Once a space that was considered a space of exile, a dark and dangerous unknown in colonizing Europe’s imagination, the Caribbean is now precisely the opposite. The light and colour here is seductive, in more restorative and idyllic imaginaries. Whether you’re born here or a transplant, the Bahamian landscape has been a more than willing muse to many an artist over the years, including the likes of Hildegarde Hamilton, Eddie Minnis, Chan Pratt, and more, artist John Paul Saddleton (J.P.) is in good company.
He is perhaps best known for the monumental mural at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, but he started out like many of us, making a mess at an early age with crayon on the floor; finger-paint on the walls and play-dough in the carpet. At age seven, John Paul’s parents moved from their home in Nassau, The Bahamas to Luxembourg where his eyes were opened to the European delights of papier mache in an after-school art program. It was there and then John Paul decided that he wanted to make a career in the arts.
Ten years later at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, J.P. took as many art electives as he could, but despite his best artistic efforts, he ended up graduating with a more ‘practical’ degree: a Bachelor’s of Commerce. Nevertheless, J.P. more than made up for this shortfall at Central St. Martin’s in London, England where he studied watercolour layering, glass manipulation and advanced colour theory. To this day, he has never fully abandoned his earliest artistic methods – particularly his knack for making a mess.
Most people would be horrified if their short-comings were exposed to the world but John Paul is quite the opposite: he would be horrified if people truly knew of his successes and accomplishments. Some of these accomplishments (which he doesn’t want you to know about) include murals painted at the Cancer Research Centre and at the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo here in Nassau. His work was also featured in the MGM film ‘After The Sunset’ starring Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan shot on location here in New Providence. He also gave a lecture at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas in 2005, or was it 2006, and was invited to be a judge for the Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Competition in 2004]. John Paul has been a guest teacher at local schools and has also supervised a youth art project at the aforementioned NAGB.
Personally, John Paul also doesn’t want you to know, that he is an awful sailor. A friend asked him, “What’s the worst that can happen, J.P.? The boat sinks and you swim ashore?” Well, that’s exactly what happened to our dear artist John Paul on the maiden voyage of his second-hand Sunfish. Never mind, because he got the little sail-boat fixed just a few weeks before it was stolen from the beach outside his studio. Not to be kept from the intense light and vivid colours of the Bahamian landscape from where he draws his inspiration, John Paul bought a tent. He decided that camping was a somewhat safer way to reach remote locations throughout the archipelago for his plein-air paintings.
John Paul was born in Nassau in 1968 and is well known on the Bahamian art scene. His artwork is in a variety of media and is recognized easily by his ability to capture the intense light and rich colours of the Bahamian landscape. Generally working in oil john Paul has also worked in watercolour and more recently acrylic. His current focus is on movement and flow particularly in his more abstract underwater scenes, which are built up with layers of acrylic glaze. The last few years have seen an increase in corporate work with clients from The Four Seasons in Exuma , the Meliá and Baha Mar Resorts on Cable beach.