Drawing in Antigua: Artist Residency 2023
Drawing Year alumnus and UAL lecturer Al Page and Royal Drawing School tutor Cherry Pickles spent six weeks in Antigua in early 2023. Supported by the Halo Foundation and the Jumby Bay Fund, working with the Antiguan Ministry of Education, they worked with art teachers from Antigua and Barbuda, and spent time on their personal art practice too. Here, Al tells us about their experience...
Spending 6 weeks on the residency was a real gift; the time and space to concentrate on my work as well as the opportunity to deepen and expand my teaching practice in a new and complex context. Overall, it was a rich and enriching experience for both.
The teaching work was focussed on helping the teachers develop teaching strategies that they could take into their own classrooms and learning environments. We also supported them to increase confidence in their own practice. The students were fantastic; fearless, open minded, sensitive and engaged. They were clear-eyed about the challenges lots of them faced in the Antiguan & Barbudan school system and the role they felt that creative art could play in the cultural life of the island. They were focussed and hardworking and the final exhibition was a real testament to their work and learning in the limited time we had to work together.
I used the time when I wasn’t teaching to draw, take photographs, hike, speak to Antiguans and people living there and engage with some of the richness and intricacies of life on a Caribbean island. I worked primarily from the apartment and made a series of large format ink drawings that incorporated the landscape and fauna of the island, as well as braiding some images that spoke to the history of the place.
Antigua is a really special country with a rich and complex history, it’s sublime in many places, ugly in others with a landscape scarred with abandoned and half built buildings, but there’s also areas of almost unimaginable beauty.
There were lots of small moments that were very special; conversations with people that opened my eyes to other ways of seeing the world, encountering something that seemed so surprising – such as enormous Iguana sunning itself on the road, or just sitting and watching sail boats float on the azure sea. The Atlantic side of the island really worked its way into my consciousness; the wide open spaces and the big seas there are really spectacular.
Almost all the people I met when I was there were friendly, open, philosophical about life and ready to sit and chat about Antigua, the UK and their place in the firmament. Many people have come to Antigua from around the Caribbean and most Antiguans are well travelled with lots having lived abroad for periods of time. It was a real gift to hear some of those stories and carry them back with me to London.