September 28, 2020

Artist Charles Long prepares for new exhibition at West Lane

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Charles Long is one of the few – possibly the only Cayman based artist, who has made a living more or less exclusively from his paintings, consistently for nearly four decades.

Originally from England, Mr. Long pursued an art foundation course at Farnham College for two years before joining his parents in the Cayman Islands in 1969. Mr Long became a full-time artist around 1972, after working at the turtle farm, and also in the Cayman Islands’ Civil Service. Since that time, Mr. Long has been faithfully recording everyday life in the Cayman Islands through his stylised, but carefully observed and often meticulously delineated paintings.

Although Mr. Long isn’t exactly sure how many paintings he has done since then, he figures it must be somewhere between one and two thousand.

He has captured virtually every aspect of everyday life in the Cayman Islands, from people walking or cycling by beach or iron shore, to workmen mixing cement in the hot sun, in front of a new condo development. If you were to put all his paintings together, you would have a unique pictorial history of Cayman’s development during these critical decades.

Some people have likened Mr. Long’s style to that of the English painter L.S. Lowery, but Mr. Long’s chief influence is the late 19th Century Post-Impressionist painter, Henri Rousseau, and his paintings show the same dedication to capturing the forms of plant life in particular.

Patterns of leaves are shown in brilliant bright greens and yellows against a background of dark, almost-black green – the dazzling contrasts seen amid Cayman’s trees as they stand in bright sunshine. His paintings are filled with light, as if Mr. Long has never lost the sense of wonder of seeing the brilliant, Cayman sunshine for the first time.

The people, in his paintings, often appear flat and two-dimensional, rather like painted cardboard cutouts and rules of perspective are observed only when Mr. Long wishes to observe them. Like a great historical tapestry, his paintings seem to reveal more by their careful, stylised, two-dimensional character than by slavish adherence to the traditional rules of realism.

At the moment, Mr. Long is preparing for a new exhibition of his work that will take place at his studio at West Lane in Savannah, on Thursday 25th August.

“My new work is a continuation of the old work but with emphasis on new subject matter such as banana and mango sellers, which I have never done before. I have also done a new self-portrait of myself standing outside the studio,” he said.

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