Gabriella D'Abreau surrenders to her art

Gabriella D'Abreau, surrounded by her artwork, began painting again during the pandemic. Photos courtesy Gabriella D'Abreau -
Gabriella D'Abreau, surrounded by her artwork, began painting again during the pandemic. Photos courtesy Gabriella D'Abreau -

The need for perfection and to control every detail of the creative process can be exhausting for an artist – something visual artist Gabriella D'Abreau understands only too well.

After hosting her first solo exhibit, Herstory, at the Art Society in 2012, followed by group exhibits between 2013 and 2015, the artist found herself with a severe case of artist's block that lasted for five years.

Ironically, she found the antidote in the downtime caused by the restrictions of the covid19 pandemic which crippled the world for over two years.

“Before my block I became overzealous. After Herstory ten years ago, I did three group shows in 2013, one early in the year, one mid- and one at the end. By the end of 2013 I was wiped out, and in 2015 I did a group showing with about five other artists. I organised and curated the show.

"That really took a toll and I lost my zeal for creating. That’s when I realised I needed to step back. I still created, but it was sporadic.”

During that five-year period, she put her time and energy into graphic designing, a self-taught skill, as well as teaching art workshops and coaching other aspiring artists.

And then the world shut down! With a slowdown in the demand for the work of graphic designers and her inability to host in-person workshops, D’Abreau told WMN she instinctively found her way back to her love for painting, this time allowing the process the freedom to tell its own story.

One of Gabriella D'Abreau's pieces. -

“I started back creating, without intention and control, and focused on enjoying the process of painting. Over time I started to create more and more, and some time, maybe mid-last year, I approached a gallery to put the work in a show. I just wanted to share my work in person, apart from what I posted on social media because artwork is so different when you see it in real.”

D’Abreau’s second solo show, The Art of Surrender, will be held at Arnim’s Art Galleria, Port of Spain. The pieces, she said, are the result of surrendering to her need to control what she felt she wanted the end result to be.

“The more I let go and the more I released my need for control in the creative process, the easier it became to create, and the more joy I began to experience…When we’re the ones controlling everything we may miss opportunities that may come along and we don’t notice because of pre-conceived notions…I see this exhibition as a coming home to my authentic self.”

This body of work, she told WMN, is unlike any other she has created before. Because she allowed the free flow of her creativity, each piece tells its own story in its own voice through her use of bright, bold neons and highly saturated colours contrasted with deep reds, purples and blues, and her combination of “dramatic colour, texture and movement across varied abstracts, figurative works and even surrealistic pieces. In this collection it feels like time stands still, like existence is suspended in a transitory moment of bliss…I enjoyed working on this one more than my first solo exhibit.”

She said she works primarily with acrylic paint, but sometimes watercolour and mixed media, and includes combinations of abstract, surrealist and figurative pieces.

A Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain and St John’s University, New York alumna she has a bachelor of fine arts in illustration. But, she said, although she has always been creative and interested in art, she cannot pinpoint the specific moment she knew it would become her life’s work.

Gabriella D'Abreau's second solo exhibit The Art of Surrender runs from September 27 to October 7. -

“Before I discovered acrylics paints, I was more into drawing. The painting probably happened in secondary school.

"I’ve always liked the idea of being a fashion designer, as opposed to actually doing it. I have also liked the idea of illustrating children’s books, also as opposed to actually doing it. You know how artists are ever-changing,” she laughed.

“I can appreciate fashion design, but can’t say I want to do it now. Illustrating children’s books may still be there, but not at the forefront. In addition to painting, my focus is now to help adults, especially women, get back in touch with creative sides by doing more workshops. Most times people find me, so I take that as a hint that this is what I should be doing right now.”

The mother of one said she has no idea where her work will take her and she has no “grand plans” to translate it into money, but she is going with the flow and enjoying it. She is especially looking forward to The Art of Surrender and engaging with the people who come to see her work.

“What I like most about exhibiting is interacting with and getting people’s interpretation of my work. You can’t get that kind of engagement on social media.”

At 2 pm on October 1 she will be doing an artist talk.

“It’s the first time I’m doing that and I’m really excited because it will allow me to have a conversation with my audience.”

Earlier that same day, between 10 and 11 am, patrons will be invited to do a collaborative painting in a fun session.

The Art of Surrender opens on September 27 from 6-9 pm and continues until October 7, Monday-Friday 9 am-6 pm, and Saturday from 9 am-4 pm.

For more information or to RSVP: e-mail:

To learn more about the artist:


"Gabriella D’Abreau surrenders to her art"

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