Antonius Roberts: Faces of Familiar Strangers


My motivation for this exhibition was prompted by a desire to achieve three things: I wanted to show some of my early work not seen publicly since the 80’s; to draw attention to the blight of poverty which is, unfortunately, still relevant in today’s society; and to pay tribute to those loyal collectors of Bahamian art during the 1980‘s.  

The works on display are from the private collections of Lowell Mortimer, Max and Allyson Gibson, Campbell and Sharon Cleare, Dr. Ronald and Gwen Knowles all of whom offered their patronage in those early years to several emerging artists, of which I was one.  They continue to give their enduring encouragement and support and I am grateful.

The comment from Alissandra Cummins’ review for the ‘Emerging Artists in the Caribbean’ Exhibition in Nagoya, Japan clearly attests to the motivation that prompted these portraits.  “Antonius Roberts’ canvasses represent portraits of human emotion and condition.  The viewer’s initial response is to the impact of his powerful images of men and women; slightly enlarged heads filling the canvas amplifies the immediacy of human expression.  The artist’s portraits are forceful and yet poignant commentaries on Caribbean society.”

It was and is my belief that one of my responsibilities as an artist is to be the ‘story-teller’ - to create a visual history which honestly reflects the many aspects of the society in which we live.  The inspiration for these evocative portraits sprang from a desire to explore the differences of circumstance between the various layers of Bahamian society.  The meaning or lack of it in the lives of the ‘have nots’, the harsh condition of their living and the substance of their lives.

It was my intent to capture the hidden emotions and tell the stories etched in the lines of each face.  These are portraits of people who each have  their own unique character yet are joined, at that level of existence, by the common thread of material deprivation.  At the same time, I questioned whether they were able to accept the hardships and restrictions of their lives and in spite of them would do whatever it took, with a degree of equanimity, to provide for their families. Could they build and sustain an emotionally and spiritually satisfying life or would a sense of resentment or hopelessness grind them down and prevail with the certain knowledge of the discrepancies between their lives and the lives of the more fortunate.

I attempted in these works to bring into focus the divisions and realities prevailing in our society and which form part of the fabric of our history.  I hope that I have depicted accurately and with compassion the complex mixture of  emotions written into these faces; hope and hopelessness; meaning and purpose, or the lack of it; weariness and the need for comfort that may or may not have been forthcoming. 

Above all I hope that the enduring strength and the dignity of my fellow Bahamians is faithfully reflected in my work.