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Bright spark


Meet Antigua-based artist Naydene Gonnella who loves to put Caribbean colour on canvas

You can’t ignore Naydene Gonnella’s vibrant works of art. The Canada-born artist, who moved to Aruba in 1994 and who’s lived in Antigua since 2004, draws great inspiration from her tropical environment. “The Caribbean is home for me; I’m bowled over by its magnificent collage of turquoise sea, red earth, golden sand and green vegetation,” she says. “Taking a cue from nature I revel in bold, unusual colour combinations, which I think give my work a tremendous visual energy.”

Naydene uses a combination of beeswax and oil paint, known as encaustic, using the heat of the sun to melt the wax. “I then layer, collage, glaze and paint elements together. Usually I start with an acrylic base; I may add copper, sand or paper where I want texture. Working with wax is a technique I’ve developed over years – my own unique recipe.”

Naydene’s pieces evolve through a process of painting and collaging several layers on a canvas and then pulling back parts to reveal glimpses of the earlier forms. “Usually I want some of the collaged material, which is often text or a written message,  to be visible to the viewer but I may intentionally make it hard for the viewer to understand easily,” she says. “It may take going over the canvas a few times to understand. Often I let the viewer ‘fill in’ the missing blanks and come up with their own meaning.”

Naydene’s paintings combine figurative, expressive and abstract elements. “Some create an uplifting atmosphere, others have a more unsettling effect,” she says.

The artworks can be a family affair, too. “My own children’s artwork also comes into play. Kianna, who is 18, and Danya, who is 14, have given me plenty of inspiration, and I often use little pieces of their drawings to collage into my paintings.”

Naydene is always looking for new ideas. “If I could go on a painting trip to any of LIAT’s destinations it would be to an island I haven’t seen yet, maybe Martinique or the British Virgin Islands,” she says. “I do absolutely love Antigua though, and now I have a gallery on St Maarten I plan on many trips there. And Dominica was so beautiful… Hard question!”

• See Naydene’s work at art galleries in Antigua and St Maarten; she will be exhibiting in Paris from 12 September to 20 October.