During Art Walk on October 7th, an exhibition of new work by local artist Ontonio Christie opened at the Scott Roth Gallery on Hendry Street. The collection contains two dozen acrylics on canvas as well as two colored pencil drawings that express the warmth, affability and passion the artist possesses for his wife and family, music and cultural affinity for wondefully bold and bright colors.
Even without being told, it is clear that Ontonio is from Jamaica the moment he speaks. It is not just the way he accents each syllable, but the manner in which he measures his words, marrying his thoughts with the emotions percolating just beneath his facile and easygoing countenance.
“I have always loved art,” Ontonio said during the reception marking the opening of his solo exhibition at Roth Gallery, which also doubles as Scott Martin Roth’s Fort Myers law office.
Ontonio studied at Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts in Kingston, where he matriculated with a degree in graphic design. “I am also a web designer,” Ontonio notes. “That is actually my day job.”
But he feeds his passion for painting at night and on weekends. In fact, whenever he has spare time. But he did not pick up his first paint brush until just a decade ago. “When I first came here,” Ontonio explains, “I was home for awhile and I picked up a paint brush and said to myself, ‘I feel I could do this.’ The more and more I painted, the more I felt like this is something I can keep doing. And that’s how I got into painting.”
Each composition is an outgrowth of his abiding love of color, music and his “absolutely beautiful wife and family.” In fact, wife Kadine often subs as his muse for his sensual, curvaceous, well-toned figurative drawings and paintings which express a stylistic flair through the use of trendy hats, haute couture and fashion accessories.
“You’ll see a lot of music in my paintings,” Ontonio remarked, walking past paintings of musicians and dancers and women in dance pose. “Jamaican culture builds on music. We have great music. I think music is one of our biggest assets, really. I paint to music. I started painting to classical music. That’s how I started. I did the exercise in college where you try to interpret the music with different lines, and I kind of hold on to that. That’s something that inspires me.”
There is a lyrical, ska-to-reggae quality not only to the way he poses his figures and the color schemes he employs, but to the very way he drags the pigment across canvas and paper. Even in demure renderings like his pencil drawings, there’s a vibrancy that jumps out of the support and connects with the viewer on a purely visceral plane.
But the best way to experience Ontonio Christie’s work is to stand before it, to drink it in, and let it sing to you beneath the gallery lights. You can take in Ontonio’s exhibition at the Scott Roth Gallery (and law offices) at 1523 Hendry Street during Music Walk tomorrow night, or during regular office hours Monday through Friday.
For more information, please call the gallery at 239-728-3733.