That Brilliance: Goodbye for Now, Rudi


When I wake up in the morning, the first thing that “bless my eyes” (as Bob Marley said) is a burst of color. It is a small painting on our bedroom wall of a magical landscape, which  I think of as something, perhaps, from “The Wizard of Oz.” When the film turns into that dazzling Technicolor, and Judy Garland starts skipping. Scarlet and gold and magenta flowers dance across the canvas, fringed by dainty, straight-trunked trees on the horizon. Above, the sky is a misty blue.

The painting is by our dear Jamaican friend and artist Rudi Patterson, who passed away at a London hospice on July 24.

This post is very hard to write. A warmth and brilliance has gone from us. Sitting at the computer, I share space with another painting by Rudi. It is an irregular series of vertical lines in irresistibly bright colors. We brought it back with us when we last visited Rudi in his flat in West London in September of last year. He had expressed amused surprise that this style had proved popular with those who bought his paintings. After every visit to London, we returned with a little of Rudi – whether it was a painting, or a ceramic piece (something he learned in later years). I often fill a beautifully lop-sided, pale blue bowl of Rudi’s with bright bougainvillea and place it on our back verandah. I will do so today.

Rudi always enjoyed gifts from home (Jamaica was always home). Blue Mountain coffee, a bottle of Appleton’s. And he adored mango, ackees, breadfruit; he could buy all these in London markets. Born in deep rural St. Thomas, many of Rudi’s paintings reflect his love for the chaotic, colorful natural world around him. I remember him telling us some duppy stories – duppies that he said he saw at dusk, walking down those Jamaican country lanes. He painted chunky mango trees laden with fruit, fringed palm trees, stripy croton plants, and zinc-roofed houses with shutters. Rural domestic bliss. One of our most treasured paintings is of our Kingston home, which he painted while staying with us in 1991. Our house is tucked inside our flourishing garden (and yes, we did have a small breadfruit tree at the time). It reminds me of Rudi out in our front yard one day, neatly clipping an unruly hedge.

And Rudi’s paintings brought joy. Rudi was a celebrity, and many celebrities owned his work – including the late Freddie Mercury, who commissioned a huge painting from him and owned several others. Rudi personally knew Maya Angelou, Ashford and Simpson, the iconic 60s model Twiggy, Andy Williams and many others who bought his paintings. As a young man, an actor and a fashion model, he moved in those circles. I wish we had known him then, as a young man about town. Rudi was always the greatest fun, the person you wanted to be with. It was actually the inactivity brought about by a serious accident (he broke his neck in 1973) that brought him to painting.

In Jamaica, Rudi’s paintings were exhibited several times at Harmony Hall in Ocho Rios. He became good friends with the Proudlocks, who have run the art gallery for many years. Our son will probably remember, when he was quite young, Rudi taking him to visit the Jamaican/Australian artist Colin Garland, who lived in Boscobel, nearby.

When did we meet Rudi? Introduced by our artist friends Margaret and Mike Stanley, my husband and I attended an exhibition of his work in London. It was when we had only just met each other, close to thirty years ago now. I associate Rudi very closely with our life together – long lunches in London, glasses of wine, music, and much laughter. And a few years later we left the UK for Jamaica; but we always kept in touch.

Rudi had a beloved cat called Ackee; he missed him greatly when he died. He loved “chill out” music and introduced us to the Cafe Del Mar series. He often gave us music, and supported many Caribbean singers and musicians who lived in London.

Rudi’s flat in Westbourne Park was easy to find – an oasis of color in the London landscape. On the dull grey concrete of the balcony, even on a chilly winter’s day, there were overflowing pots of bright geraniums outside his door. His living room walls were covered with bright paintings. A large picture window embraced a wide cityscape: rooftops and streets, a train line. Last year, we talked about the dome of a new mosque that had appeared since our previous visit. I will always remember Rudi’s view of a city he grew to love.

Like his art, Rudi was never dull and dreary. I can hear his gentle, but ironic laugh – his sense of humor was of the dry variety, and very “Jamaican.” He spoke in a laconic drawl. We enjoyed our regular phone calls with him. I had to sit down on the sofa to talk to him on the phone, to laugh and gossip and share news (Rudi loved to gossip, but never maliciously).

The first painting of Rudi’s that we acquired was of a small country house at night. An orange light burns in the window. Rudi’s light will shine on. And it’s only goodbye, for now.

Until we meet again.

