Isaiah James Boodhoo
Isaiah James Boodhoo was born in 1932 in Sangre Grande, an isolated agricultural town in north-eastern Trinidad in the foothills of the heavily forested mountains of the Northern Range. Boodhoo received a Trinidad Government Department Scholarship in 1958 to study fine art at the Brighton College of Art, England. There, he said he learned technique in the disciplined British way.
By the time he returned to Trinidad in 1964, he was painting in the typical non-objective style of Europe of the period. In 1968 he felt that his art had become too predictable and, with the opportunity to study at Central Washington University and Indiana University, left for the United States. It was an exciting time to be there, in the age of Aquarius and the action painters and Abstract Expressionists, De Kooning and Deibenkom. This was the time of disillusionment with the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon.
Boodhoo brought the idea of social and political commentary through art back with him when he returned to Trinidad. Boodhoo's first exhibition at the National Gallery in Port of Spain in 1970 was strong social and political comment in the light of Trinidad and Tobago's own revolutionary turmoil. Following this exhibition, Boodhoo exhibited only twice until his Caroni series in 1992 and again in 1982, with themes from poems by Derek Walcott.
The contrasts of Trinidad's landscape always fascinated Boodhoo, particularly the sugar cane fields... .a place without trees, with rolling hills, manicured green, or terra cotta furrowed fields. Caroni, where the sugar industry of Trinidad was based and where cane fields seemingly stretched forever in all directions. He used the landscape and figurative elements of the cane cutters as in the theme for Caroni, his series first exhibited in Trinidad in 1992. Critic Christopher Cozier described Boodhoo's work as...hovering between being pictorial and being Abstract Expressionism. The balance of landscape and figurative elements in Boodhoo's paintings is developed in his latest series where he used the symbols of Hinduism as the main element. Boodhoo's palette is brilliant. This he further enriched with skilfully placed colour complements, his compositions becoming vivid interpretations of the contrasts of hot, clear light and cool, dense shade of Trinidad landscape.
"It is important through all periods of the history of Art that some art should comment on contemporary conditions - Social comment is not only valid but necessary and relevant."