« St Barth An Tan Lontan »
Art exhibition by Rémy de Haenen at the Wall House Territorial Museum from February 17 to April 15, 2021.
Interview with the artist Rémy de Haenen
Claire Richer: Can you tell us about your background ?
Rémy de Haenen: I started painting in the 1960s when I was studying in Paris. At that time, it was a spontaneous desire that led me to make paintings on wooden plates, with overlays of materials, and the use of acrylics. I was a university student. The years in Paris have been very creative. I drew my inspiration from visiting museums and especially those of modern art, in addition to exhibitions in galleries, openings etc. I painted a lot at that time. But art was not my main activity, I had other activities to allow myself to pay for my studies I then evolved professionally in the world of finance, leaving aside the production of artistic work. It was after a total upheaval in my life (my separation and the repetitive problems of the economy in Argentina) that I resumed my artistic work as my main activity. From 2001, I devoted myself to aviation, my second passion. in fact, many of my paintings depict airplanes or have aeronautical parts. But the transition to getting down to business has been a long one. Finally, there is something mixed about my identity, coming from the Caribbean. I believe that identity is not only given where it is born, but it can also be shaped by the people we love, the countries we have lived in and the things that have influenced our lives. I feel like a mixture of Dutch, French, English and Caribbean.
The artist Rémy de Haenen, in front of his painting Sentié ta la ka fait moin swé, 2020 Oil on canvas (55.12 x 68.90 x 1.97 in / 140 x 175 x 5 cm )
Claire Richer: What is your link and vision on St Barth?
Rémy de Haenen: I spent my youth between St Barth and Martinique. There is constantly in my work a return to my childhood, which was very happy in Saint Barth, an extraordinary place, with total freedom. Our house at Eden Rock was open day and night, I went out on my own by boat, I spearfished every day etc. all of this with total independence and a wide range of possibilities that really marked me. Also, and this is very important, my childhood was spent in a mixed society, I speak Creole perfectly, I was permanently with people from different cultures. The photo you see on my WhatsApp is a lady from Martinique who raised me. She knew how to treat my wounds and burns with mysterious substances, which nature had taught her. When I had a fish bone stuck in my throat, she would put the plate I had eaten on my head, she would recite something unintelligible and she would say "now swallow", and the thorn was gone. I lived with her a magical world which is reflected in my work.
At Eden Rock I did various jobs: start at 6 pm precisely the diesel Lister which gave electricity and switch it off at 11 pm, go by the beach of St Jean on foot to the Mill with 2 cans of gasoline (it must be done ..) for planes, receive on the beach and weigh the lobsters and fish that the fishermen brought us in the morning around 10 a.m., put the big turtles that these same fishermen brought to us in pasture and other anecdotes the list of which would be endless.
Rémy de Haenen Moin ka arrivé an tet'la, 2020 Oil on canvas (59.06 x 57.09 x 1.57 in / 150 x 145 x 4 cm)
Rémy de Haenen Jou gran ouvè, 2020 Oil on canvas (57.09 x 72.83 x 1.97 in / 145 x 185 x 5 cm)
Rémy de Haenen Manman soleil la ka peté, 2020 Oil on canvas (57.09 x 72.83 x 1.97 in / 145 x 185 x 5 cm )
Claire Richer: What characterizes your work?
Rémy de Haenen: I personally think I have more to do with questions than answers in my creativity. An artist, in my opinion, is not one who seeks to illuminate humanity by giving answers to universal questions that agonize us. On the contrary, I think that it is someone who asks himself questions and translates his answers into his works to convey what is for him the most essential. In my work there are memories of my life and of what was reality at one time or another. I try to capture this lived, visible, past and ephemeral reality in new images. Nothing is solid in the memory. Our thoughts only retain traces, patterns, time does its work: my paintings retrace this uncertain process.
From this fragmented reality, I reconstruct a somewhat abstract perspective, assembling concrete facts with the imagination, with magical realism, with fiction and states of mind I also try to convey the poetic meaning that runs through my life, that disturbs my conscience, in the hope of being able to share it with those who contemplate my works. My gaze on my past life is a power which dominates, like a divinity, the rest of my senses and which inspires my creations.
I want to suggest to those who see my paintings, that through them, they do not see my reality reflected. Rather, they are the ones who give meaning to my reality, through abstraction, in ways that create new horizons of my past existence and theirs as well.
When I compose a work, I think it must be elegant and large, that it should encourage contemplation. But before starting to work, I define the palette, that is to say the colors that I will use ,. Warm colors, or cool colors. I work a lot with blue. Also with red, earth and autumn colors. I like to contrast them with black. If I have an idea of how I'm going to start, I usually don't know how the job is going to end. I work in 3D, so I put putty and other materials so that the work has body. I don't want it to be flat, I try to get out of the canvas and that this abstract relief attracts the viewer. Sometimes there is playful content in my work. Indeed I admire Magritte for the game, Fader for his clouds, Bonnard and Monet for the color, and Douanier Rousseau for his imaginary world of plants and animals that he had never seen.
Rémy de Haenen Trass la ka monté raid, 2020 Oil on canvas (57 x 69 in / 144.78 x 175.26 cm)
Claire Richer: Can you tell us about your next exhibition in Saint-Barth?
Rémy de Haenen: I think it would be interesting to answer in the words of Andrea Jauregui:
"Remy de Haenen is a poet who paints. The thirteen paintings that make up this exhibition were produced in Buenos Aires during the Covid-19 pandemic as an escape valve towards isolation. The works, and their names in Patois, evoke a time and a place that no longer exist, his childhood years in Saint-Barth in the late 1950s, an enchanted world, a simple life in communion with nature.
Rémy restores the purity of his boyish gaze on the way from the bay of Saint-Jean to the Côte Saline, on the other side of the island, where his father sent him to seek supplies to feed the famous guests staying at the Eden Rock Guest House, inn and family home. In these nearly four kilometers of ups and downs, laden with baskets and aching feet, the broad foliage of the trees was a shady refuge from the hot summer sun. Flamboyant, Royal Poinciana, tree with flowers of fire: seated under the colored canopy, surrounded by a beauty that he then took for eternal, Rémy the kid let his soul wander in the sky without horizons, he fled to the heights, he aspired to fly in his father's plane. It is in this corner of his personal cosmos, in the brilliance of this memory, where today he weaves the real and the unreal, the lived and the imagined, and transforms it into art to regain his freedom.
Poetic reverie distorts shapes and colors, moving images away from naturalistic or picturesque details. The vibrant Caribbean palette is muted. The endless skies are planes of light blue, pink and lilac. The flowers - red, orange, yellow - display their thick texture on an almost geometric grid of dark branches, without traces of foliage. The sky, the sea, the branches and the flowers are superimposed, generating a rhythm of full and empty space through which the light filters. The representation, mediated by fantasy and nostalgia, becomes almost abstract, elegant like a Hermès silk scarf.
The works of Rémy de Haenen are a window on the past and, at the same time, on an eternity of well-being where the child that he was still lives and will not civilize". - Andrea Jauregui, Art Historian.