Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Artist pours passion into details for new Jamaica House backdrop

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2020 | 12:00 AMKhanique McDaniel/Social Media Coordinator
Tarik Ffrench poses with a replica of the Jamaican coat of arms, which hangs on the wall of the Jamaica House press room.

Furniture, banners, children’s books, and the emblem that adorns the wall of the press room at the Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica, is 39-year-old Tarik Ffrench’s canvas.

A past student of Jamaica College, Ffrench attended college in the United States, where his yearning for home and brush with racism led him to create a Jamaica-themed line called Boasey Jamaica, where depictions of the island’s culture are printed on T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

But even with a successful career and business, Ffrench says his proudest moment was watching the nightly news and seeing the coat of arms he designed as a backdrop to the prime minister’s address to the nation.

The self-taught freeform artist is not shy about expressing his love for country, which is evident in the detailed design of the coat of arms, which replaced the controversial Jamaica House logo, which was likened to the logo in the press room at the White House.

Ffrench told The Gleaner that it took him 12 days to complete the project, with research consuming the bulk of the time as over the years, replicas of the Jamaican coat of arms originally designed by then Atlanta-based artist Christopher González got lost in translation.

“It has been done so many times that a lot of the details and the core elements have been lost. I did some research on where they got the idea and found out that it came from an English family crest. I was then able to use these details to present it in a modern and authentic way.”

LACK OF KNOWLEDGE

When asked about the response to his first artwork, Ffrench said: “I have mixed feelings. I understand why people say the things that they say, and a lot of it is because a lack of knowledge.”

He reasoned that the image was of the actual location and that “the building is what it is”, adding that “any resemblance to the American White House logo is based purely on the colours”.

He continued: “What people have to realise is that not every colour translates well on camera; not everything can be seen and is pleasing to the eye.”

Ffrench also added that he was seeking to stay away from political colours though he later shared that in spite of never voting, the current administration had him reconsidering.

When he isn’t painting murals for corporate clients and nurseries for kids, the laid-back creative makes toys with his nine-year-old daughter, Layla, who also spends time with a pencil, learning the craft.

It is a talent he nurtures as he recalls his parents trying to push him into the field of architecture because “art won’t make money”.

Faced with resistance from some local artists to collaborate, which he chalks up to being territorial or intimidated, he was quick to list local digital and visual artist Tahj Francis as one of his favourites, while sharing his love for Barrington Watson’s post-Independence art.

khanique.mcdaniel@gleanerjm.com