Marylène Agat “Homme de Lumière” or the slow birth of a Martinican painter (Part 2)

Marylène Agat - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

Born in 1962 in Paris and settled in Guadeloupe for 22 years, Marylène Agat “Homme de Lumière” (Man of Light) became a professional painter in 2005, at the age of 43. In her seventeen years of career, she has already produced nearly ten exhibitions based on various themes. Kariculture invites you to get to know this creator better.

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Soaking up the artistic life

Back home, Marylène’s partner found work quickly, and she was hired two months after her arrival at Délifrance on the Place de la Victoire in Pointe-à-Pitre. Even though the young woman had already lived on the island for four years, she says she had a hard time forgetting the hectic pace of the “Parisian metro-work-sleep” and adapting to her new life in the tropics. In her new job, at the request of her manager, the future artist’s path began to open up since she will make small drawings that will be framed by the company to decorate the space. “Then it was the people from the bank next door who got my little drawings. As time went on, I drew little things that I sold in my family and elsewhere. Afterwards, there was a fresco on the Place de la Victoire and people knew my name. One day, a lady asked me what I was doing at Délifrance and she told me that I should exploit my drawings. I wasn’t sure of myself because people give you advice but you need money to live”, she says.

Visiting exhibitions at the Centre des Arts et de la Culture and the Centre Culturél Rémy Nainsouta in Pointe-à-Pitre became one of the young Martinican’s favorite hobbies. Indeed, as soon as she got off work, she rushed to one of these halls to look at the works of fashionable painters (Michel Rovelas, Chadru etc.) and she stayed and talked with them for one or two hours as if to soak up the life of this artistic world. “Then, I would take my bus and go home. I would go to my little studio and continue drawing. I did that for three years”, she recalls.

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Marylène Agat and Alain Caprice

Alain Caprice, the unforgettable master

One day, the young woman met Mr. J. who told her that he would introduce her to a painter “to go further”. She had already heard of this painter but she had not yet started painting. So she made 3 paintings to present to the painter in question with Mr. J. “It was Mr. Alain Caprice. He looked at them with his wife Isabelle and said : “She has a sensitivity. There is something to be done”. The word “sensitivity” touched me. I was thrilled by Alain Caprice’s words. I went home with a big smile because in my head I was starting, it was the starting point.I had not yet understood who I was, but I knew I had to go that way. The fact that he told me that, I thought: “Go ahead, make paintings”, says Marylène Agat.

The day after this decisive meeting for her career as a painter, she bought painting equipment and as she did not want to do things by halves, she made her blank canvases in the dimensions she wanted. We were in 2004 and it was the starting point of the first exhibition of the self-taught painter Marylène Agat which will be called “Entre Ciel et Terre”.

“There was no painting lessons, Alain Caprice just told me : “Marylène, take your brushes, do whatever you want and call me as soon as you can show me what you have done”. It was a form of therapy. Alain came after 4 months, I had already painted about 10 paintings. This first exhibition had 60 paintings. I took 8 months to do the other 50 paintings. But Alain came in the meantime because he had to see ; Isabelle was my agent”, she recalls.

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Marylène Agat and Alain Caprice

A successful first exhibition

The Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta hosted this work in 2005. On the occasion of this great day, Marylène Agat wanted to decorate the room herself and hang the paintings. Her mentor Alain Caprice arrived, he was proud of his protégée. He was responsible for the communication and he invited his friends and acquaintances, while Marylène invited her former colleagues from Délifrance: “Alain had taken me under his wing, so he was taken a risk. This opening went very well, there were personalities including the former mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre Henri Bangou, the choreographer Léna Blou etc. I was just amazed, I was in an enchantment, I was living, I felt like I was dreaming. For a month, the duration of the exhibition, Alain introduced me to artists, his world, I was in heaven”, says the painter Marylène Agat “Homme de Lumière”.

Her recent fame also allowed her to meet a member of her family who lived in Guadeloupe. It was Lucien Degras (agronomist, geneticist, ethnobotanist, writer and great defender of the Creole garden). “He told me that he was my grandfather’s brother and he knew the three Degras sisters very well, including my mother”, the artist recalls.

Alain Caprice learned that his protégée also wrote small texts. Moreover, she always asked him to read her writings : “He took great pleasure in doing so and as he had a loud voice, it was a pleasure to listen to him. One day, I wrote a text entitled “An tan lontan, jodi jou rivé”, about modernization. Alain fell in love with it and he changed it several times. I told him that this text was no longer mine but his. Every time he came to my openings, he read this text”, says the painter.

