Biennale of Sydney

Karim Bleus

Karim Bleus, Sosyete (Society), 2018, recycled metal and wood, 36 x 14 x 10 cm. Photograph: Alex Robinson

Karim Bleus
Born 1975 in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Lives and works in Port-Au-Prince

Karim Bleus grew up in the Rivière Froide neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. As a teenager, he started working with ceramics and then studied at ENARTS (Ecole Nationale des Arts) but finally under the influence of Nasson Jean Brunel he concentrated on wood carving mixed with recycled metals. His work has been shown at a solo show at the AfricAmerica Foundation (2004), Fête de la Sculpture, The French Institute, Port-au-Prince (2005); The French Embassy in Haiti (2010); Madinin Arts, Guadeloupe (2012) and Fête du Lac, AfricAmerica, (2013).

The river, Rivière Froide, rises in the mountains of Kenscoff and snakes down to the coast in Carrefour. Rivière Froide is also how many people refer to the community of wood and stone sculptors living near the rocky banks of the river whilst it still flows cold and clear above the cramped neighborhood of Carrefour. The first artists of the Rivière Froide group, Camille Jean aka Nasson, Jean Brunel Rocklor and Horace Jean Salomon aka Ti Pelin, established their skills in wood carving and rock sculpture. The group called themselves Simbi Andezo (Simbi from two waters) who is a spirit that, ‘…straddles the waters above and the waters below the earth, which are understood as the heavenly and abysmal waters, or as the sweet and salt waters. His primary…function is as the patron of springs and rains…’  Much of their work is carved from the limestone rocks found in the banks of the river. These rocks are then re-submerged in the cold waters to increase the porosity of the stone and make it more workable. With their practice the artists are acknowledging their debt to the river as it powers through their neighbourhood.

Whilst Rocklor and Ti Pelin confined themselves to stone carving, Nasson moved into wood carving and began to create assemblages by recycling other objects and detritus found in the mud and waters. Rocklor doesn’t appear to be producing work anymore, and whilst Nasson tragically passed away in 2008, Karim Bleus, who started to work with the group in the mid 80s, has become his rightful heir in the neighborhood, continuing to work in wood and metals.