Jérôme Jean-Charles: a sculptor from the “activ’art” movement

His works in public spaces in Guadeloupe are undoubtedly more famous than him. Jérôme Jean-Charles is a discreet and young sculptor who also uses his art to raise public awareness of the problems of our modern society. In his desire to democratize art, he does not hesitate to associate the citizens with the creation of his works.

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Jérôme Jean-Charles has recently participated, for the fourth time, in the Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe. One of his wooden works – Le Jeune Homme à la Rose – (The Young Man with the Rose) with his mischievous eyes, was the mascot of this international contemporary art fair. Both adults and children could not walk past the artist’s stand without stopping and admiring this magnificent work which expresses great sympathy. In view of the great success of Le Jeune Homme à la Rose with the art lovers, the artist is now thinking of making several models of this figure but they will be unique items. international contemporary art fair.

Jérôme Jean-Charles could have done any “normal” job, could have practiced any other art but he chose a field that is not very developed in Guadeloupe : sculpting. Indeed, the island has less than ten sculptors. “When I became a sculptor, I responded to a call. I started with art and crafts in 2006. To do this, it is necesary to have dexterity, to know how to tame material, wood, bark. I certainly inherited this talent from my father who was very handy and a metal worker which requires a great deal of precision. Then, I realized I could go farther. The click occured when, in 2009 (the year of social events in Guadeloupe), I met a collective of artists – Awtis 4 Chimen – I look at my work differently, with a more elaborate artistic and aesthetic approach”, he says.

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An advocate for sustainable development

By integrating the collective “Awtis 4 Chimen”, composed of 22 artists (plastic artists, painters, videographers, photographers, sculptors, engravers, craftmen in wrought iron etc.), Jérôme Jean-Charles not only found his way but he became more assertive about his job. In 2009, he and his friends moved into the L’Herminier Pavilion, built in 1873, located at the corner of Sadi Carnot street and Jean Jaurès street in Pointe-à-Pitre; in the 20th century, this building became the L’Herminier Museum and then, it was abandoned.

This artistic squat (the first of its kind in Guadeloupe) brought back to life this beautiful building which was listed as a historical monument in 2008 and to this area of the city. After a year of occupation, the collective “Awtis 4 Chimen” organized a large exhibition entitled “Cheminement” where every artist presented his works to the public. “We had squatted this place to show the decision-makers that there was no space of artistic expression of this type in Guadeloupe. Because the building was classified as a historical monument, we respected the place. Following this action, the Schoelcher Museum in Pointe-à-Pitre created “Carte Blanche” to enable artists to display on its premises, a way of “mixing” the works of this museum with contemporary art,” he says.

Thanks to this change in career guidance, Jérôme Jean-Charles, who became an artist-sculptor, works – in addition to wood – synthetic material (resin, PVC). In his desire to participate actively in sustainable development, he also collects materials such as plastic, metal, wood that the woodwork shops discard or pallets.

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To enhance the deaf world

Moreover, to create his works in his studio located in Belle-Plaine in the city of Les Abymes, the sculptor remains very attentive to his environment, he opens up his senses, he follows the news of his island and the rest of the world. “I’m also inspired by the people I meet, their lives, their feelings… Creativity is closely linked to emotions (…) I work all day in my studio but when I am very productive, I can still be there at 9 at night. I plan the use of the machines during the day so as not to disturb the neighborhood at night,” he says.

Despite his young career, Jérôme Jean-Charles already presented his works in prestigious places outside Guadeloupe. Indeed, in 2011, he participated in an exhibition and sale to benefit the fight against cancer at the Auditorium Rainier III in Monaco, organized by the GemlucArt charitable association. The following year, with the “Odyssée” gallery in Pointe-à-Pitre, managed by Sylvie Adélaïde, he returned to Monaco to show his work at Art Monaco, which is one of the largest international contemporary art fairs on the Côte d’Azur.

The artist also proposes projects to local authorities and associations. He has just presented “Ma Sourde Oreille” (My Deaf Ear) to the SERAC association (Sourds Entendants Recherche Action Communication). Soon, he will create a monumental work that will be put down at the roundabout of the RSMA in La Jaille in the town of Baie-Mahault. “This project aims to enhance the deaf world and the adults of this association will be involved in the development and the fastening of the structure,” he says.

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Actors and respectful citizens

This initiative to involve the others in his artistic projects is very important for the sculptor. He put it into practice during the recent embellishment operation in the city, carried out by the association “Pli Bèl Lari”, during which he created a work of art on the site of a house that disappeared in a fire in Dugommier street in Pointe-à-Pitre. “Young people of the neighborhood did not vandalize the work, they respected it,” he says.

In addition, from May 9th to June 3rd, the town of Sainte-Anne received the artist Jérôme Jean-Charles in residence for the project “Le Nectar de l’Amour” (The Nectar of Love). The latter settled down in a large hall of the municipal cultural center and, for the first time, he had to create away from his studio. “I had to familiarize myself with the place, but I had a challenge : to deliver the work within the time set. This experience was for me very enriching. Several departments of the town hall, in particular the technical departments, became involved in the project and this, even during non-working hours. Municipal agents were not underlings but real actors, in fact, everyone was at the same level. The fact of involving the inhabitants of the city in the creation of a work of art it helps develop their own self-esteem, they know that this work also belongs to them and they will want to take care of it… I also really appreciated the participation in the project of a hundred children from the schools of Sainte-Anne for their education in art,” told the artist.

According to an art critic, Jérôme Jean-Charles’s outdoor works are not classified in the “street art” movement which would be more decorative but in a whole new artistic movement called “activ’art”.

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To raise public awareness with humor

It is true that the sculptor does not wait to be asked to show in different areas of the city (roundabouts, bypasses, streets, housefronts etc.) creations where he denounces with humour the faults of our society. His militant action does not necessarily require an official authorization from the town halls to put a work in a public place. Morover, this permission certainely would be refused… However, the artist asserts to take all necessary precautions before putting his works in a public place in order to cause no accident, no damage.

So many of us saw these consumers with a cow’s head pushing caddies, this female character claiming to be “ni pute, ni soumise”, this mayor named “Gens Foutre” with his three-coloured sash and his head in the façade of a building or this other character made with a trash can with its tongue out because of the lack of running water in some taps in Guadeloupe. These are just a few of examples of the sculptor’s creations to raise public awareness.

Jérôme Jean-Charles’s career generated artistic skills within his family. “My brother-in-law now makes beautiful lamps with driftwood, as for my niece who is taking her baccalaureate exams this year, she registered in an applied arts section in France,” he says.

The young sculptor still has many projects, but he says: “I will always continue to involve citizens in the development of my munumental works, this approach has become essential for me.”