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A butterfly takes flight

In 2007, during her second exhibition entitled “Kaz an Nou” Marylène Agat also exhibited jewelry that she made with branches, bark, leaves, seeds, among others, that she collected in the forest of Guadeloupe. Alain Caprice was present at the opening and he read a new version of the text “An tan lontan, jodi jou rivé” that he wrote…

That same year, as in 2006, the Festival de Jazz de Pointe-à-Pitre asked “Homme de Lumière” to be part of the visual artists who painted during this great artistic event.

In 2008, in Guadeloupe and in 2009, in Martinique, Marylène Agat’s paintings will be part of the 300 works of artists from the two islands that will participate in two major public auctions of contemporary art organized by the Karribe Arts association.

For five years, Alain Caprice, the famous Martinican painter, followed Marylène Agat’s work. But, in 2009, following an exhibition in Martinique that went very badly because of a misunderstanding, even if she sold paintings, the young woman decided to take flight but she continued to exhibit at the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta that she found “magical” and she learned that this place was a former hospital. This reminded her of her mother’s long illness…

After 2009, Marylène does not fail to invite Alain Caprice during her exhibitions and he came. For her part, she went to all exhibitions of the Martinican painter. “I respected him. I miss him. The last time Alain came to see my work at home was for the exhibition “Volé, Papiyon volé” (2015). I had finished my paintings and called him so he could see them. When he walked into my living room, he was in tears and hugged me. When he looked at “Les Âmes du Tronc”, a painting about slavery, he said to me : “look at the finesse of this painting, we made it. Hats off to you, congratulation Marylène!” At the opening, he again took the text “An tan lontan, jodi jou rivé” and I felt that he was leaving us”, she recalls.

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Covid, Corps Vide (Empty Body) or Cô Vid

In April 2017, Marylène Agat presented the exhibition “Imago” and her mentor did not miss this opportunity to come and admire her production and read this famous text that he had again changed and adapted to the new works.

A few months later, in December, kariculture met Martinican visual artist on the occasion of his latest exhibition entitled “Partage” at the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta, an article that we publish on December 26, 2017. On December 26, 2019, Alain Phoébé Caprice died in Guadeloupe, an island where he had almost always lived, at the age of 75.

Her “student” Marylène Agat “Homme de Lumière” continued his journey and, in April 2020, everything was ready for her to present to the public in her favourite room – the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta – her new exhibition called “Élementaire” (the sequel to “Imago”), a work in which she associated the St. Martinese Georges Cox. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic affected the world and the Guadeloupean archipelago, a French land, was placed in total lockdown for nearly two months from March 17, 2020. The exhibition could not take place physically, it became virtual.

Before that, in January 2020, Marylène fell ill ; she and her partner spent the holidays in Martinique. Although the artist was never tested, she says she caught Covid-19 while they were out on the sister island.

“During these last two years, I took the opportunity to question myself and improve my work. I wanted to talk about this lockdown. The human being forgets very quickly. We have had more than 1,000 deaths. I asked myself questions about this lockdown, I inquired about this disease and I got the answers with my 15 paintings, during my exhibition “Cô Vid”. From the end of 2020 to the end of 2021, I took my brushes”, explains, today, Marylène Agat.

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Seventeen years after her first exhibition in the Édouard Chartol hall at the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta in Pointe-à-Pitre, which had become her favourite venue, the artist decided – with the precious help of her partner – to build her own space near her home in Lasserre, Morne-à-l’Eau, and she inaugurated it at the “Cô Vid” opening on April 23, 2022. “I feel good there. If people want to see Agat, if people like Agat, people will move to see Agat. For the love of art, we move. I have a lot of plans for this room such as conferences and exhibitions for my students”, she says.

Indeed, the artist has been giving art classes and art therapy classes to children, all year round, on Saturdays and Wednesdays, for about ten years.

At the end of 2022, when the whole world seems to be recovering from this terrible health crisis, a wind of rebirth is blowing on the creations of Marylène Agat “Homme de Lumière”. The open days organized in her jewelry workshop were a great success, the creator will make new jewelry collections by being guided further by her inspiration to further magnify her customers…

In addition, the artist who has just become a grandmother for the third time intends to paint again for many years, but since this new birth, something deep inside her advises her to create works with more cheerful, more shimmering colors…