Prisca Toulon Marie-Claire knows how to do it all–she really does! From visual arts, through digital tools to interior design, the artist from Martinique known as PriscArt took advantage of the digital revolution to become a full-time artist. With her colorful and diverse paintings, she has exhibited all over the world and is now able to teach and convey her techniques in Martinique.
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C - Who is Prisca Toulon Marie-Claire? Where are you from? Martinique? Tell me about you and your journey.
P - I am a painter, born in Martinique, where I live now. I also work in the Caribbean, in France, and all over the world, wherever I get a chance to display my work.
I was trained for 6 years at the SERMAC (Cultural Activities Department of the City of Fort-de-France, Martinique), at the IRAVM (Regional Institute for the Visual Arts of Martinique). In 2009, I also studied interior design in Paris. That same year, I did my first exhibits in my own house! In 2012, I was lucky enough to show my work in an art gallery for the first time, and the exhibits just kept flowing ever since, at private or public locations in the United States (New York), in France, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Barth.
Besides my artistic work, I also teach drawing and painting in private workshops, at a rehabilitation center in Carbet (Martinique) and at schools, in order to create murals.
"Our inner world, glints of our personalities in the face of external influences."
C - From abstract to representational art, you allow us to travel through time, with exotic and colorful paintings. What inspires you the most?
P - My work is a subtle mix of abstract and representational. I always felt the need to express myself, to translate my vision to the world—with my diverse Caribbean, African and European influences. Thanks to them, I make use of an abundant array of colors, bright, warm, yet contrasted.
Nature is a centerpiece in my work, as it usually takes up the entire space, with elements composed of plants—plants subject to weather, to the reflection of water, and quirky shadows.
My favorite themes are realistic or imaginary landscapes but also our inner world, glints of our personalities in the face of external influences. Those are topics evolving around my travelling. My trips enrich my work and allow me to expand my creativity to a bigger geographic area. For example, my subject for March was “Japonism”. I created a few pieces inspired from the cultural event of 2018—commemorating the 160th anniversary of the first treaty between France and Japan. It is a country that has always been fascinating to me, so much that I have been learning Japanese!
C - Who has most influenced you, artistically? Can you recommend any West Indian/Caribbean artists? Tell me about your world.
P - My artistic influences are Pablo Picasso, Miro, Henri Matisse, Zao Wou-ki, Takashi Murakami, and Frida Kahlo. The West Indian/Caribbean artists that I like would be: Christophe Mert, Ricardo Ozier-Lafontaine, Carine Yahot Dewavrin and Catherine Théodose.
In my world, art is, first of all, a mantra—a way of being, a lifestyle. I can be different types of sensitive when it comes to events and when I create a piece. I usually like to refocus on myself when I create, it allows me to move forward and stay positive. Then, my paintwork becomes more symbolic, with a huge focal point on environmental protection, transmission of culture and knowledge overall.
Photo Credits : Prisca Toulon Marie-Claire - @priscarttoulon
C - Funny anecdote, I found out about you through your Instagram (thanks to the hashtag #caribbeanpainting). Where have you showed your work?
P - I first displayed my work in Martinique from 2009 to 2012, then in Guadeloupe, in France since 2017, lastly in New York in 2018.
C - "I feel through color, so it is through it that my canvas will always be organized”, is a Matisse quote that you seem to like. How does it make you feel?
P - When I first read this quote, it just spoke to me. I always start my paintings with a set of colors, and those colors, with the topic that I had previously picked, will determine my path. Everything is very instinctive. I create a junction between matter and colors, and each one of them brings a constructive dynamic to the whole.
My foundations are always very important to me—they are crafted, structured. I am always searching for an equilibrium of colors, transparency and opacity effects, contrasts of shapes, of structures, juxtaposition of thorough elements and cohabitation of distinct areas of expression. That is the very reason why I use acrylic and inks: they grant me spontaneous gestures, playing around between reality and virtual, thus establishing the identity of my work.
C - What are your main creative tools? Acrylic, gouache, spray?
P - My favorite medium is acrylic. I need to feel the color, touch, paint, spread, mold it with my hands, my brushes, knives or any other peculiar objects. My random and spontaneous gestures give strength and momentum to my compositions, and I add, upstream, either newspapers, binding agents, thick paint—or, I subtract matter to play with the ambience and find a different structure.
C - Can you tell me about your journey? What do you do right now?
P - I wasn’t always a full-time artist. I used to have another job, which allowed me to gain maturity on other vital tools gravitating around my art: communication, digital tools (Photoshop, etc.), social media, in order to live from my art without having to rely on others.
C - You chose to focus on digital: website, social media, SEO, e-commerce. How did digital contribute to your communication? Do you think it is an interesting lever for an artist? What did it bring you?
P - The digital revolution brought me a lot of exposure, but it is sometimes random and difficult to aim at the right target. I mostly use Facebook for my artistic events and lessons. This platform allows me to stay up to date on whatever is going on in term of events, simply by following other influencers or interacting with other users. Twitter or LinkedIn usually reach a more professional audience and ensure that information about my activities is detectable, however interactions are scarce and I don’t even go on there enough. Roughly speaking, this type of communication can be relevant IF the tagging is done properly—but it requires time and acute sense of observation and analysis. Nevertheless, even though I partly use those tools, I really need to reconnect with my art, in my workshop, with my paintings.
"The Caribbean is a rosary of islands, an adumbration on the ocean—like pebbles, laid down on a trail."
C - How does Caribbean culture influence your pieces?
P - The Caribbean is a rosary of islands, an adumbration on the ocean—like pebbles, laid down on a trail. The Caribbean culture is a plethora of cultures with miscellaneous roots (Amerindian, European, African, Indian…), seeking, dismissing each other, fractured, yet bonded through tragedies, love affairs, fears, hopes, quests for identity, and the influence of oral tradition—hence our heavily graphic creole idioms.
All of those plural societies composed of diverse and creative beings enliven my pieces. I express them on my canvas by offering an immersion into the landscapes and the flora of the West Indies, imprinted with myths and symbols: a pictorial stroll, relating my intimate relationship with Nature.
C - What do you like in your creative workshops? You host workshops for kids, so… tell me, what do you think of art therapy?
P - What I truly like about the kids creative workshops is their imagination and spontaneity. They are so great that they give them some kind of abundance in production, with a fascinating swiftness and freedom of execution.
“In every child there is an artist. The only issue is to figure out how to remain an artist while growing up.” - Pablo Picasso
Art therapy is art serving health in order to recreate communication, stimulate faculties of expression and energize creative processes. I have been giving classes at the rehabilitation center of Carbet (Martinique) since 2015. Over there I was able to observe significant evolution of autonomy, of the ability to make choices, to exceed limitations, to imagine, to express feelings while producing—kids or adults.
I executed several large canvases in many departments (kids, adults, long-term care) with the topic “L’union fait la fresque” (Together Makes the Fresco). Everyone put a color, a drawing, a shape, which ended up building a whole. This type of productions live on through time, and for the patients, there is a renewal of self-esteem. Artistic expression directed towards aesthetics allows an enhancement of quality of life through a diminution of anxiety.
C - Any advice for those who would like to thrive through art, especially painting?
P - Keep your passion pristine. Work a lot, persevere, know how to do it all (digital tools, communication, marketing, accounting), be curious and stay dazzled!
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