Brent Malone was born and raised on New Providence, The Bahamas. A prolific artist, Malone became known for his versatility with media and subject matter.
Malone attended Queen’s College for primary and high school. At the age of 12, he commenced afterschool lessons at The Tribune under the tutelage of Gilbert Dupuch. Between the ages of 14 and 16, he attended classes at Don Russell’s Academy of Fine Art, where he was taught to paint and draw the human figure from a life model. It was during these years that he decided he wanted to become an artist.
After high school, he joined the Bahamian branch of The Chelsea Pottery, which was originally established in London (as The Chelsea Pottery of London). David Rawnsley was the instructor and he led young Malone, Max Taylor, Kendal Hanna and Eddie Minnis.
He left to study at the Beckenham School of Art in London (it later changed to the Ravensbourne College of Art and Design). Though conflicted over whether he wanted to come back home, he returned to Nassau in 1964 to reopen and manage the Chelsea Pottery (as the Bahamian Pottery). It closed a year later and Malone struggled with the idea of staying in The Bahamas until he saw a Junkanoo parade, which inspired him to put down roots.
Malone is remembered as an entrepreneur and institution builder. He opened several galleries and stores in his lifetime, including:
- The Loft Gallery 1965-1970;
- The Matinee Art Gallery 1977-1980;
- The Temple Gallery 1981-1987;
- Marlborough Antiques and Temple merged in 1987 and remained functional until 2004;
- He also helped established The Ladder Gallery at New Providence Community Centre.
Malone’s contributions to Bahamian culture and art were not limited to the mere provision of physical locations to display art. He worked instrumentally with cultural and educational institutions to create and enhance awareness for the visual arts. In 1978, he worked with Eddie Minnis to call for the reduction of import duty rates on art supplies and served as the chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Cultural Committee. In 1979, he also worked with Eddie Minnis to develop and initiate the FINCO Summer Workshop, which is one of the country’s longest running arts education programs. He was a major component of B-CAUSE (Bahamas Creative Artists United for Serious Expression), which was established in 1991.
Malone believed that Junkanoo was the ﬁrst sign of a national art form and a reservoir of creative energy waiting to be tapped by all the arts. Junkanoo was Malone’s muse for the better part of his early career. His compositions changed over the years using a full range of techniques from neorealism to abstract expression but consistently relied on the elements true to Junkanoo to emphasize form and motion: vibrant colours, patterns, ribbons and other rudimentary items of the costume.
Malone would also capture the warm pre-dawn lighting from streetlights to depict mood in his paintings. He explored the euphoric atmosphere evident during the parade but also included studies in the post-parade where participants appeared tired, sweaty and still hypnotized by the remnants of music and dancing.
Malone’s “Metamorphosis” (1979) is evidence of Malone’s endeavour to depart from the previous style of a more realistic interpretation of his Junkanoo motivated compositions.
The painting is of a single Junkanoo ﬁgure frontally composed holding cowbells in a static pose. There is an implied movement and rhythm reminiscent of Junkanoo in the brush strokes. The composition is fundamentally arranged in an organized design that produces symmetry in the image. The ﬁgure stares out in a sincerely confrontational way, the emotive power of his face says that he is ‘ready’. Using the technique of pointillism, white ﬂecks layered over a vibrant palette of colours lead the viewer throughout the picture plane - almost signifying the dance itself. Pattern starts to describe the music that will accompany the dance.
Malone painted the piece after emerging from a period of depression, during which he stopped painting totally. He made his return with the “Reincarnation” series of works, of which “Metamorphosis” was a part.
The title “Metamorphosis” is an appropriate description for the work, which shows a Junkanooer dressed in a butterfly costume. To achieve their glory, butterflies must first undergo a transformation from caterpillar to the winged colorful things we enjoy seeing in gardens. There is more significance to be found in the work, though. The painting speaks to the process a Junkanooer experiences, transforming from man into the creation — his costume. Malone, himself, came out of his depression a new kind of person.
Malone on Junkanoo:
“To me, Junkanoo is the very essence of the Bahamian spirit and I feel very humble in deriving my inspiration from this source...”
“It took me 13 years of painting to ﬁnd an epic subject matter of personal meaning to me—and that subject is Junkanoo. Any free spirit who has experienced Junkanoo will understand my excitement, and hopefully, if my craft has matured over the last 13 years, will understand my new art as well.”
Malone was rewarded with honours and distinctions for his contributions, namely:
- Distinguished Citizens Award for The Visual Arts (Bahamas Chamber of Commerce);
- Clement Bethel Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts (College of the Bahamas);
- Member of the British Empire (M.B.E) Queen’s Honours;
- Silver Jubilee Award The Government of the Bahamas.
His work has been collected extensively in The Bahamas and internationally in the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Republic of China and South Africa.
Remembering R. Brent Malone
R. Brent Malone passed away in 2004 leaving an indisputable inﬂuence on the birth of Bahamian art. He is remembered not just for his Junkanoo likenesses, but for his talent and interest in painting a spectrum of subjects and experimenting with a variety of media. His seascapes, Junkanoo works, floral paintings and studies of the human form live on in many homes throughout The Bahamas and overseas.
Have students compare and contrast Malone’s use of light in the paintings. Discuss the effects of light and illumination by:
Having students compose a traditional Junkanoo costume concentrating on breaking the original image down using fundamental elements of the Cubist style.
Layer the same image with pointillism technique bearing in mind an implied movement in the image that could be generated by using this method.
Have students illustrate an object going through a metamorphosis transformation. Each frame should show a gradual change from the original object as it grows into the ﬁnal image. Use the example of a caterpillar becoming a butterﬂy, etc.
Symmetry - The correspondence in size, form and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a plane, line or point; regularity of form or arrangement in terms of like, reciprocal or corresponding parts.
Pointillism - A theory and technique developed by the neo-impressionists, based on the principle that juxtaposed dots of pure colour, as blue and yellow, are optically mixed into the resulting hue, as green, by the viewer.
Stippling - The production of continuous graduations of light and shade through the use of small, discrete dots or strokes.
Chiaroscuro - The distribution and arrangement of light and shade in a picture. Chiaroscuro refers to the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade, especially to enhance the delineation of character and for general dramatic effect. It is an Italian word literally meaning, “light dark”, used to describe the skillful balance of light and dark in a painting, with strong contrasts to create dramatic effect.
Cropping - To trim an image of unwanted outer area (a photograph or picture, for example).
Realism – The treatment of forms, colours, space, etc., in such a manner as to emphasize their correspondence to actuality or to ordinary visual experience.
- Does the use of symmetrical design limit or enhance the subject?
- Is the white dotted layer in Metamorphosis pointillism, stippling, a combination or neither? Explain.
- How does the layer of ﬂat, white ﬂecks super-imposed on the vibrant colours affect the image
- How does Malone’s use of the similar technique employ the same idea as Signac? Consider rhythm and movement of the dots.
- How does Malone employ chiaroscuro?
- Which artist of the 16th century championed the technique of chiaroscuro? (Caravaggio)
- How does the work differ or associate?
- Does cropping the image make the composition more abstract?
- Discuss the elements of this piece that exemplify Malone’s exit from realism.
- Is the Junkanooer’s head rendered in proper scale or proportion to the rest of his body.
- What is the signiﬁcance of the title, “Metamorphosis”? Consider the importance of the narrative intended by the artist.