The Solitary Alchemist documents the life and work of Barbara Jardine, affectionately known as Barbie. The film delves into the private life of this emotional and gifted artist as she talks about her family and idyllic childhood taking the
audience on a journey through her life. The documentary also explores the transformative power of art as Barbie opens up about lost loves and the work she created through her pain.
The film intensifies when Barbie is approached by the Cooper Gallery in Scotland to create a new piece for an exhibition there. The documentary follows Jardine as she makes one of the most significant pieces of her life, and wonders whether this will bring her the recognition she feels she deserves.
The Solitary Alchemist was filmed on location in Trinidad, Scotland and England with an all-Trinidadian crew and features insightful interviews with personalities such as Peter Minshall and Judy Raymond. It is the second feature-length documentary by Mariel Brown of SAVANT Ltd. and will have its world premiere at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival next month.
Trained at England’s prestigious Royal College of Art, Jardine moved back to her native Trinidad in 1974 where she developed new techniques in working with traditional and indigenous materials, and evolved a personal narrative style for making wearable works of art.
But 30 years on from returning to the Caribbean, and in spite of having her work purchased by a major metropolitan museum, there are nagging questions she just can’t shake: Why isn’t my work more recognised? Have I made a crucial mistake? She is resentful and angry. And she wants something more. An opportunity to create a new piece for an exhibition in Scotland presents itself and Barbie is both nervous and hopeful. Will this be the chance to finally carve out her own space in the world?
Filmed over three years, in Trinidad, England and Scotland, The Solitary Alchemist is a moving and intimate portrait of a life in art.
Jardine trained as a jeweller at the Central School of Art (BA) and did her MA at the Royal College of Art.
In 1981, the Victoria & Albert Museum purchased her bracelet, “The Warrior”, which forms part of the museum’s permanent collection of contemporary jewels. Along with jeweller Rachel Ross, Jardine formed Alchemy Goldsmiths in 1997. Barbie is the subject of the book, Barbara Jardine: Goldsmith, published in 2006 by Robert & Christopher Publishers. She lives and works in Port of Spain.
Mariel Brown is the director of the creative and production company SAVANT, and has been working in television and print since 1997, when she worked as a reporter. She is the managing editor of the art books: Meiling: Fashion Designer and Barbara Jardine: Goldsmith. She has produced video features for TV6 and the WITCO Sports Foundation Awards, and her features and news reports have been broadcast on CNN and CARIBSCOPE.
Mariel is the creator and producer of Sancoche, and Makin’ Mas, — television series designed with Caribbean content for a Caribbean audience. She recently began directing documentary features, The Solitary Alchemist is her second. In 2007, her first documentary film, The Insatiable Season, was awarded the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. The Insatiable Season went on to be screened at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival and the Harbourfront Festival, both in Toronto, Canada.