Remembering the artist (X-Saphair King)

Please note – this posting is not meant to cause any further pain to the family and beloveds of the artist celebrated here but to remember and recognize the space this young talent was carving out for himself in the Antiguan and Barbudan artspace. With respect. and Regret for his loss.

News of the death of X-Saphair King broke recently and suddenly, and among Antiguans, especially young Antiguans, and young Antiguans involved in the creative life, it hit with a sense of shock and sadness. Sadness at the loss of life and sadness at the end of a local talent with a distinctive voice.

X-Saphair King was a young man (just 23) on his way to the bus stop when he was struck and killed. Someone has been charged.

Here, at Wadadli Pen, in this moment, we reflect not on the moment we all wish we could change but on the canvases he created, canvases that were always surprising and interesting and boundary pushing and thought provoking.


The piece above Strength through Pain, as we reported then, was a winning piece in the 2012 juried exhibition held at Art at the Ridge (a Wadadli Pen patron and partner for several years which has since unfortunately, for the young artists it was helping to develop and the role it was playing in creating a space for art in our culture, closed its doors).

Joy James, curator and owner at Art at the Ridge, told me then, in an e-interview for an article for the Daily Observer: “X-Saphair shows amazing talent for one so young – he submitted only one piece for our 2nd Juried Art Competition and it’s the winning piece. He used interesting textures, strong colours and a striking image, which showed creativity and skill. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about him in the future!”

I dug up some notes from a story I did about an Art at the Ridge Antiguan Artists show, subsequent to that, in which X-Saphair featured. I commented specifically on “a collaged commentary on unrealistic beauty standards and the falsehoods inherent therein” and noted that his aesthetic leaned “toward provocative over pretty”. (from Art Speak – New Voices in the Daily Observer)

I had the opportunity to share X-Saphair’s art with the wider Caribbean community when I edited the special Antigua and Barbuda issue of Tongues of the Ocean in 2014. In his artist bio, per the information he submitted about himself, he was described as “a contemporary Antiguan and Barbudan artist (who) loves to use unconventional material to create textural elements on his paintings. His goal …to educate aspiring artists, imparting his knowledge and techniques to aid their development.”

He shared two pieces. One was Strength through Pain, above. Again, per his submitted artist statement, the description read: “In Strength through Pain, the artist uses colour symbolism (bold red) to represent strength.  The textured background was created using tissue paper and crushed eggshells; that, with the use of black paint, communicate the pain. The painting stemmed from a devastating period in the artist’s life. The use of gold is meant to re-focus on the lighter side of life while the cracked figure in the foreground is open to interpretation—letting go of each struggle or being broken by them.”

The other piece he shared was Turmoil Within. It is one of my favourites. In his artist statement, he wrote that the piece “was inspired by the artist’s experience with bullying. In it, he becomes the thing he is bullied about—an ugly weird freak. As such, in the image, he is almost transparent and faceless. The Daily Observer, an Antiguan and Barbudan daily, was used for the background while in the foreground are words that have haunted the artist— stupid, ugly, nasty, fat, punk, goof. Turmoil Within was featured in artist/designer Argent Robert’s Body of Art exhibition in January 2014 held at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda.”

See more of X-Saphair’s work here in his facebook gallery.

RIP, X-Saphair.

As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, and forthcoming With Grace). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.







Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

2 responses to “Remembering the artist (X-Saphair King)

  1. Joanne, I am deeply saddened to read this news. I did not know him as a person, obviously, but X-Saphair’s work was stunning. What a loss to Antigua and Barbuda, and to the Caribbean as a whole. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s