Introspective Jamaican artist, Stafford Schliefer, paints a life of colour, motion and meaning
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1939, self-taught artist Stafford Schliefer’s gentle smile is somewhat at odds with the intense nature of a lifetime spent exploring the vagaries of the Caribbean condition conjured up in exuberant colour, translucence, movement and gesture from his hilltop Wayside Studio in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Likening the compulsion toward artistic expression to the need to draw breath, he cuts a figure of quite some repute on regional and international art scenes as he has for near-on four decades. A solitary artist, he stands, encircled by paints and canvases and a passion for communicating the warts-and-all truth of the universal experience: a visual storyteller, depicting lively vignettes of modern-day Jamaican life infused with the complex cultural history of his heartland.
Yet, once upon a time, Schliefer touted his wares in the tourist street markets of Kingston and Montego Bay. Inspired by artist and friend, Lester Gunter, at twenty-eight, he underwent “a conversion,” turning what his parents considered his indulgence into life as a professional artist. Travelling the globe as a seaman on tourist liners in his formative years, he keenly observed the nuances of the black diaspora and the socio-political climates in which people co-existed. Translating his perceptions into emotionally-charged works that explored recurring themes such as slavery, violence, celebration and tradition, he created lasting connections with viewers, using the language of art as a vehicle to convey messages of compassion and truth. He muses, “In many ways, my works are motivated by the intensity of suffering in our society – the accumulated need; to overcome this, motivates me most of all….”
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