Carl Anderson: Guyanese artistic ambassador to the world By Sunn E. Lyvan
Guyana Chronicle
December 2, 2001

FEW Guyanese artists have had the good opportunity to expose their works in the `Old World’ which has given us the renaissance and all the forms of artistic expression has passed through, of which `New World’ artists feel they must keep borrowing from to solidify their own positions today.

Carl Anderson is one of those gifted ones who can boast of having held exhibitions successfully throughout Latin America, London, Paris, Italy and Malta, to name a few of those big countries he has touched and made his impact felt.

Yet, he is the essence of simplicity, as he continues to struggle to understand the world and himself and to translate that understanding as a decipherable medium. According to Anderson, there can be no end to artistic expressions. In this way, each artist, throughout his lifespan, only covers a portion - a minute segment - of the overall perfect expression. But the artist cannot be afraid to experiment since this is the only way these expressions will evolve. In this light, he uses his own "ribbon series" as a passage which knows no end. The experiment can surely go on and on and on.

Carl is a 1964 Libra-born artist.

"My mom has repeatedly told me how I would be scratching all over the walls of our house if there was no paper around. For myself though, I knew … of having the awareness of art at St. Thomas R. C. School where I attended and won minor art competitions. There was also an all-schools competition in '76 where I took the first prize easily ..."

Carl goes on to explain that before the all-schools competition, he was a willing and bright understudy to an artist who was his neighbour in Bent Street. This was Rodwell Singh, who had his workshop in his bottom house. Carl was an avid admirer from his window of Rodwell's busy trade as he daubed and stroked his way across the many pieces spread across his worktable.

"One day he called out to me, asking whether I liked drawing. I said yes, and this was the beginning of our relationship. At that time, Rodwell had contracts with BWIA, to do billboards for the Bourda Cricket Ground. Those pieces were huge and had to be pieced together up on the board. He also had contracts with the Police Force on a purely different matter. He was designing their costumes for Mashramani. That particular year, the Police's theme was `Education’ and I was working right alongside him, gaining experience at every turn."

But, life could have some swings, and Rodwell Singh, Carl's mentor, suddenly passed on and left Carl out on a limb, deprived of the leadership and friendship he had grown dependent upon. He did what any other aspiring artist would have done; he turned to education, enrolling in an Adult Education class.

"This is where I first came face to face with Stanley Greaves who was a teacher there. He taught me water colours and drawings so I could pass the ‘O'Level (GCE) Examination. I did myself well there. I got a Distinction. The next step in the natural progression was the Burrowes School of Arts. Here, there was a hitch. I didn't have the age required for entry. Eventually, they decided to waive the rules of enrolment if I could produce my ‘O' Level Certificate which I gladly did. The door was flung open …"

The Burrowes School of Art was the pinnacle of artistic training in the country - in fact, it still is - and its headmaster and board of teachers were artists themselves who were unparallelled in their necessary fields. Carl remembers the school as it was then: “Dennis Williams was the Principal and his forte was Human Anatomy and Methods of Painting; Keith Agard specialised in Two-dimensional Design, Drawing and Painting (the studies of colours and lights); Philip Moore was responsible for Sculpture and on a more personal level - Spiritualism; Stanley Greaves taught the History of Art and the Basics of Sculpture I and II; Colin Carto is next, lecturing in Textile Designing; George Simmons was Block Printing and Drawing; Emmerson Samuels' forte was Graphics and last Ms. Sarah Worrel - Painting and Drawing.”

“In my third year I decided to leave the institution. Why? There was this tug-0'-war being inculcated in me by the two well-meaning teachers. Maybe they had their own personal problems as regards artistic beliefs, but they couldn't keep it to themselves and it was beginning to hurt me.

"When I left Burrowes School of Art, I was just 17 years of age. Two years after, I migrated to Venezuela, where I lived for some 13 years and was exposed to the huge varied Latin American art factory. I quickly saw I had to improve tremendously to make it. Two years after this realisation, I did my first one-man show which comprised some 30 pieces of exhibit. I sold 24, so I can say that the show was a huge success. But already I was experimenting with new mediums which I found were challenging and the 1980 National Exhibition of Visual Arts can attest to my occupation with new mediums. My entry then was a cowskin painting - oils on cowskin called Survival which was based upon the Rastafarian cult and its dependence upon herbs. This painting at that age received an Honourable Mention.

Carl’s sojourns in other parts of the world are chronicled in an article in the October 28, 2001 issue of the Sunday Times of Malta. In the article, writer E. Fiorentino noted that the artist had participated in the 4th Edition of the International Art Biennial of Malta where he won first prize in the painting section. The article goes on to explain that the artist is not new to prize-winning because he also won prizes in 1998. Last year, he won the second prize for painting and a Diploma di merito at the International Grolla d' Oro in Italy. With three solo exhibitions in Venezuela and two in Washington, his drawings, paintings and sculpture can touch upon a number of stylistic linkages.

One of his most successful and commanding sets of work is called the Ribbon Series which is a strong statement contrasting light against the darkness, but which also allows movement which connects the female to the universe as the helix of life does. The writer goes on to explain that this tallies with Carl's belief that art is a universal language which aims to display everything that the Cosmos has to offer.

"In the 1980s, Carl created a sculpture from a tree trunk. For a period of some weeks, he next photographed the sculpture against a spectrum of coloured ribbons blowing across it. The photographs were eventually cut up and superimposed mentally, in order to simulate the passage of time. This experiment is what later led to the evolution of the "Ribbon Series" and the prestigious award he subsequently picked up, the article noted.

As if the Ribbon Series wasn't enough, Carl has developed reproduction to a fine finish called "photo-realism". As the article explains: "The genre of photo-realism, alternatively called super-realism or hyper-realism, became highly influential in the second half of the 20th century, especially in the U.S.A.. Among its principal exponents were artists, Malcolm Morley, Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, Janet Fish and Chuck Close. The last mentioned did not mince matters when he declared that: "my main objective is to translate photographic information into paint information."

Carl follows in the best tradition of this genre, with a smoothness of finish, where no sign of a brush stroke is even allowed in the paintings. `A love for laborious renderings’, is what each of these portraits announces. This is how the writer expresses himself as regards Carl's addiction to long, hard labour and it is apt, because the artist spends about 15 hours each day in the studio. His self-portrait confirms the painstaking inputs of this photo-realism.

Carl's works are destined for posterity through a number of pieces bought by Guyana's National Art Gallery, Castellani House. He is now planning to host a massive exhibition in two places at the same time - Guyana and St. James Cavalier - centre for creativity in Valletta, Malta, in February of 2003.

Although Carl is busy, no doubt, he has sought to come home, the principal reason being to persuade the Guyana authorities to send a representative selection of artists to take part in the Venice Biennale in two years time. He feels it is about time our country begins exposing its talents at higher levels. Of course, he will also lose no time in expanding upon his own portfolio or attempting new expressions.

"Artists of the world who really inspired me was Michelangelo and Leonardo di' Vinci. The way they put together the human bodies is a composition of spiritual human life. I was fortunate to spend some five hours walking the Louvre Art Museum in Paris where I came face to face with those leaders of the Renaissance and it was the most amazing, spectacular moment of my life. I think we've got to thank Leonardo di' Vinci for what he exposed of the human anatomy to artists as well as doctors.

“Standing before their original pieces was very mind-blowing. I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It was more than just an experience."