The book Song & Symphony is a beautiful orchestral performance by John Robert Lee and Shallon Fadlien. The unusual aspect is that neither Lee nor Fadlien plays a musical instrument. Through painting and poetry they have created “that persistent chord coming through the hibiscus edge” as it is truly a rhythmic experience reading the pages.
The poetic symphony is separated into two movements and a finale, as John Robert Lee, through his words, accentuates the already vibrant colours of Shallon Fadlien’s symphony of paintings.
Shallon Fadlien is a Saint Lucian artist who resides in Canada. During last year’s Arts Village of the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, Fadlien featured her Symphony Series for the first time on this island.
I suppose there is a magic about any art form that attracts one master to another until they feel compelled to make music together. According to John Robert Lee, he might have first met the painter at an M&C Fine Arts Exhibition but, more recently, he was most intrigued by the work that she posted on Facebook. Lee is a major contributor to Saint Lucian literature. He began writing poetry to Fadlien’s paintings and, because of this, Song & Symphony was birthed, just like crystal voices singing along with percussion, wind and string instruments.
Every painting from Fadlien’s Symphony Series depicts a man and a woman unified by a guitar, cello, violin or another member of the string family. In some of the pieces there is an appearance of a child and the shaping of a womb, but the three beings are never joined the same way. Fadlien uses the constants of music, male and female unison, and the variable of different points in a relationship.
Lee’s poetry summons imagery from Saint Lucian flora and scenery from landscapes in Balata, Grande Riviere and surrounding areas. But more prominently he follows suit of male and female relationships and describes the meeting, falling in love, marriage and consummation of a couple.
Both artists have a sensual effect: Fadlien by using postures, curvature and colour, and Lee by playing with the poetic devices of repetition and alliteration to describe the sensations of people in love and create an aura of soulful music.
Song & Symphony is a publication made possible by the Nobel Laureate Festival Committee. The theme for the 2017 edition of the festival is “Celebrating Excellence: Fostering National Pride” and this book doesn’t fail on either. John Robert Lee and Shallon Fadlien are both appreciated artists in Saint Lucia, proof that art is a living form in the island, but many would agree with Lee that there is still work to be done. The Nobel Laureate Festival Committee and other organisations continue to invest in and portray our artists. As Saint Lucians, we just need to keep showing what we’re made of and create our own ‘Song & Symphony’.