Monday, 30 April 2018


In a new cultural initiative, works by established and emerging artists from Guadeloupe are on vibrant display in Paris, highlighting the artistic talent in the French Caribbean region.

Freedom by Ronald Cyrille (mixed media on canvas),
200 x 144 cm. Photo copyright D. Dabriou.
The show is the first in a planned series titled Éclats d'îles (Island Bursts), “initiated by Guadeloupe and the regional President Ary Chalus”, according to A2Z Art Gallery, which is hosting the exhibition.
The series will be held throughout 2018, presenting the works of contemporary artists from the various islands that form the French overseas department, in collaboration with the Krystel Ann Art agency.
“This project, which is a real commitment to the field of arts and culture in the region, aims to give visibility to Guadeloupe artists beyond the local territory,” A2Z stated. “The gallery takes enormous pleasure and is extremely proud to reveal to the public, the universe of these selected talents, throughout these exhibitions.”
Under the patronage of renowned Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé, the current show presents the works of six artists, whose different styles make for a rich viewing experience. The artwork was selected “on the basis of the aesthetical properties, the questioning of Antillian identity by the artists, their representation and creative vivaciousness”, according to the gallery.
Among the artists is the 33-year-old rising star Ronald Cyrille, who has won a number of "young-talent" awards. After attending art school in Martinique, he launched his career doing street art in Guadeloupe, and got noticed by gallery owners and curators. He still does street murals, alongside his studio work of paintings, collages and sculptures, and he has become  known for his daring, striking symbolism - mixing images of animals and humans to pose questions about Caribbean identity, societal violence and art itself. SWAN spoke to Cyrille after the opening of the show on April 26 (it runs until May 9) about his background and creative process. The interview is translated from French.
Artist Ronald Cyrille (photo by A. McKenzie).
SWAN: How did you start painting?
Ronald Cyrille: I started when I was a child, first with cartoon characters such as Picsou, Dragon Ball Z, Mickey, Ninja Turtles and others of this kind. I loved to represent things by trying to make them as faithful to the original as possible. Over time, I began to move away from this while keeping some characters from this universe that allow me a certain singularity in my art. I actually use different techniques now, which can be installation, sculpture, drawing or painting.
SWAN: One of your main themes is freedom. How do you choose your subjects?
R.C.: I’ve been developing certain questions based on a personal way of thinking - across creolisation, legends and stories that nourish my imagination as well as my artistic vocabulary. In my work, the violence in contemporary society is something that echoes my cultural heritage, tied to the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.
And yes, I’m quite free in my choice of subjects. Painting allows you to dream and to travel in your mind, in your imagination. In fact, one of the works on exhibition at Éclats d’îles is titled "Freedom". I’m also inspired by the thoughts of some of our writers such as Aimé Césaire, and also Édouard Glissant through his concept of “Tout Monde” and creolisation.
SWAN: Can you tell us about the media that you use?
R.C.: I often use different techniques, depending on the work I envisage. I think technique is like a toolbox for artists, allowing them to experiment or create things according to their need. The techniques or media can be mixed or might be acrylic, spray paint, pencil, etc.
SWAN: Does your mixed Caribbean background (parents from Guadeloupe and Dominica) influence your work?
R.C.: Yes, I think so. It’s a double richness. So naturally my vision is not limited to Guadeloupe but reflect a need to question our differences as much as our similarities, as a kind of cultural wealth. And despite our insularity, Guadeloupe and the Caribbean are a part of the world.
SWAN: How do you feel about this exhibition in Paris?
R.C.: I think that it’s a beautiful experience and that this kind of action should be multiplied so that our artists can be better known and people can see the diversity and singularity of the Guadeloupean (Caribbean) aesthetic.
Our artists often lack visibility and recognition in mainland France. Fortunately things are gradually changing, pushing us beyond this insularity. I think that people have greatly appreciated my artwork and that of my compatriots, and that they have travelled via the works.
SWAN: Please tell us about your other shows in France.
R.C.: Last year, I took part in an exhibition in Bagneux (a commune south of Paris) titled “Mémoires Caraïbes”, with artists who were very representative of the Caribbean. The town acquired two of my grand-format drawings.
I've also exhibited at Memorial ACTe (centre for the memory of slavery) and, following a one-month residency in Sainte-Rose (a commune in Guadeloupe) from Feb. 5 to March 5 this year, I'm presenting an exhibition at the Habitation la Ramee titled “Traces d’hier et empreintes d’aujourd’hui” (Traces of Yesterday and Footprints of Today).  It comprises 43 new works created during this period. They include drawings, sculptures, paintings and installations, and the show runs until June 29.
SWAN: What are your views on the art scene in the French Caribbean?
R.C.: I believe that we are very creative and could have a firm presence in the world of arts, like Haiti, Cuba or Jamaica. We have to develop our market by supporting the sector and finding our place. My generation is very dynamic and audacious.
SWAN: How do you see your work evolving? What are your plans for the future?
R.C.: I’m increasingly trying to teach myself to live in the present. Meanwhile, I continue to create and to increase the number of collaborations in the Caribbean and beyond. In the years to come, I would like to find a good gallery or a good art dealer, participate in some biennales and have more frequent access to a certain number of artistic events. For the moment, I do realize that things are moving in the right direction.
The first edition of Éclats d'îles runs until May 9, 2018, at A2Z Art Gallery, Paris. The six artists represented are: Joël Nankin, Alain Josephine, Nicolas Nabajoth, Anaïs Verspan, Ronald Cyrille, So Aguessy Roaboteur.
You can follow SWAN on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale.