Villa Verte and the George Camille Gallery An Art Lovers’s Retreat
Sat harmoniously within the surrounds of a lush forest upon La Digue Island, Villa Verte is a holiday home that has been lovingly created and designed by well -known local artist, George Camille. Featuring colour schemes that reflect the lush surroundings as well as displaying many of the artist’s original paintings, this is a retreat that sings with the promise of a relaxing, tropical atmosphere and a glimpse into the laidback and friendly lifestyle of the island.
The fourth largest island of the Seychelles group, La Digue is considered to be one of the most beautiful islands with palm–fringed beaches, towering granite boulders and turquoise waters and is only a short sail away from the larger island of Praslin.
The villa is ideally located on the north east of the island by Anse Gaulettes and is just a 15 minute cycle to bustling La Passe, but far enough away to provide a quieter and more relaxing spot. It was built in 2002 on the site of a old creole wooden house which had fallen down, with the gentleman who constructed it running a small holding there together with a few farm animals to keep his lifestyle self-sufficient. Ensuring the character and story of the site was upheld and respected, the walls of the ground floor were made from granite rocks that were broken on site whilst the land was being cleared for the construction, whilst the rest of the house is clad with timber, allowing the villa to sit camouflaged within its surroundings.
Today this striking three storey building houses not only holiday accommodation on the top two floors, but the highly acclaimed George Camille Gallery on the ground floor, making it the perfect accommodation for lovers of the arts.
Villa Verte can comfortably sleep 6 – 8 people in 3 double ensuite bedrooms, the largest of which is on the upper floor and has ample space for an additional 2 single beds. It is without doubt that the most popular place in the house is the 36 square metre verandah with its wooden swing and great views over the ocean and across to the cluster of islands that includes Felicite, the sister islands and Coco Island. The wooden balustrade and lambrequin are both hand-carved with leaves. The villa itself is painted green, the colour of new leaves and is built in the traditional creole style with quaint wooden shutters hung on traditional forged metal hinges and locked with metal crochets all made on La Digue.
If you can pull yourself away from the enchanting verandah, you’ll a small convenience store about 100 meters away and two restaurants within a short 10 minute walk, all offering fish from the sea, fruits from the forest and the best of local produce available on La Digue.
The artwork within Villa Verte has all been created by the Seychellois artist George Camille, inspired by local flora and fauna, creating an eclectic, breezy and tropical feeling. Villa Verte is in itself a gallery of Camille’s art, which he created in 2001.
Camille was born and continued to live and work in Seychelles and its Indian Ocean environment inspires, drives and informs everything he does.
‘Living next to the ocean has resulted in its sounds, smells and beauty being represented through forms and movements in my work. Within my aesthetic environment, natural forms intertwine and overlap, creating a sense of place recognisable as the multi-layered panorama of light and texture I see when I look at the sea and sky every morning.’
George Camille was born and continue to live and work in the Seychelles. The fourth child from a family of eight, George’s parents ran a family bakery on the island of La Digue. Helping out in the bakery from an early age instilled a natural work ethic in him. But art was his calling, a talent that was recognized and nurtured at an early age by his parents and his teachers. His first wish to become an artist one day was grounded in his childhood while watching his late eldest brother, Patrick drawing scenes of tropical island life with effortless grace. Being the designated class artist and even selling drawings to friends at school would influence the budding artist to choose a career that would culminate in being recognized as the best visual artist in Seychelles in 2019.
George was twenty years old when he first left Seychelles. London – where he arrived to study after winning an art scholarship – shocked him to the marrow. It was a great culture shock indeed for a young man who grew up in a cultural void on a faraway island in the Seychelles to find himself living and studying in one of the busiest metropolitan city in Europe.
