A painter at heart: Former Belgian model in Seychelles returns to childhood passion
Former Belgian model, Joelle Fabre, has launched a special art exhibition at Cafe 74 in the southern district of Anse Royale.
Fabre is well known in the local fashion world as she had her own agency Coral Models of Seychelles to promote Seychellois talent.
She is now focusing on her art and SNA met with her to learn more about her journey into the world of painting.
SNA: How did your journey in the world of painting start?
JF: When I was very young, I had a passion for painting. At the time, I was about 10 years old. I then got the opportunity to go to the Académie des Arts d’Ixelles when I was around 13 years old.
For me, going to the academy was liberating because of the way things were at home. I found that through painting, I could express myself better. At the academy, I met Médard Tytgat, the grandson of a very famous painter, who taught me to paint and took care of me like an uncle.
After school hours, I went to his house and he would show me the work of his grandparents. He also showed me how to paint with a palette knife and told me that what people loved is to see and feel the material used in the painting. “Through this, you can express your deep feelings,” he said. When I was young, I saw this style as old fashioned and preferred to draw faces and nature. I was not feeling the importance of the style.
Then I enrolled in the College of Art and Design in Brussels to do interior architecture at a very expensive private school. I was lucky that someone saw me on the street and asked if I’d like to join a model agency which allowed me to better afford my tuition fees. Due to the number of fashion shows, I sometimes missed some lessons, but the director gave me the chance to send my designs in by scan. After I got my diploma, I continued to do fashion shows and forgot a little bit about interior architecture.
SNA: How did you come to the idea of settling in Seychelles?
JF: In 2008, there was a crisis in Belgium and it was the end of my modelling career as I was already 42 years old. I moved to Seychelles as I wanted more peace and to open a restaurant – Lounge 8 which was located at Glacis.
When I started the restaurant, STB [Seychelles Tourism Board] was in charge of promoting the restaurant. They knew that I was a model and in 2012, they asked me to help them coach Miss Seychelles. Fashion was still in my blood and saw that there were no fashion shows being done here.
I also started Coco Magazine and was coordinating shoots and modelling events. When I came to Seychelles, it was easier to get involved in fashion and train girls here to do fashion.
SNA: Most people know you as the owner of Coral Models, so what does painting mean for your modeling agency?
JF: With the pandemic, we were stuck at home and I came to realise that marketing and modelling were going nowhere. That is when I decided to do some painting and that is when I went back to my first love.
I am still working with one girl. There is no great demand at the moment for models because everybody has been hit hard by COVID. I also need to survive in life and like everyone else I need money, though I don’t do painting only for money – it is a part of me and who I am.
Fabre said that she found that through painting, she could express herself better. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
SNA: Where were your paintings being sold before your first exhibition?
JF: Before the exhibition, my paintings were being sold at the Eden Plaza but I had not done an exhibition before. Whenever I paint, it feels like I am putting my thoughts, feelings, and visions on canvas or on wood.
SNA: Why did you choose to exhibit it at Cafe 74?
JF: My husband was made redundant from his work … What had to happen happened and I trusted God’s process. He now has more free time and does interior architecture for people, restaurants, and cafes. He was the one to design Cafe 74 and he saw the empty walls. He told me that he wanted to do exhibitions in the cafe, and I asked him what he would do between the exhibitions. I suggested painting some art so that the walls will not be empty. That is how it started.
Shermin Faure [the cafe owner and wife of former President Danny Faure] shared with my husband that she loved her wedding bouquet which was made out of peonies and the color pink. That is when I started making more paintings of peonies and added more pink. I mixed it with gold leaves as well. That is how I honoured my two art influencers.
Mrs. Faure said that she will not do an opening for the cafe but will do a vernissage with my paintings. In the exhibition, I started with 12 paintings, and have already sold five of them. Despite the hardships that we have faced, my husband and I can now say that we have found our place and life and are now independent.
Fabre (left) with Shermin Faure, the owner of Cafe 74. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
SNA: What inspires you the most as an artist and how would you describe your art style?
JF: There is nothing more beautiful than nature – I get my inspiration from there. I also do paintings of people without a face because I feel that by doing this, the person buying the art sees what they want. I would say my style is more of an impressionism style, with more nature.
SNA: What are your plans after this exhibition?
JF: My dream is to do an overseas exhibition, but until things are confirmed I can’t say much.