SITTING in the gallery of his Enterprise, Chaguanas home, Kerron John reflects on the progress of his latest painting. On a large horizontal canvas, he paints an image of a female subject dissolving and becoming one with a dark backdrop which represents polluted waters.
Though his emotions guide his experimenting brushes as the image comes to life, there are still meticulous nuances about his artistic techniques. The dark backdrop is comprised of a subtle mixture of colours building on a base layer of orange that first covered the canvas, but not wholly. He leaves some areas of the canvas faintly painted to allow a certain level of transparency to his pieces.
Yet he does not feel satisfied with the direction of this piece, and quite frankly he was in no mood to paint at the time. His emotions are just as important as the pieces because they guide him to artistically manifest and is a sign of his free flowing the artistic process.
“I won’t always have a clear idea of what I want to do. I might start working on a piece and realise later that I don’t want to do it anymore and switch.
“Some days I don’t feel to paint, so I won’t paint. Some days I might just get an epiphany to do a painting,” said John, 20, as he spoke about his journey towards conceptualising his upcoming first solo exhibition.
A self-described contemporary figurative visual artist, his main creations are contemporary portrait and figurative pieces on oil and acrylics which emotively tell the story of the human body.
“I don’t really put myself in a box so I can’t say what artist I am because I am experimenting,” he said and explained how his pieces blend abstract and traditional styles.
The themes of his pieces reflect his emotions when he gets inspired and topics that he wants to give a voice.
“My body of work reflects my life experiences and anything I want to talk about when I feel any type of way.”
He credits his upbringing in an artistic family as the foundation of his talents, recalling his mother was heavily involved in art while each family member has artistic skills whether it be drawing or otherwise.
Seeing his mother’s art, he fell in love with the craft and began to explore his own talents while attending San Juan Presbyterian Primary School. There he participated in art competitions and saw art as something to do because of the joy he felt.
He went on to pursue art at San Juan South Secondary School and after writing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) visual arts examination in fifth form, he emerged third among all visual arts students in the Caribbean.
Travelling to St Kitts and the Nevis for his award, he got a full scholarship to the University of the West Indies (UWI) and will start a visual art special this September at UWI, St Augustine.
He replicated regional success in sixth form at Fatima College, Port of Spain. Continuing art at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level, he placed fourth regionally in Unit 1 and third in Unit 2.
John said he has discovered healing properties of the craft.
“I used painting as a form of escape, and it was very therapeutic,” he said of the role art played in him overcoming depression last year.
While coping for many months, he started working on pieces and knew he wanted them to be exhibited someday. The imagery of the pieces was inspired by a painting he did, while still in sixth form.
In early 2019, he helped Fatima College’s RBC Young Leaders project focus on mental health by creating a painting of a man crying.
“I decided to do a split between realism and abstract,” he said.
For the abstract part, he focused on emoting how a person with mental health struggles may see the world in a morphed view.
Using multiple colours to create the abstract effects, the colours symbolised emotions and reactions in different situations. On the flipside, the realism of the painting symbolised how people in a sobering “reality” may view someone coping with mental health issues. The piece was exhibited by Horizons Art Gallery, Mucurapo and it was sold to a Ghanaian diplomat. At that moment, he knew he wanted to have his first solo show.
In May, he is expected to have his first exhibition at the Loftt Art Gallery, Rosalino Street, Woodbrook. The pieces will raise aware on the issues of depression and mental health.
Giving a tease of what to look forward to, he said, “I started to realise I wanted to do painting of human figures posing in typical ways they pose when they are depressed.”
The paintings are inspired by the work of UK-based Norwegian artist Henrik Uldalen. Asked why Uldalen was a source of inspiration, he said, “He (Uldalen) does traditional oil paintings of figures suspended in darkness with their bodies breaking apart and I felt in love with his work.
"I don’t really see emotionally inspired work (locally), so I want to help bring that forward."
And while the themes were birthed from sad circumstances, his creation process for them was an exciting experience giving further insight into his artistic process. Swedish music with emotive themes is a must while painting.
“When I am coming down to end of the music, I just splash paint all around.
“When I listen to that type of music I am in a zone. In the zone I just splash paint all around and go with my intuition.”
The subjects of his pieces are his friends and local Instagram models who do photoshoots conceptualised by him to be recreated on canvas. Excited by his upcoming exhibition, John said it important that misconceptions about pursuing art locally are proven wrong.
“There’s always a saying that being an artist in TT or regionally is viable,” he said while noting that some artists sell their work for upwards of $100,000 a piece at local exhibits. To him, while there is a market for art in TT, he says the undervaluing of pieces and the work that goes into them by general public is a problem.
For now, he will continue building his portfolio and explore his talents through experimentation. But he has plans of starting his own fashion brand, creating a company which helps fellow creatives to achieve their goals and to have his work displayed in international art galleries.
He may even open a few galleries of his own.
For more information on Kerron John’s work, follow him on Instagram @kerronmjohn or visit Facebook at Kerron M John.