Born in the late 1970s, Kevens Prevaris has seen his works displayed inside the world’s most prestigious art studios, galleries, and museums: Galerie Artitude in Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Belgium; Argentina’s Centro Cultural Alternativo as well as Port-au-Prince, his former city of residence.
Prevaris’ paintings look like simple drawings at initial glance, but after a more intense look, the eyes behold layers and layers of statements, embedded within each turn of the pencil and each stroke of the brush.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Limbé, a beautiful city that’s in the north of Haiti. Like a lot of young men and women I moved to the capital for my schooling because of a little problem called decentralization. That’s how I got into ENARTS, a fine arts school we have in Haiti—in 2000. I got into the School of Sciences—FASCH to study sociology. Since 2011, I’ve been based in Belgium. I’m working on a Masters in the Visual Arts at a school called La Cambre.
How did you get started painting?
Like a lot of people who are in the field, I started off drawing at school, and that’s how the whole desire took footing. My folks sent me every summer to the house of an artist in our town named Charles Doucet. Afterwards I met with Gary Vincent who went on to influence me, and I was part of AJAPCA, an association of young artists in [Cap Haitien]. All this contributed me my pushing for my dreams, and in spite of a lot of difficulties, a lot of hard words, and prejudices concerning artists, I didn’t get discouraged. As a matter of fact, I mustered up a lot more courage and I got in the school for artists after secondary school.
Out of all the pieces you’ve created, which one would you say has had the most personal impact on you?
I’ve created a lot of works. They’re all important in their own way in my life. Some have impacted me more than others. Some have impacted me in regards to the political engagement or social part of me. Some because of their technical or aesthetic aspect.
Where do you create the majority of your paintings?
I’ve spent more time in my homeland than any other place, so the majority of my works were created there. But I’ve come to create a lot of different works wherever I go. Just like other artists that came before me have done, it’s important for us to leave some creations behind for the ones that are coming after us.
Do you feel that the art of painting is something that can be learned?
According to the myths back home, they always think that a craft like painting is something someone is born with. They never consider it something you have to work hard towards, like the other arts. Everyone thinks they can be an artist, but they think that to become a doctor, agronomist, sociologist, and so on, you have to go to school. The experiences that I had at the art school in Port-au-Prince and Belgium showed me clearly that if someone wants to get into painting, you have to go to art school. This way, you’ll know the history behind the whole discipline, the milestone moments, the rules, and so on. But I’m not going to leave out those people who they refer to as self-taught. Like a lot of artists from Haiti come to create works that have made impact on humanity. To me this mean, we have to create artistic institutions to give the youths and society knowledge regarding art as a discipline, which [the concept] seems to them bizarre and incomprehensible.
So, at the moment, you’re living in Belgium. What’s the Haitian community like in that country?
I’ve been living in Belgium since 2011. I can definitely say that there is definitely a community. There’s a lot of things going on to show a positive image of the country [Haiti]. That community is not like the one in France, the USA, and Canada. I can say that this community does a lot of things to thrive, and it [invokes] others who have interest in [Haiti] discover our culture in all its forms.
What does it take to get you inspired to create a painting?
I can sincerely say that there’s nothing in particular that motivates me to create a painting. It has to do with with my life and vision. Anything can inspire me, can help me develop the need to create. Feelings can; the world’s problems can, the country’s miseries and so on. Besides all of that, it all depends if I am working on a particular theme, and if it’s an individual or collaborative project.
Do you have paintings that you’ve left unfinished? Why does that happen? Do you ever try to finish them?
It’s happened a lot that I’ve started some works and don’t end up finishing them. I don’t think there’s an objective response [to this question]. I think it’s more of an emotional question. At the moment that I am creating the work, if I am in a certain frame of mind, have a certain energy, and then [end up] losing that energy and frame of mind, I don’t end up finishing. There might be a blocking in the process of creating. Also, sometimes I’ll put [a piece] in a corner and return to [complete it], but there are others that I just can’t seem to resume to, and complete, and whenever I want to resume them, the blockage is still there.
Have you accomplished everything you’ve ever wanted to accomplish in your career?
I don’t think there’s ever been anybody who ever lives to thoroughly accomplish all their dreams. In my case, I can’t really say just yet that I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to accomplish in my artistic career. In spite of this, I can happily say that I have come to accomplish a lot of things that have made me happy that I chose this field. I think that the road is long, yes, but I’m on the right path, in spite of some issues.
Does literature, music, film and other forms of art play a role in your creative process?
They’re all connected. There are those who decide to create and who are not interested in with environment. There are some environments that do a lot to open one’s mind. You can’t create while sitting in one little corner in your home, in your studio. You have to see what others are doing, and figure out how others do things. Get out, go somewhere where there’s misery. Go to a gallery, a concert, the theater—to a conference about other fields to nourish your spirit, and nourish it well. The creation process will be more interesting that way. The vision will be larger, bigger. It’s my way of telling you that there’s a cultural capital and I manifest interest in the other artistic disciplines.