Art reviews

Artist Chantal Bethel short listed for TAP - The Art Pavillion 2016 Exhibition.

Artists are creators

By Ulrich Voges – Founder of Volta Art Fair,New York.

Whether they arrange chords and notes and acoustically paint the rain purple, or whether they take elements of the visual world and combine and re-arrange, every time an artwork is created, the world becomes a bit richer.

Art makes things visible we have not seen or heard before, it asks questions we might not know the answers yet and it ads an aura to our life we previously were not aware of. (Read more.....)

GUANAHANI – UNSPEAKLE LAND (2015)

By: Susan Moir Mackay, B.A. (HONS), MSc GuanahaniThe Bahamas, from European sensibilities, conjures 007 dreams of exotic beaches and cocktails. It appears to be the epitome of a tropical paradise, however the reality is more complex. The past; pirates, colonial times and slave trade, are elements implicit to contemporary Bahamian culture and they still resonate in the collective psyche. Look deeper and there is another raw and painful history.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus’ notorious and much celebrated discovery of the ‘New World’ seems like a wonderful celebration of human perseverance and ingenuity, but for the indigenous Indians it was a death knell, resulting in genocide. It could be called a successful genocide, as there are no descendants left to call out in outrage at the horror of the past. It is estimated that 40,000 people were wiped out in as little as 25 years. A culture whose customs and history were an oral legacy has been obliterated. It is hard to connect to this tragedy and the compounded losses it represents.

But this is a role of art: to talk about the unspeakable. On 19th November 2015, established Bahamian artist Chantal Bethel, along with fellow Bahamian Arianne Etuk, will be exhibiting in Maroussia—a new art space in Brussels, Belgium. (Read more.....)

A TEAR AND A SMILE

By: Lisa Codella

A Tear and a SmileJust as one would never notice the light if we did not know what it was to have been in the dark, in her latest body of work, A Tear And A Smile, Chantal Bethel uses the weight of her compelling talents as a visual artist to point out to us that in many respects, we can only fully appreciate joy when we enter it through the doorway of our most painful experiences.

“The body of work is about healing,” says Bethel. “It’s about that space where you have the pain and the tears and then there is a transformation where you’re going from negative to positive.”

A Tear And A Smile, juxtaposes those two places on the map of our emotional well-being that at first glance appear to be polar opposites, but are in fact two ends of a line that curve and ultimately unite to form the circles of our most pivotal experiences. (read more.....)

BEYOND THE SURFACE

BY: SUSAN MOIR MACKEY, B.A. (HONS), MSC

Chantal Bethel has developed a reputation for painting and creating from her soul. She is impassioned to express whatever moves her. Thus her art works carry a certain ineffable emotion.

Beyond the SufaceIn a recent conversation with the artist in her studio, she explains that after working in the dark subject matter of the Haitian tragedy for a couple of years, she is ready to embrace beauty again—to "exhale from the soul". This collection, In the Spirit, addresses the surprising and very Bahamian theme of flamingos. At first, the light colours, simple composition, and the well-known form of the flamingo, makes the work seem to be familiar Bahamian paintings, but something about the intriguing textures and almost obsessive use of crackle paint, hints at more.

A second clue is her use of quotes from Rumi, (a Sufi mystic who, through poetry, offers insights into a spiritual life beyond this mundane reality). The quotes are not titles per se, but suggest at a relationship between his writings and Bethels paintings; a hint of something beyond the surface. The work is incredibly charming and it is easy to be distracted by their aesthetic appeal. The surfaces seem to crack open to light and they successfully convey the essence of The Bahamas in their shimmering colour range. Rich textured surfaces defy gravity and become about light. And yet, the crackle is still there. (Read more.....)

CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY, SING ITS RESILIENT SOUL

THIS ESSAY IS FEATURED IN YINNA VOLUME III A PUBLICATION OF BACUS (THE BAHAMAS ASSOCIATION FOR CULTURAL STUDIES) IN ASSOCIATION WITH GUANIMA PRESS LTD. CHANTAL BETHEL, WHOSE WORK SINGS OF THE CHALLENGES, BEAUTY AND NURTURING POWER OF HER GENDER, IS THE FIRST ARTIST TO BE GIVEN A SPREAD IN YINNA – PATRICIA GLINTON-MEICHOLAS. 2012Hons) MSc

Chantal E.Y. BethelRuptured ground, cholera and flood—the devastating cascade triggered by the 2010 earthquake—engendered changes in Haiti no less radical than those effected by the enslaved in search of freedom in the 1790s. Leaving more than 300,000 dead, over a million homeless, government, business and family life severely disrupted and social services—never abundant—now obliterated, this trilogy of misery, this real-time, Guernica-esque tableau of loss and hopelessness, threw into stark relief the fissures and inequities of the Haitian economy and society. Yet, out of this dislocation, emerged compassion, fellow-feeling, collaboration and unique creation, like a delicate plant peeking tentatively through a slag heap.

