Art exhibition pays tribute to Philip Moore By Sunn E. Lyvan
Guyana Chronicle
October 21, 2001

TWO Fridays ago, Philip Moore celebrated his 80th birthday.

Well wishers, friends and other artists joined in wishing him the best as he stuck a cake provided for the occasion by the Curator of the National Gallery of Art, Castellani House.

It was a good gesture by the Art enclave in Guyana, but one cannot help thinking that all Guyana should have been organised to get behind the occasion.

Philip Moore, other than just having enough pieces of art salted away for posterity in our National collection, should be made known to schoolchildren everywhere through visits to their schools and talks held with the kids about art and other sociological matters of interest to them. He needs to be made known to them at their level, so that choices could be made of him being a suitable role model as a living Guyanese hero, genuinely born and bred in this land.

The exhibition organised to celebrate the birthday exposed some 43 pieces of sculptures and paintings as per catalogue of the National collection and it is gratifying to note that one of the pieces dated since 1947. Of course, these pieces dating so far back exposed Philip’s uni-dimensional purpose at the time. Not that the imagination is not there, mind you, but one can feel it slowly being weaned into the formidable force we know today. The slow emerging of this imagination is specifically brought to our attention in 1952, with a piece entitled ‘Temple of Godmanliness’ which tries to tie man’s entire being into the continuous worship of God. After this tentative step we’re taken a little deeper with `Watermama’ done in 1965. One wonders whether Moore has consciously tried to join myth with the reality of Guyanese existence, especially the Kali Mai Pooja and Spiritual Church’s way of casting overboard fruits and other sweetmeats left back after their religious functions.

Philip shows the Watermama’s stomach to be filled with the fruits and other goodies while she wears her heart around her neck to show her expansiveness in answering the prayers of the many who appeal for her involvement in their daily life.

`Mohammed Ali (Ali Allah Ali)’ of 1980 espouses the theory of the world champion coming from the house of David, ringing his own bells of his coming - if you remember Ali as being labelled the Louisanna Lip … the mouth which rocked the Heavyweight division of world boxing.

The two cities: Survival City 1982 - ’84 and Festival City 1982 - ’83, are both strong pieces of work which stand out among the very imaginative. One understands the chimes which stand over the Survival City like an omen to be constantly saying to its inhabitants that the time is now. Festival City depicts a closed city, locked away from outside influences and one cannot help wondering whether it had anything to do with Carifesta. If it did, then that city as Philip depicted would have been a city of artists and artistes locked in the creation and display of their specific art forms.

`Obeah Drum’ 1981 - ’82 is one of those pieces which grips the viewer with awe and wonder. It is a somewhat crudely done piece of work, of course, depending upon the effect the artist sets out to expose. The skulls which adorn the base lives up to this argument that yes, the obeah influence is strong, crude and covert, but definitely there within the society. It is a good effort in trying to gather all those images surrounding the use of goat skin drums and their power in worship.

All in all, Philip’s carvings make a strong argument that yes, as a sculptor, he can hardly be beaten and ‘Stool of Resistance’ done in 1981, bears this out. It is a compelling piece of sculpture, done in a time which sparks lots of memories of the History & Arts Council and those other sculptors who passed through its doors creditably.

Any exhibition by Philip Moore is always a treat because of the multi-dimensional images he uses in paints and canvas as the medium of his expression. Another reason it becomes so intriguing, is because of the amount of images Moore uses to tell his story. His paintings are all unique because only Philip Moore paints like Philip Moore and at any mixed exhibition, it is so easy to spot his work. Added to that is the amount of African identity that one finds enmeshed in every piece, whether it is done in acrylic or ordinary paint. In this aspect, Philip Moore stands alone.

As one stands looking around the viewing gallery, one cannot help, but wonder where Moore finds this unbridled energy to just go on and on and on telling a story. Most of the other artists choose a focal point or theme to zoom in on. This is where they place their emphasis, building it up with paints so that it stands out and can stand by itself as the painting per se. Not so Philip. He can worry about a stalk of grass until it too becomes a focal point or theme. The resultant effect is that the canvas seems to become confusing to the viewer. There is no separation as ordered logic dictates should happen in the functional sense, but a total bombardment of all the senses at the same time. If one is not careful, one can unsuspectingly lose the theme, faced with so many images at the same time.

Those canvasses, which undeniably stands out from among the 19 on exhibition are ‘Brooklyn Bridge 1971’ where I think the importance of this bridge as a link, not only between cities of great industrial strengths, but also of people of many nationalities as representative of the American society, is expressed very forcibly.

‘Togetherness In Guyana 1967’ is another canvas which is very explicit even though ‘Togetherness’ here is used as an abstract theme rather than a perceived reality. ‘Receiving the Gift and Cigrit Blues 1971 - ’80’ pulls the screen back upon Philip’s own life and when his spirituality was first awakened. It charts his course which leads the viewer unto today.

‘Booker T. Washington 1987’ was a refreshing piece if one goes for simplistic imaging. It caught our man of great learning dominating the farmlands which later was to become the renowned Tuskegee University. Remember, what Booker T. achieved through his studies involving root crops: sweet potatoes, peanuts was astronomical at the time.

I liked the happiness which came out in Architectural Landscape 1974. It shows that even Moore can have his moments of humour and lightness.

‘Rain Magic 1974 - ’83’ is a very serious piece of work. One can see the rain come tumbling down as if from many waterfalls. One imagines the drought which preceded the calling upon the Acqua Magic Drums.

‘Mangoes Woman Comes 1993’ is painted in soft green specifically. She is presented as being one with the people/kids who need her service. She is also not prejudiced to kind for her trade is variety. Her motto must be service and satisfaction.