In 1987 on his return to Seychelles and being unable to find a job in the creative field, he decided to design and print T-shirts and beach sarongs to sell to tourists. To start this business, he borrowed the equivalent of 50 USD from his sister and bought T-shirts, paints and fabrics, turning his mom’s kitchen into a working place. Soon after that, he had the chance to have his first retail outlet in the main market in Victoria. Camille’s products were very colorful and bright – each one of them was a painting as he treated the T-shirts and fabrics as canvas for painting. And from such humble origins was born Sunstroke Studio, a design and screen printing business that at the height of it success trained and provided work for over thirty young Seychellois artists and craftsmen and ran several boutiques and galleries
This was followed in 1997 by the restoration of an old wooden colonial house, Kaz Zanana, which he opened as his first permanent art gallery in Victoria, Seychelles.
A number of important collaborative friendships with fellow artists also helped to focus his direction as an artist, most notably his work with ‘Tonga Bill’ Fehoko, the Martinique artist Habdaphaï and the French artist Mikel Chaussepied who in 1992, introduced George to the techniques of etching.
While the breathtaking beauty of the Seychelles and its people have always inspired George, it’s the light drenched refuge of his recently built studio at Le Rocher that releases the creative genie in him. Decorated on the outside with a sea of three shades of turquoise, punctuated by a multitude of primary coloured fish, this double storey building commands an amazing view of Trois Freres Mountain and provides the perfect sanctuary for his printmaking, sculpture and painting studios. George‘s studio space also hosts artist residencies, allowing the community to benefit from his facilities and offers an international meeting point for talented artists.
George has also used this space to regularly offer mentorship opportunities to young student artists and has allowed school visits from time to time. There is an emphasis on mentoring and youth engagement. Bettering the younger generation.
Over the last thirty years, etchings have become the medium for his more detailed and figurative work. Having his own printing press has allowed him to experiment with a range of intaglio print techniques, combining a variety of materials and processes to create images which has shaped the development and presentation of his personal visual alphabet.
Working mainly on copper and zinc plates and using dry point and acid bite techniques, George produce limited edition monochrome prints as well as hand painted etchings that strive to capture the spirit of Seychellois life.
His heavily textured collages, made from glued pieces of cut and ripped canvases and painted in acrylic depicting traditional Creole scenes and sceneries, transport the viewer on an intense journey into the physical beauty and evocative mythology of the Seychelles islands.
His most recent work has incorporated elements of ‘objets trouve’ into mixed media work which has seen him experimenting with embossed copper, recycled electrical wire, metal, relief work , and installation art. The shutter project was an initiative whereby discarded windows and doors from local houses/buildings were salvaged and transformed into new pieces of art, so as to pay homage to their inherent value and perhaps serve as a gentle reminder of old ways forgotten.
On the local side, many of the projects undertaken have drawn inspiration from issues facing the Seychellois People, this is especially true at many of the high-profile biennales most domestically and internationally where George has used his talent to shine a light on some of the darker issues facing our society today.
George is currently chairman of Seychelles Art Foundation, an art NGO with affiliates in China, African and Italy. The vision of Seychelles Art Foundation is to create a vibrant, dynamic, and sustainable artistic and creative sector engaged in the production, promotion and diffusion of all art forms in Seychelles and internationally.
Through the Foundation, George has been involved in a number of high-profile public art projects whose purpose has been to use the power of art to educate and inform the community on the issues facing the Seychelles fragile ecosystem and the need to reexamine our human behavior and sensitize the youth.
George is currently using the quiet period enforced by the Corvid19 pandemic to carry out extensive renovation on his art gallery at Kaz Zanana in Victoria. The recent shift in his style and scale of work has required a rethink regarding the exhibition spaces in the signature, wooden house gallery. The open plan restaurant space at the rear of the building is being enclosed and turned into a spacious modern white cube space. The Gallery will open in December 2020 with a major solo exhibition of George’s latest works that has been inspired by the challenges that Seychelles has faced during these challenging times. This will be the first solo exhibition of Georges work in Seychelles for over ten years and will incorporate more sculpture pieces and large scale canvases.