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Local artists attract crowds at Venice Biennale of Arts | 01 June 2019

Local artists attract crowds at Venice Biennale of Arts

George Camille and Daniel Dodin outside the Seychelles pavilion, Venice, May 2019

Visitors to the Venice Biennale of Arts are having the chance to view works and installations of Seychellois artists Georges Camille and Daniel Dodin, who are showcasing two very different types of work.

George Camille's brilliant white paper environment initially deterred viewers from entering the exhibition space. “In the end we had to put up a sign encouraging people to walk into the installation,” says Camille, “something which I feel is extremely important if they are to fully appreciate the work and its message”.

Camille's work, entitled ‘Drift’, comprises over sixty metres of embossed heavy duty water colour paper, hung to resemble the powerful waves of a tsunami. Visitors can walk between and beneath these massive undulating forms and get close enough to the paper surface to examine the hundreds of impressed motifs which cover both the upper and lower surfaces of the paper. The artist has used his trademark iconography of leaves, coco de mer nuts, birds, fish and human forms to symbolise the overwhelming effect of the information overload which is part of our everyday lives; the effect is one of an unstoppable flow of data as brutal and beautiful as any tidal wave.

George Camille has this to say about the concept driving this ambitious work: “I want to show that in the present state of easy access to new media and the relative ease of creating content on the internet we are inundated with so much information that it's impossible to know which is authentic and true and which is fake. On entering my installation the visitor will literally walk into the waves, interacting and ducking as s/he moves around the room, confronted with the claustrophobic feeling of being submerged.”

This discomfort is, the artist feels, something that we might well experience every time we access our mobile telephones, televisions or computers.

Daniel Dodin’s installation takes three forms – video projections of three original films, sculptures in the form of ‘gunny’ bags painted with images of bottle collectors, and wall mounted work which includes drawings made directly onto the plastered surface as well as the artist’s largest painting to date, a 3-metre long composition entitled ‘Miserable Joy’.

Daniel Dodin's room is as dark as Camille’s is light, with visitors encouraged to use torches provided to illuminate the sculptural and painted elements of the work. “I hope that viewers will feel a bit like archeologists as they examine the detail of my drawing and painting and that they will enjoy a truly interactive experience,” the artist says.

Dodin’s work celebrates the past and present Seychellois working person. Perhaps surprisingly the recurring motif – which is present in all three aspects of the installation – is that of the bottle collectors, young (mostly) men who plunder public garbage bins in order to remove and sell plastic and metal waste. Dodin explains: “In many of my works I depict the ordinary struggles of local youngsters, many of whom are facing addiction problems while dealing with social discrimination. I find the relatively recent phenomenon of the bottle collectors fascinating. These young men have unique characters; they spend their days making long journeys carrying big bags on their heads which are filled with empty plastic bottles. Looking at these characters a sense of courage and desperation are simultaneously revealed.”

Like all national pavilions, the Seychelles participation was visited by the Venice Biennale team of judges, five international art experts who were impressed with the integrity and quality of the work. They appreciated the way in which our artists had engaged with the overall theme of the Biennale – set by the exposition's Curator – while retaining strong national content and context.

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