Eden Art Space exists principally to promote the work of local, mostly Seychellois artists. Inspired by the diversity and feeling of community that surrounds the gallery, Absolute Seychelles met with the key figures behind this success story.
Managed by Arterial Network Seychelles, a not-for-profit NGO, the overall direction of the gallery (including the exhibitions programme) is decided by an elected committee, whilst the day-to-day running of the space is the responsibility of Michaella Marzocchi, Gallery Manager.
“As Eden Art Space Manager, I see myself as a supporter and friend to the artists. I like the fact that art is accessible, the gallery is a welcoming space where locals and visitors to Seychelles can appreciate works by well established artists and newcomers to the art scene.”
The gallery’s programme includes one and two person shows as well as thematic and genre-based group exhibitions. There are plans to feature the work of two international artists in the next 18 months. A more permanent display of work constantly complements the temporary shows, so visitors to the gallery are assured of an eclectic aesthetic mix whenever they enter the exhibition space.
The success of the gallery reflects the powerful momentum discernible in both the creation and consumption of fine art in Seychelles. There is a small but expanding group of residents who collect local art and tourism establishments are increasingly realising that their guests value having original Seychelles art in their room rather than some tired and irrelevant offering from Indonesia.
Prices in the gallery are realistic and the collection of work at any time includes pieces which are affordable to most visitors. European collectors are often pleasantly surprised by the uncommon (in the art world) synergy of high quality and modest price.
Most of the artists featured in the ‘Art in Seychelles; Then and Now’ book show at Eden Art Space and there is a developing camaraderie across the artistic community, perhaps not yet a clear cut ‘movement’, but common ground which surpasses the stylistic adhesive common as little as ten years ago, where most work was landscape in form and almost always sold to tourists. This market precluded the creation of larger scale works, indeed anything too large to fit into a suitcase, and discouraged artists from the production of 3D work.
Today things have changed and the gallery displays sculpture alongside large canvases. Subject matter continues to accurately reflect the environment of Seychelles at times but increasingly there is more non-figurative work as well as pieces which explore some of the ‘grand themes’ of being alive – love, death, beauty and hope.
The recent Seychelles Biennale confirmed this paradigm shift, with all Seychellois artists exhibiting installations inspired by the theme; ‘In a world of crisis what does art do?’. Prior to this the Seychelles pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale featured the sculptures of ‘Group Sez’, a loose collaboration between 15 Seychellois artists and the prominent and prolific Georges Camille.
The gallery is located at the heart of Mahe’s most impressive retail and dining mall which itself is located on the waterfront of the Eden Island marina. Arterial Network Seychelles is based in the gallery, illustrating that this is not just a depository for fine art but also a cultural hub. As well as administration the space hosts special events designed to bring the public into the gallery – these are typically workshops and exhibition-related activities.
“Many people are still reticent when it comes to walking into an art gallery” Martin Kennedy, the Arterial Chairman told us. “Art can be a little scary, especially contemporary art as it has a reputation for being difficult to understand; many people feel that it’s not for them because they see themselves as lacking the intellectual tools to respond to the work. They don’t want to appear ignorant or foolish. To neutralise this trepidation we encourage an open door policy and believe that it is not necessary to have an understanding of art theory to enjoy what the gallery has to offer. Everyone will hopefully take something positive from the experience of visiting our space and this forms part of our policy of encouraging a democracy of interaction between the work and visitors.”
So currently who are the most prominent artists showing and selling at the Eden Art Space? Michaella answers:
“This changes from month to month. Personally I can say that Leon Radegonde’s work fascinates me: the often discarded materials that he uses to create his textured artworks show exceptional sensitivity.
Artists such as Egbert Marday and Marc Luc capture a specific Seychelles energy, and the intricacies of Alyssa Adams and Sophie Standing’s creations capture the attention of many visitors.”
George Camille, until recently the Chairman of Arterial Network Seychelles, is one of the gallery’s most dedicated and successful exhibitors. “George sells strongly because his work has developed to a point where he presents the Seychelles through a personal and powerful visual language. Figurative compositions are embellished with a lexicon of symbolic forms which appear across the artist’s entire output.”
Camille’s recent work is rooted in social investigations – he won the first prize at the 2017 Seychelles Biennale for an installation representing the plight of drug addicts and his installation at the 2015 Venice Biennale was a powerful criticism of deficiencies in environmental management in the Seychelles.
Camille also explores his chosen themes through an exceptionally wide range of processes and media, from traditional painting and etching to the adaptation of found objects (most famously discarded wooden window shutters) into which the artist embeds embossed metal and upon which he terrorises the painted surfaces with fire.
“The works produced which utilise the shutters are both archival and aesthetic. The history and memory of the carpenters who made the pieces and the occupants of the homes who touched and were protected by the shutters are an integral part of the work.” Camille explains.
The work of Harry Brioche, a Seychellois now living in the UK, is instantly recognisable as ‘quality’. His delicate and confident brushwork recalls the confidence of Turner, and his subject matter – atmosphere – is similarly aligned with that of the great master of the evocative landscape.
Brioche has, from a young age, been captivated by the beauty and drama of the British landscape and its rapidly and constantly reforming skies. He recognised and enjoyed the contrast with the Seychelles, yet he painted what he saw where he saw it and thus the tone and ambience of his adopted home dominates his creative output.
The artist states; “The landscape is almost incidental, my main objectives are to try and capture the atmosphere and ‘spirit’ of a place. Ultimately it is the mood and light within the painting which becomes the central theme. As an artist I paint subjects that inspire me, and which bring me, and hopefully others, pleasure.”
Harry Brioche’s often small and delicate paintings are both evocative and beautiful. They transmit a distinctive aura and, even in a gallery where they are invariably surrounded by larger and more colourful works, they command attention and respect.