From June 2 to 30, 2018, the Pavillon de la Ville in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) hosts the exhibition of Guadeloupean painter Pierre Chadru alias “Chad” entitled “Ou vwè-y, ou pa vwè-y” (You have seen it, you have not seen it) which consists among others of several installations.
When the visitor comes into the Pavillon de la Ville, he does not look at the grids where usually are the paintings since this building is on the historical register, so it is prohibited to hang paintings on the walls… There is no grid. In this exhibition entitled “Ou vwè-y, ou pa vwè-y” by visual artist Pierre Chadru, most of the works are on the ground. Each of the seven rooms therefore receives a special installation. Three weeks before the exhibition, the artist came to visit the place, to measure every room. The materials used are pieces of planks, logs, sand, clay, dry leaves, pebbles, iron, conches, cut grass, foam mattresses, an iron bed, empty pots of paint and other containers, shoes etc…
However, when Pierre Chadru studied art in Martinique and France, he was very reluctant to make installations. “The installation comes from Africa and I did not understand that they want to teach me something that already belongs to me… In addition, for me, putting something on the ground was very symbolic : when I was a child, every night to sleep, as a mattress I put my rags on the ground – to make his “kabann”, in Creole – it was important for me not to lose them and I had to arrange them very well not to feel the cold of the concrete. The time for me to make installations had not come yet”, he explained. In fact, the artist began to create them in 2002 and 2007 by making the scenography of exhibitions at L’Artchipel, Scène Nationale in Basse-Terre.
A recurrent shape
Most of these installations have a shape that is similar to an eye, this shape is also on the few paintings that are part of this exhibition. “I think a lot before creating, it needs to make sense to me. It’s a “matrix shape” I use as a laboratory and which has many identities. I created it in 1996 and it is on paintings of battered children I exhibited in 1997. Initially, it was a flame, an allegory of the suffering inflicted on children and especially little Sandrine, this case that had marked Guadeloupe, more than 20 years ago. This flame on the head represented the head then the soul (…) Several civilizations also use this shape (…)”, said Pierre Chadru.
The large number of ladders also draw the visitor’s attention. The artist had already painted them on his works about the battered children. Twenty years later, these were materialized. “They are tall, they can represent the dream, the imaginative world, the change of social conditions, of country etc”, he said.
In addition, the figure 52 is written in several paintings. Pierre Chadru gave his explanation : “I often say that each of my works is 49 years old (my age) because they are a summary of my life, of my career. On these paintings, 52 is the age of one of my brothers who died last year. In addition, 5+2 = 7, 7 is the magic number”.
Paintings hanging from the ceiling also populate the exhibition “Ou vwè-y, ou pa vwè-y”. They even occupy completely one of the rooms on the first floor.
The “Jungle” according to Chad
“Jungle” is the name of this installation which is composed of 24 paintings and rope. “They represent a forest with big trees like the baobab. This takes us back to mysticism, the magico-religious, this feeling of anxiety that the forest inspired to our ancestors, but this anxiety does not exist only the Caribbean, it also exists in Africa, in Europe and elsewhere. This is also a tribute to Cuban painter Wifredo Lam who painted the jungle with animals”, said Chad. He painted on these paintings that come from a decoration he had made in 1992 with the painter Antoine Nabajoth for the Theater Festival in Les Abymes. “We had hanged a lot of paintings on which we had painted African masks, there were also fringes, ropes ; these paintings symbolized the sails of the caravels”, said the artist.
This exhibition is very important for Pierre Chadru : “I’m at a turning point in my career. This work must be known throughout the world”, he said.
During these years of silence, Chad who is also a visual arts teacher in the secondary school in Saint-Louis, Marie-Galante, an art critic, a cultural engineer, a curator, a scenographer and a communications consultant recharged his batteries, improved his knowledge and became a father. “Twenty years ago, I put on a dozen exhibitions in a year, I was everywhere, I did not want to get lost, I’m not a star. Today, I’m uncomfortable on a set because I had there some special experiences : I act as a buffer, as a foil when what I have to say is profound; it liquefied my work and they did not take me seriously (…)”, said the artist.
The economic aspect of art
His famous gallery “Espace Chadru” created in 1995 closed its doors in 2010 and he is very bitter when he considers today the situation of the plastic arts in Guadeloupe. “For me, the assessment of the last thirty years is desastrous despite all the artistic abundance of that time (Indigo, Festag, Convergences Sainte-Anne etc.) Artists are the first links in the chain then the institutions play a part as it is the case for the FIAC, the Biennale of Paris and even the museums etc. A lot of people used up a great deal of energy for nothing because none of these events was perpetuated. How can the public take artists seriously?”, said the painter who was the penultimate president of Indigo and collaborated on Les Rencontres d’Arts et d’Histoire in Trois-Rivières.
Price of works of art is a subject that interest him greatly and he would like the economic aspect of art is better taken into account in Guadeloupe. “It’s a taboo subject, here. The local authorities, for example, buy the cheapest works and it does not help to increase the appreciation of the artists. There is no policy to encourage the purchase when Guadeloupe, this small territory, generates billions of euros. There is money even if we live with a pessimistic spirit”, he said. The artist has no embarrassment to communicate the price of the works for the exhibition “Ou vwè-y, ou pa vwè-y” which are between 3,000 euros and 100,000 euros.
At the moment, Pierre Chadru is preparing a thesis entitled : “Access to the market, from primitive African art to Jean-Michel Basquiat”. A new degree that will open up other professional and artistic perspectives for him. He is quite willing to work on major projects in collaboration with organizations such as Unesco.