Synopsis of Art by Artists of Haitian Descent in the Diaspora –– Part III
By Marcel Duret and Fred Thomas
One of Haiti's greatest exports to the world is its beautiful art. To illustrate the four major trends of the Haitian diaspora as outlined in previous issues of the Tokyo Journal, Haitian art experts Marcel Duret and Fred Thomas cast a closer look on the works of selected artists.
Aside the naive genre, there is primitivism. This encompasses works by artists with formal training but who decide to paint naively and consequently produce works similar to the ones by artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Emile Nolde and Jean Dubuffet. Such artists are influenced by the primitive art of indigenous cultures as seen in African masks and artifacts of the so called uncivilized people of other continents. These artists strive to emulate the spontaneity, unsophistication and simplicity of primitive art. They focus mainly on the essential by discarding or neglecting all unnecessary details so that the imagination can be left to complete the work. Blondel Joseph’s paintings and some of Fred Thomas’ newest creations are perfect illustrations of such a tendency.
Taken individually, each Blondel painting is a gem of aesthetic inventiveness conceived in a primitivistic vein. A well-trained artist with a bachelor’s degree in art, Blondel strives to make us explore the world through a stylizing prism where shapes, lines and images are distorted so that one can focus on what is essential, permanent and universal. To him, art is about archetypal phenomenon as manifested in every culture via the enduring symbols of language or pictorial representations.
With the mastery of such potent idioms along with his talent and skills, Blondel chooses to shun the superficiality of academism in his latest works for something particular, primordial, deep, more visceral and subsequently more human.
If Blondel’s choice of pastel colors and modern vocabulary connect him to his time, there is nonetheless the incidence of indigenous and rustic elements in his works. It is this synthesis that makes Blondel’s oeuvre so compelling and noticeable. It speaks to us in a language that everyone can understand because of its simplicity, clarity and magnetic qualities. At times, Blondel uses a blue undertone, highlighted in some areas with white, pink and yellow as a veil to create harmony and keep in check his child-like drawings that depict familiar voodoo scenes or other iconic elements of the Haitian culture. In keeping with this effect he would not hesitate to scratch directly on the canvas hieroglyphic-like scribbles and other esoteric symbolic inscriptions, thereby compounding the mystic undertone of his compositions. tj