The Art Society is quiet at this time of day. As I walk through the door, large seascapes on the facing wall pull the eye closer. The door to the gallery opens a few minutes later and we turn around to be greeted by a jovial countenance, a face that puts you at ease. Jackie Hinkson stands a moment, as though absorbing the space and then walks towards the photographer and me.
“Sorry to be late,” he said.
He isn’t really. It’s just about ten minutes past the appointed time.
Inside the gallery the day’s sunlight is muted and our eyes roam over landscapes, seascapes, rum shops and street scenes– familiar images of TT. Foreign lands lie interspersed between them. The walls can only accommodate snippets of half-a-century of work. In them, however, we get the essence of Hinkson’s craft. The paintings are stripped down to their simplest forms, one of his trademarks.
They are testimonies of his life as an artist celebrated in the exhibition Light in Paint: 50 Years in Watercolours at the Federation Park gallery.
We begin casual talk while he settles in. Earlier that morning we had planned on a one-hour interview and he had laughed, remarking that he doubted that he had so much to say.
“I doubt that very much, but let’s see how it goes,” I had replied.
Now that we were together, the formality of an interview is dropped. The chairs we placed in a key location to capture proper photographs and conduct the interview, are dispensed with. Instead, we walk around the gallery. The artist is accustomed to standing for hours while painting. This is a natural and comfortable position for him.
We are standing, facing some of his human figures–female nudes and two self-portraits. Hinkson looks at them thoughtfully.
“I was surprised digging through my studio recently to come across 15, 20 self-portraits,” he began.
“I was never super keen on self-portraits so I was shocked when I saw about 20 in watercolour alone and what struck me was that there is a severity of expression or a staring, also a tendency to make myself look older than I really look. And I think it has something to do with you’re in front of a mirror and you’re concentrating on what you’re doing and that’s where the severity of look comes from.” But this is just an afterthought. The viewer is left to her own interpretations.
He continues, “Since we’re in front of the human figure, it’s interesting to note the difference between the figure represented here and the figure as it appears in a watercolour or a smaller one where the figure can become more anecdotal. “When the focus is on the figure, the psychological aspect of the thing becomes more important. For instance, this girl (he points to one of his paintings).
She is a much more relaxed, a more smiling person than the portrait suggests. And I ask myself…how come this is what I brought out in her? And then I noticed…that in a lot of the other figure paintings that I did, especially in the last 20 years of so, of women, there is a kind of assertiveness coming through and I suspect that has to do with my responding to what is a contemporary trend, towards the strength of women and their assertiveness.”
We walk in silence to another wall and he continues thoughtfully as we stop in front of another painting.
“I started watercolours around the 1970s, more seriously. I have from the early 60s here too. The medium was so demanding, so difficult that I couldn’t devote time to any other aspect of my visual expression except drawing, which I was doing by the thousands.