we cannot articulate it as well as Juliet,” Chen said.

He noted that artists throughout history have, in their various disciplines, managed to articulate their feelings; “that essence of what makes us different from the other animals.”

Thorburn, Chen said, in her best pieces, has not only been able to depict flowers and landscapes, “but has managed to move…to a higher (spiritual) plane than merely representing the beauty of what she sees around her…getting at the essence of beauty.”

“It is significant because a lot of artists have lost faith in beauty. Beauty for beauty’s sake is no longer fashionable in art and in this she has bucked the current fashion.”

He hastened to note that nothing is wrong with depicting or representing pain, uncertainty and conflict in a society, such as Jamaica’s, where these things prevail “but I think in many instances we have lost that appreciation for beauty, not just in a literal sense but in a higher sense (as well)…”

Chen said that he was pretty sure that Thorburn, in her journeying, has sought to “merge the articulateness of her talent with her own quest for some higher truth. And I think that in a large part…she has attained that.”