Following yesterday’s contribution from Peter Doig, a Scottish artist with Caribbean connections, we arrive at the opposite – an artist from Antigua who thought he was Scottish. Or to be accurate, who believed himself descended from a line of Scottish aristocrats in a lineage that included the Dukes of Buccleuch, Charles II and Franz Joseph of Austria. In fact, it was through FrankWalter, whose estate we began to represent in 2013, that we first met Peter, who had heard that we were showing the work of the reclusive Caribbean artist and phoned the gallery to find out more.
Francis Archibald Wentworth Walter, to give him his full name, self-styled 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Follies and the Ding-a-Ding nook, was a prodigiously talented artist whose self-imposed isolation led to his work being almost entirely unknown during his life. In the years since his death in 2009 his work has been swiftly and comprehensively assimilated into the history of Caribbean art, representing Antigua & Barbuda at that nation’s inaugural pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and this spring as the subject of a first major museum retrospective (of several hundred works) at the MMK Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt. This exhibition was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but is now scheduled to open (to a socially distanced public) on 16th May.
As the MMK exhibition will demonstrate Frank Walter had an unmistakable and visionary voice across a broad spectrum of subjects including figuration, abstraction and cosmic speculation, but in particular his gloriously fresh landscapes and tree paintings trees stand out. They have a direct, almost anthropomorphic, quality - as if he were recording a kind of companionship offered by trees when people had long since let him down. Painted with a rare immediacy, on whatever material came to hand (Dark Green Tree is on the side of an old carboard box) they confirm the arrival of one of the most distinctive Caribbean artists of the last 50 years.