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Official Publication of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association

PAINTING FROM FATHER TO SON

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Watching Dunstan St. Omer, at age 73, talking to his son Luigi, 40, about painting - fluttering his long-fingered hands at eye-height to show how the clouds in the sky have to run across the sky lightly and not square and heavy as if pulled across it by a tractor - is like watching an image bouncing between two mirrors, sending a reflection of itself back and forth across time, defying age.

"I am a master now", he bellows, "And I have my apprentices there! I no longer have the exuberance, the power it takes to do a big painting like this. But Luigi has it. He can do the hard work. He's broken the back of that painting over the past few days and now the old man can come in to do all the nice bits. The easy bits! Put the finishing touches".

He flutters his fingers again, tickling the air. "Put in the nice sky, the clouds, put the undulating, soft landscape towards the front. Peaceful, you know, like a Sunday afternoon. And then - bwrahm! -in the bottom there's Luigi's part again: the vigorous leaves, the strong colours!"

Dunstan St. Omer painted a large mural in the staircase of the diningroom at what was then, in 1976, Halcyon Days Hotel in Vieux Fort, and is now Club Med. Tens of thousands of tourists have since wined and dined under the stern look of the native police officer with his pointy colonial pith helmet and the absent-minded gaze of the chak-chak and violin players. How many have not smiled at the picture of the woman with her shopping basket and the blue dress riding uncomfortably up her wide back?

Today, his sons Luigi and Julio (37) are extending their father's work to more than twice its original size. An accomplished artist in his own right, Luigi found himself struggling to find a compromise between wishing to paint in his own style - more laboured and built-up - and maintaining the style of the original mural with his father's smoothness of surface and the expressive character in the faces of the people. Having set up the sketch in one mighty outburst of energy, Luigi still fought for two days to find the correct style. Then, early this morning, he relates, "I just woke up with the inspiration so I went across and started putting some serious licks on that painting".

Dressed in paint-smudged track suit bottoms and slouched almost horizontally in his chair at a beach bar at Anse de Sable, Luigi takes a long draught from an icy bottle of beer. Across the table, his dad breaks open a wide, gap-toothed smile that cracks his face in two. "Aaai, just like me when I was that age! You see? He's just like me!"??
 


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