When thinking of Caribbean art, seascapes and brightly painted tropical scenes usually spring to mind. But in the case of Guadeloupe’s contemporary art scene, you may be surprised to discover a wealth of originality. While Guadeloupe’s artists do call upon island influences in creating their works, the results are often far from expected.
The predominant art movement in Guadeloupe today, Koukara, began in 1988. Meaning “the Caribbean colors,” Koukara emphasizes the unity of the Caribbean people. Founded by art professors Klodi Cancelier, Lucien Léogane, and Jacques Lampécinado, its avant-garde aesthetic tends to be abstract or surreal, often with indigenous touches.
The movement’s artists characteristically use the Fibressences method to create mixed media pieces. Fibressences incorporates natural materials in artworks, such as bits of wood, coconut fibers, sugar cane, and sand. These elements add an interesting three-dimensional quality to the work, as well as creating a close connection to the environment. Paintings in vibrant and deep hues make up the majority of pieces, but there are some exceptions. Karine Gabon paints on hanging fabrics and other materials, with an earth-toned color palette that enhances her primitive motifs; she also creates abstract sculptures. And Klodi Cancelier’s paper series juxtaposed pieces of handmade papers painted with different colors and symbols.
The Koukara group has grown rapidly since its inception. With many of Guadeloupe’s artists taking part in the movement, its style and ideals will likely continue to thrive in the coming years.
Other Contemporary Art
While Koukara is an important movement, it isn’t the only type of art to be found in Guadeloupe. Thierry Bergame’s surreal pop art displays a singular style and sense of humor. On the other hand, Déglas paints scenes with lighter tones and in a more naturalistic style, though he often includes fantastic elements like anthropomorphic animals and skeletons. Jean-Marc Hunt mainly uses objects like tools, pieces of wood, and even a sewing machine to create his sculptures. And while his paintings share a similar style with the Koukara group, his subject matter is generally quite different.
Guadeloupe’s contemporary art scene has captured international attention. Its artists have participated in exhibits throughout the Caribbean, France, the U.S., Canada, and Costa Rica. In spite of its relatively small size, this island nation cultivates big talent.