Rediscovering the “Solitary Alchemist” Barbara Jardine

Barbara Jardine photographed by Abigail Hadeed

A few years ago I saw a film entitled  “Solitary Alchemist,” a semi-biographical documentary about Trinidadian artist and jeweler Barbara Jardine.  It chronicled the creation of a special art piece for a 2007 exhibition at The Cooper Gallery in Dundee, Scotland. It was to be her international comeback after leaving the London Art Scene more than 30 years before- in the early 1970s.  While the film showed her constructing this particular piece, it also reviewed several of her best-known pieces and showed how she used past experiences, feelings and desires as inspiration to create.

At the time (I think I saw it around 2009) I was not thinking about a future in art and fashion and, while I loved the film, I forgot about it after a while.

Then sometime last week when I signed into Facebook I noticed an update from the film’s page and it all came back to me.  I re-watched it and this time it stuck.  It was fascinating watching her  work; from the conceptualization phase to modifying the design and finally constructing the jeweled sculpture, “Heigh Ho, My Heart.”  Her talk about her childhood growing up in Trinidad’s famous “Beach Camp” in the 1950s and ’60s reminded me of the stories my father used to tell me of “the good ole’ days” in the Clifton Hill of his youth.  It was engrossing seeing the progression of her art, how it was refined with each life experience and how her skill matured into what it is today.

I was meaning to write about “Solitary Alchemist” since I re-watched it last week, but I kept putting it off.  Then yesterday my brother cleaned out his workroom and brought out a catalogue from Ms. Jardine’s last exhibition, “The Calabash Collection.”  Looking over the listing I knew that I couldn’t put off writing this post anymore, so here it is!

To anyone who would like to watch (or re-watch) “Solitary Alchemist” it is available on the Caribbean Tales TV VEVO channel:

I have put together a small gallery of Ms. Jardine’s work over the years, including pieces from “The Calabash Collection” and her art piece “Heigh Ho, My Heart.”  Enjoy!

All images were taken from Barbara Jardine’s website:

Photographs by Michele Jorsling

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