Viviane Pelus: “I’m fulfilling a dream, something I never thought I would achieve”

Viviane Pelus, artist and director of the gallery L'Art s'en Mêle - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

Originally from Ain in France, Viviane Pelus settled in Guadeloupe in 1998. She first managed a company specializing in aluminium roller shutters and doors. This dynamic young woman discovered painting ten years ago and, after participating in about twenty group exhibitions, she succeeded in making her dream come true: opening an art gallery. After only a year and a half of activity, L’Art s’en Mêle in Le Gosier became an unmissable place in the Guadeloupean cultural scene.

Viviane Pelus 9 : Which region of France are you from and how long have you been living in Guadeloupe?

Viviane Pelus : I am a native of the Ain department near Bourg-en-Bresse. I arrived here in 1998 with my daughter’s father, we found a place in the sun, initially, we didn’t know what we were going to do, we didn’t intend to work too hard. We started an aluminium business, we made roller shutters and doors right there. It was a boom at the time, it was a very good job that allowed me to find a place, to build our beautiful little house. In 2018, my daughter’s father left, I partnered with someone but he had a very serious accident at work, so we sold. All alone, it was too tiring, there were employees (there were 5), suppliers, customers. I didn’t feel like it any more, when you do something, you have to like it, otherwise it’s not worth it.

Viviane Pelus 3 : We met for the first time during the exhibition “Que sommes-nous” of the studio of painter Lucien Léogane at Fort Fleur d’Épée in 2019, you were one of the students. Were you already an artist-painter or were you discovering painting?

V. P. : In 2002, my daughter Alix went to school in Poucette and I enrolled her at the Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture to learn painting with Maurice Vital. One day, Nadine Henri who also participated in the exhibition “Qui sommes-nous” with Lucien and who was also at the MJC told me to come. At the time, I didn’t paint, I had no idea what a brush was and I discovered hidden talents. For two years, I worked with Maurice who is very academic and who thus taught me the basics of painting, which is very important. Afterwards, we went to Lucien Léogane’s studio.

Viviane Pelus 10 : As a painter, what is your favourite style? Figurative or abstract?

V. P. : I do a lot of abstract. It’s not my choice, it’s because I don’t know how to draw very well.

Viviane Pelus 11 : You are sincere, some artists wouldn’t have admitted it…

V. P. : It’s true, I could draw but it’s something I didn’t want to do. Now, I want to really learn to draw, to change my objective because when I paint I always come back to the same things, that is to say my circles, my superimposed colours. I work a lot with a scraper.

Viviane Pelus 2 : How many personal exhibitions did you already make?

V. P. : I’ve never made any. In April 2021, I will organize my first solo exhibition.

Viviane Pelus 12 : Did you only participate in group exhibitions?

V. P. : In total, I participated in about twenty group exhibitions in ten years. My first exhibition was in 2010 with Maurice Vital at Le Gosier media library, the first one with Lucien took place at the Casino on Le Gosier, I also did an exhibition on orchids in duo with Nadine Henri at the Rémi Nainsouta cultural centre in Pointe-à-Pitre, then in 2015 with Steek…

In the beginning, when I opened the gallery, I also made group exhibitions with a theme. For example, there was “Noir et Blanc” with Nicole Réache, Françoise Charolle, Nadine Henri, Bizo; in July 2019, “Bleu, Blanc, Rouge” for the French National Day with Corentin Faye, the K4G collective etc. I exhibited in all these collective exhibitions.

Viviane Pelus 14 : In 2019, you told to me that you were going to launch your gallery. A year and a half later, here’s the result. You could have remained an artist, why did you want to go from painter to gallery owner?

V. P. : I could have remained an artist but I wanted to share my passion for art. I always said if I had the opportunity I would open a space dedicated to art. The gallery is now a springboard for young talents and I hope that soon it will be a must in Guadeloupe.

Faced with the lack of spaces dedicated to art in Guadeloupe, I said to myself “Viviane, go for it” but not to make money. It was a challenge for me, I did all this with my own funds, I got some help because I had worked in the aluminium industry but I didn’t apply for grants. You have to make a file, it’s complicated, but maybe I’ll make one later. We’ll see, I have no regrets.

Viviane Pelus 4 : Where does the name of the gallery come from, “L’Art s’en Mêle”?

V. P. : In November 2018, Thierry Alet came to see the artists, I was a little known as an artist because I had already participated in Pool Art Fair 3 or 4 times. He had launched a project on the 40th anniversary of the Route du Rhum, which was called Art Rhum. I quickly made a small space right here, it was clean and air-conditioned, there was not all this but we could host an traveling exhibition there.

Afterwards, I made a first exhibition with Lucien Léogane’s collective – Élisabeth, Nadine, Marie and the others – and the theme was “L’Art s’en Mêle” and I kept the name.

Viviane Pelus 15 : Why L’Art s’en Mêle?

V. P. : Because that’s where everything mingles, all the arts can mingle with each other, whether it’s painting, sculpting, music… I can also do an exhibition, an opening and invite a band, a male singer, a female singer.

Viviane Pelus 17 : Contrary to what you said, in a year and a half of existence, L’Art s’en Mêle is already an unmissable space, did you expect this success? How do you explain this?

V. P. : Because I’m nice. At the very beginning, I didn’t rent the space for exhibitions, it’s was free because I had to bring people in, to make the place known. I inaugurated it with Habdaphaï in March 2019. I didn’t create this area to make money, today I have 3 spaces and I have expenses. The artists who exhibit here sell 1 or 2 paintings at least, it’s a recognition.

