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Brixton News Lightning Interview with Trinidadian artist Che Lovelace

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Interview with Trinidadian artist Che Lovelace

February 14, 2024

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Brixton Brewery and Dulwich Picture Gallery Unite for Exhibition-Inspired Beer

Inspired by the upcoming Soulscapes exhibition [14th Feb – 2nd June 2024], which showcases new interpretations of landscape art by artists from the African diaspora, we crafted a limited edition sea salted lager - a fitting tribute to its themes of travel and connection across oceans.

The can label features a vibrant painting called Moonlight Searchers by Trinidadian artist (and professional surfer!), Che Lovelace. This is one of a two paintings by Che that are being featured in the exhibition.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Che to unravel the backstory behind his painting, as well finding a bit more about as his creative influences, working habits and passions.

What are your biggest creative influences?

My creative influences over the last few decades have mostly stemmed from different aspects of Trinidad and Caribbean culture. The manner in which this region has interpreted itself and tried to tell its own story, has become a main focus for me. From the post-World War II era artists emerged in the region, who began to use the character of the place …colour, light, people and landscape to propose an art that attempted to carve out a specific identity, distinct from the art traditions and styles that had developed in Europe and America. I suppose I am trying to add to that very language, so, I do look more and more at artists from the region who have had a similar preoccupation.


We were delighted to feature your painting, Moonlight Searchers, on the limited edition can for the exhibition, can you please tell us a bit more about this piece?

Moonlight searchers is truly one of my favourite recent works, as it brings together all the facets that keep me engaged with painting. The work started as a purely abstract piece at least six years ago. The surface featured both slightly geometric shapes, as well as organic forms, foliage and other marks.

It proposed brightly coloured tight areas, as well as fluid washes that ran across the surface of the panels. The painting sat on the studio floor until a couple of years ago, at which point I saw an opportunity to turn that abstract atmosphere I had created several years before into an imaginative landscape that evoked the spirit of the Caribbean. I wanted the image to materialise very much based on the things that I see here, but I also wanted an otherworldly feel…. as if in a dream.

By washing some of the panels of the painting with a pale yellow, as I developed a central tree motive, the painting took on a moonlit atmosphere. Adding the two figures brought all the components together and created a sense of perspective and depth in what had initially seemed an almost flat space.

For me, the figures have a sense of freedom as they roam this space where they seem comfortable, even while they are not in repose, and are clearly looking around and exploring the landscape.

This natural agency that I wanted them to possess, fits well with the organic and highly intuitive manner by which the painting itself came into being.


Is it important is it to you to evoke a strong sense of place in your work? 

Yes certainly, but even while exploring the identifying characteristics or moods of the place I am from, I do try to open the space up even further to unexpected details or imaginative depictions of what is familiar.

But by and large, I depend on the colour, shapes and textures of what surrounds me here in Trinidad to give my work a sense of identity. In some ways, the place really has become my subject.


What do you hope your work will say/ mean to those viewing it in London this year? 

Art is so important to the life and well-being of the human imagination. It helps us see beyond the immediate, as well as see in the immediate a larger world. I do like this idea that with focus and imagination, a small place in the Caribbean can present a picture or a little window that can transport the viewer for a bit. I don’t need to control their destination, but more importantly, spark a departure.


What does it mean to you to have your work shown as part of the Soulscapes Exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery? 

Art, like human beings, moves around the planet, and while we do settle in places we call home, and live and work at lives that are quite defined by our culture, it is a privilege really to share a bit of individual experience and vision with an audience so far away from the painting’s original context. I think it can only foster empathy and a healthy curiosity.


Do you have any connections with Brixton / South London that you could tell us about?  

In fact, yes… around 2000 I was an artist in residence at the Gasworks studios in South London. The apartment which I was given to live in was located in Brixton and I found my three-month stay in this part of London to have given me great insight into movement and migration and how groups of humans affect each other.

I realised how, in so many ways, we become hybrids, one culture affecting the other, sometimes without even realising how much. The large concentration of people of Caribbean descent in the area certainly gave me an immediate experience of what life for West Indians is like in a large European city. One of my most memorable experiences was going to the Brixton market. I was shocked at how much Caribbean food stuff, fruits and vegetables were available…. it was really like a little transported world right there in London.


We know youre a surfer as well as an artist! Do you find that spending time in the water helps with your work? 

Surfing has been a fundamental activity for me. One might even say it is a meditation and a connection with nature. I’ve never forced the connection to my painting, yet I know it’s there.

It is an exciting proposition to explore how this lifelong activity of riding waves might affect my work even more moving forward.

The fact is that it's a daunting subject for me to paint as I am so moved and involved in this liquid world.

So, if I am attempting to paint it, I would certainly have to try my best to do it justice and find a moving equivalent to the activity itself.


Tell us about your creative process – do you have any routines or rituals that help you to get in the right headspace to work? (ie. a way you must arrange the room, a drink you must have, something you have to eat, a walk before, during, after etc) 

I tend to get a lot of my best work done at night. Maybe because here in the tropics it’s cooler at night, and the bustle of the world has disappeared and I feel as if the only things that are awake are my studio lights, myself and my imaginings. It’s just me and those things that I am trying to give shape to in the paintings. At such a time, music becomes a good companion and definitely some snacks, fruits, chips and salsa …stuff like that. 

Sometimes, when tired and stopping to clear my head, I read books about other artists, which then re-inspires me to continue painting. Years ago I would even have night coffee, but I am way too much of an insomniac now to indulge.


If we spent a day with you in Trinidad, where would you take us? What would we have to eat and drink!? 

We would leave Port of Spain, the capital, where I expect you would be staying, and head down the highway, going south to see a little bit of the interior of the island, the flatter central region, with its stretches of highway lined with large and small agricultural projects, odd shops, and businesses, that then leads into bustling little towns, where you will see a very diverse people - Indian, African, Asian, European mixtures. It’s a colourful place, marked by Hindu temples and houses built on high concrete pillars. On our way there,  we would stop and get some of the most popular street food in the form of ‘Doubles’ a delicious kind of soft sandwich of chickpeas (or channa as we call it) between two soft naan-like pieces of bread, called ‘bara’… then we’d wash it down with coconut water.

We can head then, to the northeast tip of the island called Toco, with a coastline that is sometimes rugged and sometimes forgiving. One can’t go too fast on the paved, yet regularly potholed roads, but the slower pace does allow time to soak in the place.

Heading back to the east coast we can stop at a local fish spot and have creole Sunday lunch …stewed fish with calalloo and ground provisions!

A trip here would not be complete without a visit to a steel pan yard to hear a steel orchestra practice. We’d enjoy this experience with some cold Stag or Carib, the local beer.


Do you have any other shows or projects coming up that we should know about?

The last couple of years have been very active for me …the most active so far in my career. I plan this year to make new work in the studio and have a slightly slower pace. I am however involved in an exhibition showing soon at the Fort Worth Museum in Texas. This will be a group exhibition that presents artworks by artists from the Caribbean and the United States, that are engaged with Surrealism from the 1940s to the present. Also, I am very excited about the development of my first full-scale monograph that is going to be published by Skira the Italian publishing firm. It’s scheduled to be released towards the end of 2024.


To find out more about how this awesome partnership with Dulwich Picture Gallery check out our latest blog post.


Soulscapes Sea Salted Lager will be available at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Brixton Brewery Taproom, and of course, on our website while stocks last - BUY NOW.
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