by Josée Thissen-Rojer
The current COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up everyone’s daily lives to some extent and things are no different in the visual arts sector. In this series, we visit local visual artists and ask what changes they’ve experienced and how they’re dealing with the situation. This time, we are in Kunuku Abou with Philippe Zanolino.
Philippe Zanolino (France, 1960) is part of a group of visual artists from Curaçao, established in the eighties of the twentieth century. They were the face of the local art world for a long time. The book ‘Three Caribbean Artists’, in which American art historian Susan Wilczak provides an extensive picture of the life and work of Philippe Zanolino, was published in 2019.
Susan Wilczak describes Philippe’s bond with Curaçao from the moment he came to live here in 1986, and how he developed from a self-taught artist into a prominent local master at a time when the visual arts sector in the Caribbean was undergoing a transition. It’s well-known that Philippe quit medical school to become an artist, and Wilczak notes that through his artworks and the messages he incorporates into them, he’s still curing and healing people.
It’s now been 10 years since he moved to Bandabou and started living a more withdrawn lifestyle there. His house on the road to Sint Willibrordus stands out due to the enormous works of art that surround it. It’s his home, temple, studio, and gallery in one. Every day, he takes long walks in the mondi, accompanied by his dogs. Through hard work and regular exhibitions, he’s built up an incredible reputation in the local and international art world over the years. Even though he now lives in seclusion, art lovers, galleries and collectors still know where to find him.
The pandemic has changed Philippe’s life in a completely different way than expected. “Life”, says Philippe, “determines what happens to you, and you simply have no other choice”. When the world is under the spell of the new Coronavirus in 2020, he meets Dutch psychologist Ingeborg Bosch, creator of the Past Reality Integration therapy (PRI), about which she’s written several books. Sparks fly when they meet, they fall in love, and within 11 days their love is made official. Philippe is delighted and he creates a beautiful wedding ring for his bride made of coral, shells, and pieces of blue-colored glass which form a bird, to seal their love. To Philippe, birds symbolize love, so it comes as no surprise that he incorporated this symbol in the ring.