The space is already rented until mid-June 2021. The minimum rental period is ten days.

Viviane Pelus 19 : Were you morally supported in the realization of such a project?

V. P. : All the people around me – except my close friends, who are few and the artists – asked me if I was crazy. I wanted to do the test, to get into this, so I launched from the beginning an art co-working space with Wi-Fi, a space with fine art material, and a gallery space with a bar area. The openings were outside which could be dangerous and then I had the opportunity to have this extra space, since last February.

Viviane Pelus 5 : Who visits the gallery?

V. P. : Everyone. Each exhibition is different. Friends of the artists, people who pass in front of the gallery and stop by, the clientele and the artist’s network… In each new exhibition, there are new people I meet. There are also enthusiasts who are always there. 3/4 of the openings are free, you can eat and drink something…

Viviane Pelus 29 : When did you expand the space?

V. P. : There was a greengrocer at this place but in December it went down, I took over the premises. We had already opened for the Christmas holidays with Vanessa Gaulin and then I closed it to do some work. I opened this additional space in February 2020. On this occasion, I organized an exhibition with Steek, K4G, Bizo and myself on the theme of love for Valentine’s Day.

Afterwards, there was an artist who lives in Canada, Marion H. Gérard, who paints in the water. She came in December with a friend to visit the area, she was looking for someone to take her scuba-diving, my daughter being a diving instructor, she said that not only she had found an instructor but also an art gallery! When she came back to Canada, she called me to tell me that she will be in Guadeloupe from January to March and she would like to book the gallery for an exhibition. She painted about twenty paintings here, ten of which under water : she goes down to 10 or 15 metres in the sea, she sits down and she paints with oil, it’s very impressive. There are six in the world doing this.

Viviane Pelus 20 : How many exhibitions did you already host in this space?

V. P. : I have already hosted 12 exhibitions since February 2020, the galery was closed during lockdown. Last year there were 14 exhibitions. 26 exhibitions.

Viviane Pelus 21 : When artists come to see you to rent your gallery, what do they tell you? Why do they come here? What attracts them?

V. P. : Notoriety and above all conviviality. As soon as they enter, they smile, it seems like it’s a place where there are only positive vibes. Here, we are comfortable, there are no luxury chairs or armchairs, you sit where you want because I don’t want to “go into that system”. I don’t want to have artists who are not happy. For the moment, I have never had any problems with the artists who have exhibited here.

That is my personal success. I share, I don’t disparage anyone, I remain neutral.

It’s also my personality, I also played a role, too. I don’t use the full potential of the place because I’m a very reasonable person, I don’t put the cart before the horse, but I communicate a lot on social networks.

We are realizing that artists increasingly want to move, to go out, to express themselves, is it because there is a space like this? There is this dynamic at L’Art s’en Mêle or elsewhere throughout Guadeloupe. It’s a beautiful dynamic, people need it, me too.

Viviane Pelus 6 : Can you give us some names of artists who have already exhibited at L’Art s’en Mêle?

V. P. : Habdaphaï, Steek, Alex Boucaud, Cédrick Isham, Marion H., Bizo, K4G, Corentin Faye alias Mister Co, Alfredus etc. Alice-Anne Augustin came to exhibit in October 2019 for 10 days, it was the first time, she was afraid, I provided her with a lot of advice, she gained confidence in herself, we became friends, I took her under my wing as if she were my daughter.

As I am a simple person, if an artist asks me to open the gallery on a Sunday morning I accept, she told me that 7 or 8 visitors should come to see her exhibition on All Saints’ Day, she was lucky because among these people, there was a patron and today she is in a gallery in Paris, they took her in hand… She’s a humble, beautiful artist, she do pouring.

Viviane Pelus 22 : As a gallery owner, you are best placed to see the clients. Who are they? Everyday mens and women? Institutions?

V. P. : Institutions have never bought anything here. Art is a crush – the buyers are the common people, the collectors. At the moment, we are in a rather complicated period, so I see fewer people than before.

Viviane Pelus 23 : How are the workshops you do?

V. P. : It is the artists who organize them. We have already done graffiti, mandala, pottery, creative diary workshops for example. I take a little something, it’s a very little cost. It’s a long-term work because people may come once and not come back, sometimes there is no one. The audience is made up of children and adults.

Viviane Pelus 24 : How was the shop born? What do you sell there? Do the artists come to see you or do you contact them?

V. P. : The shop was born after lockdown because I couldn’t do exhibitions. I sell everything artistic, there is something for every taste and at every price.

Everything is local, except for a bag that comes from the Philippines, which is made from recycled materials. Everything is made by local artists. I also do a lot of research on the net to find the artists because every 3 months, I change the creations because there are regular customers who come to see what’s new. There are about twenty artists who propose their creations and it’s a deposit sale.

Viviane Pelus 7 : You are in a very tourist town, Le Gosier, do tourists come to L’Art s’en Mêle?

V. P. : No, it’s something I have to work on. July and August are very quiet.

Viviane Pelus 26 : Do you have any plans?

V. P. : Yes, I want to do a residency with local and even foreign artists with the support of the Directorate of Cultural Affairs or some grants, to do exchanges, more intimate, private evenings around art with music. There are people who work in the hospital and who come here to relax, to recharge their batteries for two hours. For me, I’m fulfilling a dream, something I never thought I would achieve.

Viviane Pelus 28