From April 6 to 26, the Rémy Nainsouta Cultural Centre in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) hosts the exhibition entitled “Voyage intemporel” (Timeless voyage) by Thierry Gillon aka “Pwofésè”. Guadeloupean sculptor offers visitors and buyers to walk through the history of our island from the arrival of the first Europeans to the present day through 53 works in various local woods, metal, rock.
It had been almost four long years since the Rémy Nainsouta Cultural Centre in Pointe-à-Pitre had not hosted a large and beautiful exhibition dedicated to sculpting ; the last was “Re…Naissance” proposed by Guadeloupean sculptor, Jacky Poulier, in June-July 2015. The least we can say is that the sculptor who now is succeeding him in the Édouard Chartol hall sets the bar very high.
His name is Thierry Gillon aka “Pwofésè” (Professor), he was born in Saint-Claude 43 years ago but his family is from Pointe-Noire, a town in the leeward coast of Guadeloupe where he lives. The artist is a self-taught who has been practicing sculpting since the age of 18. For years, he belonged to the collective called “Kali Art” with which he participated in many group exhibitions. A few years ago, he organized his first solo exhibition at the Jardin d’Eau in Goyave in partnership with Orange Caraïbe.
“Voyage intemporel” that the artist subtitled “an anthropological and artistic introspection” is the artist’s second solo exhibition – but the largest – that he proposes from April 06 to 26. “It’s a journey that relates 500 years of the history of Guadeloupe, from the arrival of Europeans in a land where Amerindians lived, via the triangular trade with the enslavement of Africans, the Second World War, a period known as “An tan Sorin”, to come to the present day“, he explained. This exhibition, which represents years of work, consists of 53 works in several sizes and the artist wrote a presentation for each one.
Works to discover the history of Guadeloupe…
Among these sculptures, there is a series “Chefs Calinagos” where Thierry Gillon told us that his great-grandmother was an Kalinago Amerindian : “This is my way of giving allegiance to the great chiefs, to calm down their souls, they suffered so much violence and injustice”. And “Pwofésè” told us a part of the history of Guadeloupe which is not taught at school : “In the area of Pointe-Noire, in Trou Caverne, the Kalinago chiefs led a fierce resistance, they made surprise attacks and hid in the holes dug in the ground, which made them invisible to the Europeans and it was only when the first dogs arrived that they understood the trick. They had a fateful destiny, largely dynamited in their holes (…)”; a series “Rois Africa” about which the artist wrote : “this work is the dressing and a way of saying that we do not forget the allegiance that our ancestors gave to their good kings” and he wondered :” Africa makes rich all nations but does not take off, who is to blame? (…) Is Africa a problem that has no solution?” ; “Vierge de Guadalupe” who is a black virgin whom the Spanish venerated, a “story that is based on mysteries and hidden truths”, this this the story of “Isis brought back from Egypt to the West by the Greeks and Moors ( …)” ; “Puissance Noire” where the sculptor wrote that he “pays tribute to the capacity of resistance and resilience that the deported Africans had to confront oppression they suffered (…)” ;“Corps et âme” which is a questioning about life and suffering inflicted by the living conditions of men and women ; “Vodou mystique” which is “the symbol of understanding, respect for others and ourselves”;
…through the sculptor’s life
“Vie économique” to honor “our grandparents who were worked the land and sacrificed themselves to pay higher education to their children to develop this country (…)” and, today, they end their life in a home for the erderly ; “Gran Anman” where the artist dealt with death that we have great difficulty in accepting and he advised : “Live every moment as intensively as possible, spend a lot of time of the people who are dear to you and give them the best of yourselves” ; “Dissident” where “Pwofésè” paid tribute to his great-grandfather and his companions who answered to the call of General de Gaulle and died to liberate France from Nazism ; “Armageddon Syndrome chinois” inspired by this recent provocation between the President of the USA and the President of North Korea and it is, he said, the “symbol of stupidity from the contemporary man who threatens his ecosystem to assert its omnipotence ” ; “Mass Gwada” where the masks represent the Guadeloupe’s popular culture medium ; Thierry Gillon said : “I wanted to show that there is not much of African culture in Guadeloupe so, we identify more with American culture or that of others; it is time to remove the masks that prevent us from seeing better” ; “Tanbouyé mawon” that he saw as the “guardian of African musical practice in Guadeloupe”; “Bèt a Man Ibè”, this terrifying nocturnal creature etc.