There is a lovely obituary for Rudi by the Black Cultural Archives here: http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/obituary-to-rudi-patterson/. His funeral will take place on Friday, August 9 at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Chapel, St Mary’s RC Cemetery, Harrow Road, London W10.  All are welcome.

Rudi at one of his exhibitions in London. (Photo: Dawn and Martin Hill)
Rudi at one of his exhibitions in London. (Photo: Dawn and Martin Hill)
Bless my eyes this morning... Rudi's field of flowers.
Bless my eyes this morning… Rudi’s field of flowers.

20 thoughts on “That Brilliance: Goodbye for Now, Rudi

  1. On my sad loan bus journey home today ‘ my vision blurred and a tear ran down the left side of my face, I felt no shame on the busy bus , there’s no time or right place when your emotions run free, you are an inspiration to me Rudi and that will stay with me forever, god bless you my dear friend , DaVe.

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    1. Oh dear! I am so sorry. It’s so hard – the busy years pass, you live far apart and I know that you often feel guilty under these circumstances… We loved Rudi so much. He was so good at keeping in touch – and I am glad he was. We didn’t see each other often but phone calls and notes and letters helped.

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  2. My dear fiend Rudi, I came to visit you today only to find out you’d passed away, I will never forget you and the joy and laughter we shared together , rest in peace my good man , love and respects from DaVe.

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      1. Hi Emma’ the years sure do fly past , I was in hospital for a operations on corrective foot surgery, by the Time I could walk again Rudi’s phone numbers were saying not recognised , we had so much of a laugh’ I’d tell him things ‘ and often he replied “Oh Please’ but in a humarous way, I’m a Arist myself and we often incuriged each other on a snow blizzard winters evening, his colours always bought a smile , Regards From DaVe.

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  3. My daughter sent your page to me and it is a truly beautiful tribute to a mild mannered, funny, colourful man. Rudi you are missed by so many people, but your ambience lives on through your beautiful artwork.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much. Yes, Rudi was always so funny – he had this wry humor. I really miss our phone calls between Jamaica and the UK. He was like family to us. You are right, his paintings live on, and I am so glad we have a few of them on our walls.

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  4. Dear All, I am sorry for your loss. I have only recently learned of Rudi and his work, and have been greatly impressed and touched. I would have loved to meet him, as we would have had much to talk about, art and Jamaica being the first topics. I am interested in seeing more of his work, if it becomes available for viewing. If you having any information concerning future events please contact me at j_valenti@hotmail.com. Thank you, Jonas Valenti.

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    1. Dear Jonas: Thanks so much for your kind words. I am not sure if his work will be available for viewing (perhaps in London at some point, but he also used to exhibit at Harmony Hall in Ocho Rios). We only know his former partner who is now living in Germany, but had very little contact with his family, either in Jamaica or in the UK. We have been living in Jamaica for a long time, but always kept in touch with Rudi and visited him. He came to Jamaica and stayed a couple of times, too. We don’t know what has happened to his many beautiful paintings that lined the walls of his flat. We miss Rudi SO much – I especially miss his wry sense of humor. I am sorry you never got to meet him. He was always very modest about his talents, but his work was so vibrant. If I hear anything about an exhibition, I will certainly let you know. Thanks for getting in touch. PS If you are interested in Jamaican art, you could take a look at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s website:natgalja.org.jm/‎ and also Harmony Hall, here: http://www.harmonyhall.com/Gallery/artists.php. I have also started a Pinterest board of Caribbean art: http://www.pinterest.com/petchary/caribbean-art/ Cheers!

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  5. Thank you Emma, for a beautiful writing about a man who clearly lived life to the full. Joy and Creativity seemed to flow through every fibre of his body. You make him live on.

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    1. Thanks very much, John. Yes, he really did live life to the full – and you are right, he always brought joy. I wish you could have met him. He had an incredible spirit. I am so glad you liked my article, although I found it hard to really express what an amazing human being he was…

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    1. Thanks so much, Eulalee. I hope he is singing (or reciting Maya Angelou poems, he adored her!) I am going to put together an album of photos etc as a tribute to Rudi. Indeed, his pieces are full of energy and color – I plan to share some more…

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  6. so lovely …

    take care, Ruth Jankee

           

    “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”

    ________________________________

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    1. Thank you for that beautiful quote, Ruth. My heart is so full I could not even think of an appropriate one. It was hard enough to write this piece, but I woke up before dawn thinking about our dear friend. Had to write something…

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