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Errol Lloyd

Born, 1943 in Jamaica

Painter Errol Lloyd has for a considerable number of decades been a staunch advocate of the advancement of Caribbean art in the UK. To this end, he has distinguished himself as a friend and supporter of artists such as Ronald Moody. Together with John Lyons, Errol Lloyd was one of the oldest artists to be represented in ‘Black Art: Plotting the Course’ touring exhibition of 1988. Born in Jamaica in 1943, Lloyd came to London as a young man just about 20 years of age, for the purposes of pursuing a career in Law. Switching interests, he has had a substantial and distinguished career as an artist, book illustrator, writer, editor and arts administrator. He was for a considerable period of time involved with MAAS - the Minority Arts Advisory Service, an early incarnation of official attempts to nurture British-based ‘minority’ artists or otherwise attend to their needs and agendas. Similarly, Lloyd was for a time editor of Artrage magazine, the organ of MAAS which was published for the best part of fifteen years, from the early 1980s onwards. Within Artrage and in other forums, Lloyd reflected, with great clarity, on the practice and conditions of Black artists in Britain.

A self-taught artist, Lloyd provided the cover illustration for an edition of Walter Rodney’s seminal work, The Groundings with My Brothers, for the edition published by Bogle L’Ouverture in the mid 1970s, a number of years before Rodney’s assassination. The illustration depicts the faces of three Black men, sensitively drawn, exuding a gentle humanity, but simultaneously, a steely determination that hinted at the book’s singular contents. Complimenting the deceptively-simple pencil drawings was the title of the book (together with a reference to the book’s introduction) reproduced in the style of handwriting, as if to emphasise the singular way in which the book contained, quite literally, messages from Walter Rodney, one of the Africa diaspora’s most original and important academics, thinkers, writers and activists.

An indication of Lloyd’s significance as someone with a longstanding commitment to nurturing, supporting and celebrating Black visual artists can be elicited from a sentence in the Preface to Savacou 9/10, written by John La Rose and Andrew Salkey. “At the time of writing, the most recent medium session, held at the Keskidee Centre, on Friday 10th March 1972, was A Tribute to Ronald Moody, a historical exposition, illustrated with slides, of Jamaican sculptor, arranged and presented by Errol Lloyd, the Jamaican painter.”

Lloyd contributed to the commemoration/celebration of Aubrey Williams’ life, held at the Commonwealth Institute on 12 June 1990.

For ‘Plotting the Course’ Lloyd contributed a painting that reflected the importance and centrality of the game of dominoes within and to Caribbean culture, particularly the ways in which it reflected a decidedly male recreational activity. A significant number of Caribbean artists, photographers and filmmakers - particularly Vanley Burke, Denzil Forrester, Barrington Watson and Perry Henzel had celebrated the game of dominoes, within specific moments of their practice. Lloyd’s depiction was however an unusual one. A large canvas rendered in hues of monochromatic brown, it featured a group of males animatedly playing their beloved game. The artist had however used real dominoes, glued to the surface of the canvas, thereby giving the piece an added dynamic and visually arresting element.

Gifted with an ability to capture likenesses in a range of creative and engaging ways, Lloyd has been responsible for a number of portrait commissions of leading Black and Caribbean males who have excelled in their respective fields over the course of the 20th century. These portraits include Sir Alexander Bustamante (1884 - 1977), who together with Norman Manley was the chief architect of Jamaican independence and the founder of one of the country’s main political parties, the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party); Sir Garfield Sobers (b. 1936), the legendary Barbadian cricketer; John La Rose (1927 - 2006) the Trinidadian intellectual, campaigner, activist, trades unionist, publisher and poet; C.L.R. James (1901 - 1989) also a Trinidadian, the hugely important historian, writer, theorist, and journalist; and Grenadian David Thomas Pitt (Lord Pitt of Hampstead, 1913 - 1994) the renowned medical practitioner, politician, and campaigner.

Lloyd was a member of Rainbow Art Group, an intriguing new initiative of the late 1970s, involving a number of London’s artists. Briefly, the history of the group was as follows: “In the Spring of 1978 MAAS (Minorities’ Arts Advisory Service) held its second London conference. This conference which took place on the 14th April 1978, summoned together people from ethnic groups living in London who were involved with the arts of London’s ethnic groups… The visual artists recognised the main problem that exists in relation to the work and aspirations of all ethnic minorities in the art world, including their own. This is the difficulty that all find in getting their work considered seriously and supported through established channels. They therefore decided, at the Conference, to form an organisation with the aim of promoting their work and, by joint efforts, to make a positive contribution to the cultural life of the country. In this way they hope eventually to create a climate of knowledge and appreciation that will allow the work of the future generation to be admired and sought after on its own merits and not simply because it happens to be the work of an ethnic minority. The first tasks were to find a name, qualify aims and objectives and work out a constitution. At the group’s second meeting held on the 24th June 1978 at the Keskidee Centre, the members agreed that the group should be named ‘Rainbow Art Group’ thereafter.” (1)

The group consisted of Indira Ariyanayagam, Uzo Egonu, Lancelot Ribeiro, Taiwo Jegede, Errol Lloyd, Yeshwant Mali, Gordon V. de La Mothe, Durlabh Singh, Suresh Vedak, Ibrahim Wagh, and Mohammad Zakir. Rainbow Art Group undertook several exhibitions during the time of its existence.

Alongside his practice as a painter, Lloyd has, as both writer and illustrator, been involved in the production of numerous published works of literature for younger readers.

The National Portrait Gallery, London holds a portrait of Lloyd, in reflective mood, standing in front of one of his portraits, that of a young woman in equally reflective mood, sitting in a chair looking away wistfully. The portrait of Lloyd, taken in 2002, is by fellow Caribbean image-maker, the Trinidad-born Horace Ove. Errol Lloyd featured significantly in Ove’s documentary film tribute to the life and work of John La Rose, Dream to Change the World. It is Lloyd’s narration that introduces the film and likewise, it is Lloyd we first see, in the company of La Rose, as the two make their way through a busy North London road, towards La Rose’s home.

(1) Rainbow Art Group exhibition leaflet, for a show of “Paintings and Sculptures” at Action Space, London, 22 May – 9 June 1979.

Related items + view all 9

click to show details of Aubrey Williams | A Celebration

»  Aubrey Williams | A Celebration

Announcement relating to an individual, 1990

click to show details of The Caribbean Connection

»  The Caribbean Connection

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1995

click to show details of Creation for Liberation Open Exhibition Art by Black Artists 1987

»  Creation for Liberation Open Exhibition Art by Black Artists 1987

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1987

click to show details of Savacou 9/10

»  Savacou 9/10

Magazine relating to a publication, 1974

click to show details of Transforming the Crown

»  Transforming the Crown

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1997

Related exhibitions

»  Afro-Caribbean Art

Group show at Artists Market. 1978

Related venues

»  Action Space

London, United Kingdom

»  Artists Market

London, United Kingdom

»  The Bronx Museum of the Arts

United States of America

»  Caribbean Cultural Center

United States of America

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America