Haiti's sorrows have fed many miracles. The plangent cry that went up from its sorely afflicted people may have won them brief respite from the importunate demands of world powers, who had long ago embargoed this Caribbean nation from the table of plenty in retribution for its effrontery of 1804. It may even have caused moments of unease among the homegrown plutocrats and plunderers who still hold in jealous fiefdom such as remains of Haiti's lifeblood. What is abundantly and joyfully evident, Haiti's distress drew men, women and children of all ethnicities, colours and persuasions to reach out to her people, some to the point of personal sacrifice.

Above all, the plight of Haiti appeared to strike the fundamental frequency in the hearts of the diaspora of the "Sacred Land". Propelled by an upwelling of grief, love and praise for their homeland, the gifted have, through and outpouring of art, music, drama and dance, helped the world to see beyond the label "poorest country in the Western Hemisphere" to catch a glimpse of a people who have endowed the world with genius in many spheres. (read more.....)

PARADISE ?

By: Susan Moir Mackay, B.A. ( HONS ) MSc

Follow meAn artist’s role in society is complex. Not only are they expected to produce pieces of aesthetic worth, but to challenge the viewer with unexpected thoughts or ideas.
What is paradise? Living in the Bahamas this may seem like a redundant question; don’t we know and live with warm skies, endless golden beaches and the impossible turquoise of the ocean?

However, for artist Chantal Bethel, this is a valid question. On the heels of her piece “Agonistes” – an emotionally raw installation describing the turmoil during and after the last three hurricanes that hit The Bahamas, she felt impelled to balance the angst by exploring the light after the dark – “the calm after the storm” hence her question.

Posing this question, “What is Paradise?” to friends and associates, Bethel was given a diverse range of answers which she incorporated into her piece “Key to Paradise”. A hanging piece, written on the canvas is the replies she received, along with the image of a key, a heart and a face. A box, beside the piece has the “key” to Paradise.(read more.....)

TIMELINE

By: Erica M. James, Ph.D.
Curator of The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2004


"She has traveled far to be here: Haiti, Belgium, The Bahamas. She says that as one travels, many things known fall away. Besides items taken in suitcases, hands, trunks, and in some cases, one's back, the only thing that remains true to the individual on such a journey is their soul.
Chantal Bethel's journey has been shaped in large part by sudden transitions necessitated by crises and forces beyond her control. But like all of us, each place and each experience lived, has left a trace on her soul. It is these traces and their accompanying emotions that spill onto her canvases. Inspired by the historic Haitian School of Beauty, a movement that was led by artists such as the late Bernard Sejourne and Emilcar Simil whose dreamy evocative paintings celebrated women, Bethel's work has in recent years come into its own. Though the School of Beauty's paintings were characteristically pretty to look at, they were driven by a social imperative in that the artists who followed the school's philosophy sought to create beauty in opposition to the increasing, harrowing realities of everyday life in Haiti. Like the school, the composition, colour, and spirit of Bethel's work seem to, in a word, give the audience a "pretty" picture. However, the content of the work coming from the School was found in their objective beauty, whereas the content of Bethel's pretty things sometimes lie in the disconcerting secrets of their narratives and signs. Like her native Haiti, where nothing is as it appears and where one's ability to dissemble is often directly correlated to one's ability to survive, the life of Bethel's work, its content, exists somewhere between what is imagined and what is known. (read more.......)

PASSAGE THROUGH THE ISLANDS OF SHALLOW WATER.

Passage through the islands of shallow water: An essay by Krista Thompson PH D Excerpt from the Anthology Marginal Migrations, the circulation of cultures within the Caribbean.

Exodus Warwick University – Caribbean Studies 2003 Chantal Bethel calls attention to the possible terrors involved in the flight across Bahamian waters. In the painting Exodus 1999, the artist provides a disturbing portrayal of boats in the midst of a night time journey by sea. In the work, visages of the dead haunt the surrounding waters. With mouths and eyes wide open, they call out from the ocean's depths. The sail of boats transform into a threatening host of sharks' fins. A hand grasping a machete,a gun, the hat of a Tonton Macoute, are all icons that point to the reign of terror from which migrants seek to escape. Bethel drew from her own vivid memories of the Tonton Macoutes from her childhood in Haiti and her own families' flight from Haiti to escape Papa Doc's regime. A departure from her usual subject-matter, Bethel describes the work as "something she had to do". The painting was a kind of personal exorcism, in which she purged her own childhood remembrances. The work again foregrounds the many potential hazards of migration, from being consumed by the sea's waves or sharks, while pointing to some of the reasons why people brave these journeys: "Never ending political unrest, oppression and cruel treatment by a secret police, discrimination, unbearable poverty, (and) lawlessness would cause them to go to any length to flee their homeland hoping for a better life Chantal Bethel's, Lillian Blades' and Max Taylor's works all highlight the horrors of migration which so often get lost in monotone evening news reports. (read more.......)
Excerpt from the anthology "Marginal Migrations - the circulation of cultures through the Caribbean. Warwick University – Caribbean studies (2003) By: Krista Thompson, Phd