Carlisle Chang 1921 – 2001
April 08, 2001
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Pat Bishop: His death is also a personal loss
Were it not for Carlisle Chang, we may never have come to experience the work of Pat Bishop, a multi-faceted artist, whose paintings stir as much cerebral activity as her choral presentations or involvement in pan.
Speaking yesterday from her Woodbrook home, Bishop told the Daily Express that Chang made a significant input, in terms of her decision to stay in Trinidad in the first place. “Carlisle had an enormous influence on my work,” Bishop said, explaining
that while he did not directly inspire her to paint, he volunteered his facilities for her first showing and maintained his support throughout her career.
“When I came back home, it was Carlisle who opened up the Carlart gallery for me and made it possible for me to show my work,” she said. “I had returned with a crate of abstract paintings and not even my mother had faith in them being liked by anyone.
“However, Carlisle had the required faith and took the work out of the crates and put it up in his gallery. In that way, he helped me to return, since I left here as an infant and came back as an adult. He helped me to re-integrate.
“I am not deifying Chang, as is the habit at these times. What I am saying is he had a breadth of vision uncommon in his time, that allowed him to present a wider and deeper understanding of what art is and what it is for.I think it is very important to understand that.
“In all his work, he could explain the purpose, so that he could bring to bear on any discussion about coat of arms or the national flag, his purpose for every inclusion. It is not a matter if some do not like the flag. It is more important to be able to understand what the artist was thinking or attempting to create and Chang never failed to communicate in that regard.
His official description of the national flag makes such a point: “The Black represents for us the dedication of the people joined together by one strong bond. It is the colour of strength, of unity of purpose, and of the wealth of the land. Red is the colour most expressive of our country; it represents the vitality of the land and its peoples; it is the warmth and energy of the sun, the courage and friendliness of the people. White is the sea by which
these lands are bound; the cradle of our heritage; the purity of our aspirations and the equality of men and women under the sun.
“Thus, the colours chosen represent the elements of the Earth, Water and Fire which encompass all our past, present and future; and inspire us as one united, vital, free and dedicated people.”
But that embrace by the State is also seen as the single event that would eventually caus him the greatest grief. “It was clear he was appreciated by the Government of the day,” Bishop said. “It was they who commissioned what turned out to be one of his greatest pieces, then the same regime came back and destroyed it with one swing of the wrecking ball.
“Those who had given him a reason to live also killed him,” she said. “He never painted for 20 years after that experience and by that time had pretty well lost the skill. The piece at the airport was his best and the best I have seen in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“But often, we do not know when we are in the midst of great events, because our littleness doesn’t allow that. For us of the Lydians, Carlisle was our designer. His last major work for us was the costumes and sets for Turandot, so we have a deep sense of grief.
“On an absolutely personal level, he gave me that first opportunity to hang up a picture on a wall in a public place and for that I remain forever grateful. Carlisle Chang intervened at a critical period or my life and helped with the decision on whether to stay here or leave again.
“For that and so many other reasons, I shall not forget him,” Bishop said.