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Facing life’s challenges through art

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Two of this year's Charman Prize entrants have more in common than initially meets the eye.

The exhibition is a first for both Anthony Aguiar and Liana Hall, Bermudians who discovered their talent in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Mr Aguiar, an art lover with a collection of more than 60 paintings, only found the time to give it a go himself after his wife, Gretchen, died three years ago.

Ms Hall discovered clay making through an art therapy class she attended to cope with post traumatic stress disorder.

Their work will be on display among the entries of 107 artists when the Charman Prize exhibit has its public opening at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art on Saturday.

Mr Aguiar, the owner of Harrington Hundreds grocery store, used charcoal and graphite for his drawing.

“I have loved art since I was a young boy,” the 67-year-old said. “I have always been supportive of the arts. Every time I go away, all I do is go from museum to museum to look at the art.”

His personal collection includes work by artists here as well as from Portugal, England and America.

“When my wife passed away, I found myself with time and I started to draw. I picked up a few books and enjoyed it immensely so I carried on with it.

“I have been inspired and encouraged by a very good friend, Eldon Trimingham. He is a professional artist and has given me a few lessons here and there. I started to show him some of my sketches and he was fixated on the one I have presented to Masterworks.”

Many of his friends believe Dark Man is a self-portrait.

“Some people view it as autobiographical, which is an accident,” he said.

“It is expressionist impressionism. It is an image of a man and in the background there is perhaps another person, either at a piano or at a desk. It is not the typical happy Bermuda image that you see. It is dark, it is psychological and sad, of sorts.”

Entering the Charman Prize was one of the life goals Ms Hall, 35, put on her bucket list.

“I only got into sculpting after going to residential treatment for PTSD in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which had art therapy sessions on campus,” said the artist, who also runs a communications firm, Hall of Life.

“When I left treatment I stayed in Santa Fe for nearly three months to continue therapy and joined Santa Fe Clay studio where I taught myself sculpture. I find I get lost in sculpting more as I can't touch my phone or anything because my hands are covered in clay.

“I love the tactile nature of it. I often set out an intension before sculpting, like being grounded or feeling free, then I start building and see what shape emerges.”

A Native American shaman helped put her challenges into perspective. The experience provided the inspiration for her clay bust, Ancestry Dismantled.

“I had a vision of my ancestors on my father's side, African slaves being transported across the Atlantic,” said Ms Hall, whose late father, Julian, was a lawyer and MP.

“They spoke to me and said: ‘We weren't dragged to the end of the earth for you to fall off the edge of it. We didn't suffer for you to just go on suffering. You have a right to be here.'

“A lot of my mental health difficulties came into focus and I felt a sense of freedom. The concept of Ancestry Dismantled is that our ancestry as descendants of slaves has been dismantled because, unlike other people who can track their past, I don't know where in Africa my ancestors came from. I don't know where I am from.”

As part of the Charman Prize, five categories will be judged by four international judges. A total of $18,000 will be given to winners, who will be announced tomorrow when the exhibit opens to members of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The show opens to the general public on Saturday

Anthony Aguiar (Photograph supplied)
Liana Hall (Photograph supplied)
Dark Man by Anthony Aguiar (Photograph supplied)
Ancestry Dismantled by Liana Hall (Photograph supplied)
More clay work by Liana Hall (Photograph supplied)

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Published October 10, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated October 10, 2019 at 8:57 am)

Facing life’s challenges through art

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