top of page

Alexis Ballie- Biography

Introduction to the Master Artist

With great sadness we announce that master artist, Alexis Ballie, passed away quietly at his Marabella home on December 27th 2022 at the age of 92.

Alexis H. Ballie was one of the most reclusive post war artists and poets in the Caribbean.  His career as an educator, artist and poet on the national and international landscape spans the breath of well over 60 years.  His love of painting and poetry has been his journey - a continuance of varied experiences, events and expressions.

His exhibition of paintings and anthology of poems- "The Journey- A Celebration", symbolizes the final chapter of the journey.  This final collection of his works bears special significance for the artist-poet, since it pays tribute to his wife, Toiwatee Maharaj-Ballie, who died on 18th August, 2009.

In August 2005 the Ministry of Culture (Trinidad and Tobago) celebrated Ballie’s life and work in an art exhibition entitled “PIONEERS OF AN ERA- 2005” at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

His Early Years

Ballie was born of the 11th of September, 1930 in the dynamic and rural community of Reform Village in the south of Trinidad.  It was this community of diverse races, religion and cultures which provided the matrix and inspiration for his early paintings: “Reform Hindu Temple”; “Harvesters”; “Laawah”; “Tassa Drummers”; “Tadjahs”; “Preachers”; “Washer Women”; “Poui and immortelle” and many others. 

The sixties were a time of great challenge in Ballie’s interest and his style of painting as he turned his attention to critical political and social issues which were rendered in a more personal, semi-abstract and non-objective style in such themes as “Nocturne” and “Builders” to comment on the Cuban missile Crisis and the turmoil and destruction of the city of Georgetown, Guyana, by fire in the 1960’s.  “Human Situation”, “Shacks” and “Limers” dealt with man’s savage environment and the human condition at Beetham, Trinidad, while “Moon-Mad” commented on man’s obsession in that era to reach the moon.

In 1962 Ballie’s works were exhibited in a special celebration to mark the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago as it took its initial steps embracing its new-found independence from the British Empire.  This exhibition was organized by the National Museum and Art Gallery and the Ministry of Education and Culture in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  The publication entitled “Forty Artists of Trinidad and Tobago” records the following of Ballie: “His works are technically of a high quality” and “He has enjoyed important purchases.”  In 1971 he won the Trinidad Art Society’s award for the most outstanding work in exhibition. 

 

In 1966-1967 Ballie studied Art and Design in London at Goldsmith’s College, University of London where his main areas of study were painting and print-making.

On his return to Trinidad he was appointed Art Lecturer at the Government Teacher’s Training College in the capital city of Port of Spain from 1967 to 1968 where he achieved outstanding success during his tenure at that college.

Accomplishments

In 1972, the Ministry of Education and Culture awarded the Reeves Challenge Trophy Shield for outstanding work in Art to the Vessigny Government Secondary School, under Ballie’s leadership and tutelage at the institution.  Ballie lectured there between 1968 to 1973 and then received a full promotion to the Corinth Teacher’s Training College, where he lectured from 1973 to 1987 with great success, finally retiring from the Ministry of Education in 1987.

Ballie was a member of both the Trinidad and Tobago Art Society and the Teacher’s Art Association, where his colleagues included other noteworthy local artists such as: M.P. Alladin (his former mentor), Sybil Atteck, Ralph Baney, Isaiah Boodhoo, Carlyle Chang, Willie Chen, Pat Choo Foon, Bro. Fergus Griffin and others.

Over the years that followed, Ballie participated regularly in collaborative and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally since 1960 in the West Indies (Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana), Expo 67 Canada, New York and several universities within the United States.  His pieces were also displayed at Commonwealth Institute, London (1963), Edinburgh Scotland (1974) and the Sao Paolo Biennial, Brazil in 1963, ’65, ’67, ’69, ’73, ’75.

In 1963, Governor Rockefeller of New York invited Ballie to attend the opening of an art exhibition at the Empire State Building, as Ballie’s artwork was on display and comprised part of the exhibition. 

Subsequently, in 1972, at the request of the Editor- in-Chief of the encyclopedia, “Thieme-Becker-Kunstlerlexikon” in the Democratic Republic of Germany, Ballie supplied biographical material on his life and work to be recorded as an important artist of Trinidad and Tobago.

Collection’s and Collectors of Ballie’s Work

 

Ballie’s works were highly sought after by many local and foreign collectors, including: The National Museum and Art Gallery, the Hilton (Trinidad), Norman Costar - former British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Ian Smith- British Commonwealth Secretary, Luis Chavez- Peruvian Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago’s embassies in Jamaica and India.  Additionally, his works have also been purchased by many private collections and collectors throughout Trinidad and Tobago, England, Germany, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and throughout the world. 

It is of particular note, that in 1964, Ballie's painting entitled “Builders” purchased by the Trinidad Hilton, was in fact stolen from its display at the hotel.  Ballie was then commissioned by the Hilton to do a replacement of “Builders” which was subsequently vandalized in the 1980s at the same location.

In 1967, Captain Jack H. Hawkins- Assistant Commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command of Washington D.C., sought the assistance of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago in acquiring two of Ballie’s pieces entitled “Poui and Immortelle” and “Women in Blue” which formed part of the exhibition Expo ’67 in Montreal, Canada that year.

Ballie’s Poetry

Throughout his career as an artist, educator and poet, Ballie has gained considerable recognition as he sought to employ the language of Art as an avenue to react to the tensions and conflicts in the world around him to re-examine the values and standards in society.

Ballie’s, soon to be released, anthology of poems offers on themes beginning with his work, nature, religion, culture, social and political issues, love, life and death.  He uses his poetry as a means of communication; in the same way he uses his paintings and the arena of visual arts to give voice to his subjects and to deal with issues that weigh heavy on his standards and values.  Some of these poems were published in the local press.

Precious Moments”- poems of the latter period of his life present a personal perspective on a love relationship which is shrouded in anguish. They form part of his attempt at catharsis in dealing with the loss of his beloved wife, Toiwatee Maharaj-Ballie, and are a reflection on the unfolding events which bear relevance on his emotions and life.  This event also marks a significant milestone in the life of the artist/poet.  It portrays Ballie’s achievement up until the age of 80 years, with a loved one who shared his passion and struggle and a relationship which served to nurture and sustain him in his effort to make a relevant contribution to the world.

The Master Artist Today

Alexis Ballie is currently 91 years of age and resides at his private residence in the south of the island of Trinidad.  He no longer paints, but enjoys a relaxed retirement and the refreshing island sea breezes at his home.

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 

Ballie’s most recent live solo exhibitions in Trinidad & Tobago:

1988- Art Creators Gallery (Port of Spain)

1996 – 101 Art Gallery (Port of Spain)

1999- 101 Art Gallery (Port of Spain)

2001- 101 Art Gallery (Port of Spain)

2004- 101 Art Gallery (Port of Spain

bottom of page