Thierry Gillon draws his inspiration from our history, our habits and customs or the news and he has 3 modes of creation : ” firstly, there is the call of the material ie that I look at it and I can already see the work that will emerge from it. It’s as if I just have to remove the surplus. I think that’s where the best works come out. Secondly, I look at the material and see things that appear in it. Thirdly, I talk to the ancestors and ask them to help me to bring something to the world where I am”, he explained.
Works in several local woods
The artist also said that he used a lot of mathematics and physics to create his works. “It’s all about mathematics to find symmetry, the axis of a face, for example. It’s also physics because there is a sense to take the material, in order not to break the wood fibres, for example”, he said.
About the materials used by the sculptor, there is iron, concrete, river and sea pebbles and also wood. Most of the works presented in the exhibition “Voyage intemporel” are made of wood from the country. We can mention “tendracayou”, “galba”, mahogany, ironwood, acacia, “lépini”, rosewood, “bois de résolu” (a little known today but which was used, some years ago, to build the outside of houses in Guadeloupe because it is rotproof). Thierry Gillon says he does not cut wood in the forest, he has a network of friends who brings him these pieces of wood at home. “What attracts me is the nobility of the material. I would like to do more stone sculptures, now”, he said.
Through this sculpture exhibition, the artist said he tried to “show what is good in the human being, it is like a therapy for the population. I try to live in harmony with nature. I love what the elders have left but what the Kalinagos and Africans left us is dying out because of development.We have become like Europeans and we react as Europeans, our young people are confused (…) It is true that we learn to read, to write and to think in French culture, we are educated but we must not be formated”.
A great thirst for knowledge
Thierry Gillon has a nickname that is not meaningless: “First, a friend had called me “Fingers” then, he told me that “Pwofésè” (Professor) would be better because I am interested in everything, I buy books, today there is internet. In fact, I have a great desire to learn about nature, plants, construction, car, electricity, plumbing etc. I drew the blueprints of my house, I built it and solar-electrified it according to my invention. My father who is an electrician wondered if all of this would work”, told the artist who received his BEP in technical equipment at the Vocational school in Le Lamentin and who took several training courses as a mountain guide or tourist facilitator in rural areas. “This training consists in enhancing the rural heritage and it allowed me to better know the plants and memorize the name of all orchids in Guadeloupe”, said “Pwofésè”. All his knowledge will be used in the future because Thierry Gillon has a 1 hectare landscaped garden where he plans to make monumental sculptures. Her mother who, from the beginning, always encouraged his artistic vocation, attended on Friday April 5 the opening of the exhibition “Voyage intemporel” during which the artist performed a song (another of his talents) ; his father perhaps who feared for his professional future now recognizes that what he makes with his hands is “high level” and “powerful”.
This is certainly what all those who see his works on virtual art galleries or on his Facebook page also think and they get in touch with him to invite him to participate in their exhibitions in France, England, Belgium, Italy or Africa. He did not forget the invitation of famous Senegalese sculptor, Ousmane Sow (1935-2016). “He had never met me but he had seen my works on the internet and he invited me to participate in an exhibition, he paid part of the air ticket etc. It was a couple of months before he died. I could not go there. So, I heard of his death on the radio, something happened and I began to carve two works I exhibit here to pay him tribute (…)”, told the artist who is convinced that Ousmane Sow wanted to send him a message.
In the coming days, several schools on the island, including Petit-Canal, Sainte-Rose and Pointe-à-Pitre, will come to visit this major sculpture exhibition. Thierry Gillon “Pwofésè” looks forward to them, he also will be at the Rémy Nainsouta Cultural Center for the duration of his exhibition to receive the public.