Haitian artist Frantz Zéphirin has painted over 10,000 canvases closely or loosely tied to the marine world. Dominique Batraville features (for Montray Kreyol) the artist, asking him about his favorite subjects and the importance of ocean myths in his painting. Here are excerpts with a link to the full interview below:
Dominique Batraville: What is your real-life relationship with animals regarded as mysteries of the sea, in other words, sirens, whales, sharks, porpoises, and most importantly, ghostly sea species?
Frantz Zéphirin: I have a permanent relationship with all the animals of the sea, rivers, streams, wells, [and] lakes. In my view, water is life, and life comes from the Spirit, which breathed life into the water, into our marine world. And through this life, we navigate with the spirits, the supreme forces that allow us to see the light. The sea bottom and marine worlds are quite complex. Some oceanic realities appear to us in our visions and our dreams. Nothing has yet been clearly said about the secrets of Atlantis, about the ever unfathomable truths of the Bermuda Triangle. Sea monsters populate fantasy films. But this is not enough; one must address in a different way the deities of the Caribbean Sea, mysteries almost in exile: Agwetarayo, Immamou, the undefeatable whales and mermaids.
I have taken initiatory trips with the gods and goddesses of Vodou. These initiatory things made me who I am: a Vodou priest and a painter. I had always dreamed of living near the sea; that is why I founded the Z – CLUB BEACH, my private beach, which has allowed me ever since to live this intimate relationship with the mysteries of the sea.
DB: Why is it that in your work, the gods and goddesses are represented in a state of metamorphosis?
FZ: This is not only out of love for painting, but rather out of a sense of mystical and spiritual duty, because I want to keep my Catholic and Vodou-based faith. By this I mean to say that in my visions I experience the fusion of the saints of Catholicism and the African and Indian gods. I must transform them on the canvas to ritually keep the essence of the spirit that lives its experience with me on the canvas, because my painting is not secular, and it is sacrilegious to think that the painter does not know what he offers you as a subject or motif. [. . .]
DB: As a painter who loves animals, how does this transposition of your relationships with men, gods, and animals continue in your work?
FZ: I intend to continue my quest for exploration of the sea world as that of the other elements (Air, Earth, Fire). I am of course in perfect communion with the age-old myths and I believe that these myths have worked [in] my brain even before my birth. I have always had the impression of having lived with mythological beings in a former life and another very different world from ours.
For original article (in French), see http://www.montraykreyol.org/spip.php?article4529
Shown here: “Maîtresse Simbi et les poissons”