Antonius Roberts Bio 2012

Antonius Roberts is one of The Bahamas’ most outstanding artists and its pre-eminent Sculptor and Open Space Designer.    He is passionate about preserving and documenting Bahamian/African heritage and has an impeccable record as a conservationist. This is the principle which guides his philosophy, his work and his life. The benefit of using, preserving and re-cycling organic materials was understood and incorporated into his art long before “green” fully infiltrated the general consciousness.

He says that he is inspired by each piece of wood, marble or organic material that comes into his hands and waits for the material to tell him what to do. It is important to him to locate his installations, where possible, in places of historical significance to record and re-create the past as a living record.    He believes that the energy and beauty of the material or the place allows him to transform them in such a way that they create their own synergy inviting viewers to interact with them as opposed to simply reacting to what they see.

Born in 1958 in Nassau, he is the proud father of Ayla Antonia Roberts. Always interested in art as a child, Antonius received his BFA in painting from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, P.A.). His art has a strong signature with a special understanding of and flair for defining large spaces. As a Curator, he has played a significant role in the public and private domain. In 1999 he was engaged by the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board and the Airport Authority to curate and purchase the two dimensional art for the existing Arrival and Departure Lounges. He previously played a leading role in the restoration of the Villa Doyle and its conversion into The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. He was the founding Curator of The Central Bank Art Gallery and former Co-ordinator of FINCO’s Summer Art Workshops all of which were highly successful.

He has, over the years, collected numerous prestigious awards and exhibited locally and internationally. Internationally, the most notable of these perhaps being in Changchun, China when he was invited to participate with other international artists in producing a work for an exhibition and subsequent permanent installation of his 12’ sculpture ‘Rebirth’ in the Art Park. His paintings and his sculptures are in private collections in Italy, South Africa, Canada, the U.S. and Germany. At home he hasmounted several exhibitions of his own, many of them addressing or making commentary on historical or social issues.

In 2008 he was featured in the documentary film “Artists of The Bahamas” . This film explores the lives and works of eleven notable Bahamian artists whose talents contributed to the initial art movement in their country. As a result of this film there have been several exhibitions of the artists’ works , the most recent being held at the Waterloo Centre for the Arts (WCA) in Waterloo, Iowa.

His first noted installation, reflecting his own and man’s spiritual nature, was “Sacred Space” a representation of slave women carved out of Casuarina trees still rooted in the ground on the cliff edge at Clifton Cay. This location was chosen as it was one of the first landing places for slaves brought to The Bahamas from Africa and the U.S. This was followed by a similar but larger installation at the Welcome Centre close to the airport. The “Sacred Women’ as they came to be known were then travelled to Wiesbaden, Germany for an exhibition and then returned to be exhibited at The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. A similar installation now forms part of the Grand Bahama Heritage Foundation and the Love My Bahamas downtown Art Experience.

In 2009, he created a design for seven acres of grounds at Centreville House and, receiving government approval, directed and managed the project which included many special features – Landscaping, a Pond, Fountain, Labyrinth, Amphitheatre seating, Benches, a Lucayan Tree House and other Art installations – making it the first downtown park in Nassau and an integral part of the revitalisation programme.

More recently he was invited to create work for the new Lynden Pindling Airport Terminal in New Providence and has put his considerable talents into a different medium by designing hand-blown glass sculptures which will be installed later in the year.

Always busy and always involved with teaching and supporting young artists he is also deeply committed to community development and is the current Artist-in- Residence of the Schooner Bay project in Abaco. This project is arguably the first new town to be built in The Bahamas in one hundred years and is one hundred per cent eco friendly. Antonius acts as a consultant on design matters and will be instrumental in establishing a presence for art in the community by engaging as many artists as possible in the production of murals, sculptures, signage, public art pieces and art symposiums .

His current project with Baha Mar, a major resort developer in Cable Beach, embraces both his belief in conservation and his desire to mentor and teach young Bahamians.    Through the government’s Job Training Programme he is training 12 aspiring craftsmen to build benches out of the discarded or removed trees from the vast construction area which will then be used within the development along the hiking trail under construction as part of the $2.6 billion resort project. A commendable environmentally conscious, communal effort for the benefit of all involved.

The next two months will see the completion of his new Studio and Gallery at Hillside House, Cumberland Street in downtown Nassau. This house along with the others on the street is of historical interest dating back to the 1700’s and most have been restored and renovated. As with all his major projects many other artists, craftsmen and workers were included and lent their skills to contribute to the project.

Staying faithful to his mission and his philosophy not to impose himself on the landscape or the environment but to merge into it, the necessary changes to the property have been integrated in the most natural and non-obtrusive way. The house has been carefully preserved and existing walls, the floor and the original fireplace restored within the renovation using mostly organic materials found on the site.

Antonius says that the relocation of his Studio and Gallery to Hillside House has many layers of meaning for him as it embodies his philosophy of preservation, his sense of history and the creation of quiet spaces for reflection. It is a ‘coming home’ where he can claim his inheritance of the past as a Bahamian, integrate himself into his surroundings and allow it to infuse all of his future work. He is providing a quiet space in the centre of a busy town, a place to share with visitors where they will be able to connect with the environment and history that is Hillside House as well as enjoy the art on display. If they are lucky they might just catch a glimpse of the artist at work creating what will become his own legacy to the Bahamas.