Marylène Agat : my painting is a beautiful weapon that does not kill

After being a model, a restaurant employee, a jewellery and bags manufacturer, Martinican Marylène Agat decided to devote herself entirely to painting. Every two years, this self-taught artist-painter who began painting at the age of 40 shows her paintings to the audience during an exhibition. She gave a long interview to KARICULTURE.NET to talk about her career.

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KARICULTURE.NET : How long have you been an artist-painter? How did you come to painting, to plastic arts?

Marylène Agat : I think that since my childhood, I had the artistic temperament but I decided to paint after my mother died. I was 40 years old, I lived in France, my husband had lost his job and we decided to come back to the West Indies. After this mourning, because my husband is Guadeloupean, we settled down in Guadeloupe, I quickly found a job in a restaurant in Pointe-à-Pitre. I went to all the painting exhibitions that took place in the city and I met painters such as Joël Nankin, Nikki Elisé or Thierry Lima… I fed on all these exhibitions I saw and I started painting by using pastel. Many people told me that I should launch myself into this artistic expression. At the same time, I created handcrafted jewelry that I sold in the markets.

On this occasion, I was referred by an acquaintance to an artist-painter Alain Caprice and the latter sponsored me, in 2006, during my first exhibition entitled “Entre Ciel et Terre”.

Then, I thought I had a professional choice to make. In 2007, I resigned from the restaurant where I worked to become a full-time painter. The sale of jewels allowed me to buy equipment, my husband who always supported established a workshop for me next to our house. I do not regret my choice.

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KARICULTURE.NET : Why do you associate the words “Homme de Lumière” (Man of Light) with your name?

M. A. : The drawing of this little man appeared one day in one of my paintings. I painted him without realizing it. I called him “Man of Light” and he is integrated into each of my paintings. “Man of Light” also became my artist name. I write “Man” with a capital “M” because it is about the human being who brings light to Humanity.

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KARICULTURE.NET : When do you sit down in front of your easel?

M. A. : I do not have specific moments to paint. I wake up very early so I can be in my worshop at 7 am to work. In the evening, I can also work for two to three hours from 9 pm. I paint depending on my mood.

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KARICULTURE.NET : You are inspired by current events, history to make your paintings, do you think that the artist-painter must be a witness, an activist in society?

M. A. : I am a committed painter, my paintbrush is a weapon. I translate all the problems on my canvas.

I take inspiration from the behavior of the human being, from hazards of life, from nature. I wonder a lot about people and their problems. I wonder about myself, I believe in destiny. I made an exhibition on Creole little houses (cases créoles) because they are part of our culture and we cannot remove all of them. Before, only one small room welcomed the whole family, today houses are big and there are many empty rooms. When I talked about beliefs in another exhibition, I was talking about the importance of oral knowledge transmission of our society. I also wanted to raise awareness about violence in Guadeloupe and elsewhere. It’s a difficult theme. I heard someone say : “40 paintings on violence in an exhibition? She has a problem ?!”

There are so many things that need to be denounced here so we are not obliged to be inspired by what is happening elsewhere. I want to contribute to the advancement of our society, to show people what they do not want to see and what they need to correct to be better. If every painter puts what he thinks on a canvas, it is a way to move forward. My painting is a beautiful weapon that does not kill.

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KARICULTURE.NET : You define yourself as a plastic artist, what are your favorite materials ?

M. A. : I use acrylic paint, sand, cement, string and even plastic, it’s a form of recycling. I love playing with the embossments, for me, a painting with embossments speaks more than a “flat” painting… Embossments are like the guts of the painting.

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KARICULTURE.NET : How often do you organize exhibitions to show your work? What does this meeting with the public mean to you?

M. A. : Before 2006, I painted with pastel, my exhibitions were rather irregular. Then, I started to show my work every two years in November which is the month of the death of my mother ; I felt like she was there with me to encourage me. Now, I make my exhibitions in April.

The exhibition is a moment for sharing. People come to me because my paintings speak to them, because I pass on my soul in the paintings and the audience feels it. This is important for me because the painter is always in search of creativity ; I feed on these conversations. People tell me their stories, I listen to them and I can give them some advice. Sometimes, the painter is a medium and a priest.

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KARICULTURE.NET : You give art classes to pupils of schools. What is the meaning of your action? Do you detect among these children a gift for painting or anything else?

M. A. : I worked in almost all schools of Guadeloupe and I met students who were good at painting.

In addition to being a medium and a priest, the painter is also a psychologist. I also detected children who had problems. I do not give black and white color to very young children when I do painting workshops but, one day, a 5-year-old girl mixed all the colors to get black and to draw with that color. It turns out that her parents had problems that affected her.

Another time, a 15-year-old teenager drew a beautiful colored Creole house, but a few minutes later, she had repainted it entirely in black. She simply told me that she was in mourning because she had lost her cousin. Later during this workshop, this class of 30 students spoke about violence in front of a painting, this same girl suddenly took the floor to tell her story : her cousin was shot by a stray bullet in the head and had collapsed in front of her…

I have several examples of children who are suffering, unfortunately. Painting is a detector of our society’s ills.

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KARICULTURE.NET : Your next exhibition which will take place from April 7 to 30 at the Room Rémi Nainsouta in Pointe-à-Pitre, is titled “Imago”. Why this title? What message are you trying to send ? How many paintings will you propose to the public?

M. A. : “Imago” is “Image” in Latin. “Imago” also has a mortuary meaning, in certain civilizations they made a mask of the face of the deceased person to keep his image. “Imago” is also a being who takes you to his world that can be beneficial or not.

My next exhibition will be composed of 30 paintings. It’s less than I made before. When I started, I exhibited 75 paintings. This means that my work becomes more precise.