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By Patricia Boccadoro

LES SAINTES, GUADELOUPE, 17 March 2006—An exhibition of the paintings of French artist Didier Spindler was held at B8 in the Meatpacking District of New York in January last year and he is currently working on a exhibition for Paris this coming October, but it is at his island home in the French West Indies that his works can be seen in all their force and splendour.

Spindler was born forty-three years ago in the town of St. Die in the Vosges mountains, in South-Eastern France. He began painting the snow-capped houses and valleys around him when he was a child, and held his first exhibition at the age of sixteen in the local village hall at Vittel. However, he began working in a shop specialising in antiques and art, and it wasn't until a few years later, in 1985, when he came to stay with an uncle who lived in Guadeloupe that he discovered not only his vocation, but what he calls, "a whole new way of life".

Didier Spindler in his atelier
Photo: Yves Boccadoro

"I'd always enjoyed painting with colours", he told me in his small studio adjoining the attractive auberge he runs on the pretty island of Terre-de-Haut in Les Saintes, "and when I arrived here it was a revelation. I just looked at everything around, the crimson hibiscus, the pink, red and purple bougainvillea and frangipanis. I couldn't take my eyes away from the colourful house-fronts, in green, yellow, blue and orange, and I was overwhelmed by the brilliance of the light, the fragrances and the joy of living here. "

He opened a restaurant with the help of a friend where, alongside local dishes, he began to display his paintings, bold, bright, generous, and bursting with laughter. "Pieces of happiness to put on your walls", he says. People noticed them, and local exhibitions followed.

"I think that people like the colours and gaiety that emanate from my works," he said. "Only this morning I had a phone call from a man who had bought one; he wanted to tell me that it brought a smile to his lips on a dank morning in Europe. I'm always happy when painting and apparently it's contagious. I see life in colours and never wear black or grey like the majority of Parisians. Even on a trip to Paris in winter, my shirt will be red! Colour is the force of life."

Didier Spindler
Photo: Yves Boccadoro

Didier Spindler, who admits to an inability to draw, is completely self-taught. He favours oils which he has learnt to handle by experience and uses a palette knife as opposed to a brush, finishing off his large canvasses with his fingers more often than not.

"I never know what I'm going to paint before starting ", he told me, "and even after the work is completed, I look at it before deciding what it is. Sometimes, when I see them hanging in exhibitions, I notice things I haven't seen before. My work simply takes me elsewhere, and what I create is spontaneous. It's a game. I suppose I've simply never grown up", he explained. I've kept a child's view of things with my love of bright colours and light, and I let the viewer's imagination take over."

Didier Spindler
Photo: Yves Boccadoro

"Look", he said suddenly, pointing to one of his great canvasses, "we can see a boat there, and it's reflected on the water, but I didn't see that when I painted it. Moreover, I rarely re-touch things. It's odd, really, because more often than not, I paint at night. I've the colours in my mind and I like the emotion of the darkness around me."

Strolling around, I stood and looked at another work, entitled simply, Window . Through it, Spindler brings forth flowers with no stems, captures birds with no branches, and asks the almond to flower in winter as he sprinkles snow on hot sand. Painting, he says, is like poetry or music, you just look and listen. It can't be explained.


Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at

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