The largest, monumental “trompe l’oeil” mural in the region has just been completed in Speightstown by artist John Pugh of California, his wife Annie and Don Small of Barbados. The enormous mural, 80 feet long and 20 feet tall, now adorns the North wall of Jordan’s Supermarket warehouse, facing the now beautified beach and “boardwalk” of Speightstown, or as it was originally called, Spykes Bay. It’s taken18 months of work, with the final, heroic 9 weeks on site, on scaffolding day and night, from February until April 15th.
Trompe l’oeil is French for “deceive the eye” – a mural painting technique involving extremely realistic imagery, creating a dramatic optical illusion of three dimensions. John Pugh is world famous for his extraordinary murals around the globe – some 250 huge murals which attract thousands of visitors, arrest attention and “deceive the eye”. The Speightstown mural, “Bridge of Tides”, was the inspiration of Pierre Spennard, proprietor of Mangoes by the Sea Restaurant.
Pierre adopted Barbados nearly 20 years ago, and has watched Speightstown’s decay, including the nearby government icon, Galene, the old Post Office house. After the trauma of his young sons drifting at sea for nine hours, the idea of a mural overlooking the sea, telling the story of Barbados, was born, to inspire us all to save and revitalise Speightstown. Artist Don Small responded to a search for a local muralist, but saw the challenges of a mural on an unsuitable old wall, exposed to sun, sand and sea, and sure to fade rapidly. The famous monumental trompe l’oeil murals of John Pugh have been widely seen on the web, and he was invited to Barbados, met with Don and Pierre, and began the plan, putting Speightstown ahead of other requests.
John, Don and Pierre worked on the story line – from Amerindians to Independence and beyond, with Errol Barrow and the broken trident, within the dramatic Harrison’s Cave. Don made two visits to California to familiarise himself with John’s modern technology for massive outdoor murals. Work started in 2010, with Don working on the detail of the story line in California. The huge wall had to be prepared by treating the, exposed, rusting beams and power washing the very rough wall, so that spikes in the coral stone wouldn’t tear the specially manufactured acrylic weave mesh on which the mural is painted. The microfiber mesh weave material comprised 4 panels 60 x 5 feet, saturated with white acrylic colourfast pigment, on which the mural was painted. The wall was covered with an acrylic gel and lacquer mix, and the panels carefully “rolled on” and stuck permanently to the wall – a difficult and complicated process that took a team of five, including the artists, five 12 hour days!
Then two months of steady painting, to bring out the richness of the art work and the dramatic three dimensional effect. It will be sealed with an acryloid polymer to prevent fading. Speightstown now has a magnificent, monumental mural, created by the “Picasso of mural painting” – John Pugh – working with a brilliant Bajan artist, Don Small, who, incidentally, will be having an exhibition of his paintings at the Gallery of Caribbean Art all next week.
The Speightstown Enhancement Fund Trust (SEFT) has been formed by Harold Hoyte, Peter Boos, Clyde Sobers and Henry Fraser, to promote and help finance this great work, and through the mural to catalyse stimulate and catalyse the revitalisation of historic Speightstown, Little Bristol and Spykes Bay – a neglected Treasure of Barbados. It is hoped that such a world class work of art on the beach front of the town will encourage owners, donors and friends of Speightstown, government and all stakeholders to partner in the rehabilitation of the town’s historic building and streetscape, and revitalise the town by linking all aspects of culture, the arts and entertainment to the rich history. Donors to the Fund can contact Peter Boos at firstname.lastname@example.org