Antonio Ferrer Cabello
Santiago de Cuba is a lovely city nestled between the sea and the mountains, between blue and green. In order to understand that city and its artists, to its singular geological and architectural characteristics we must add a strong personality and a luminous, colorful, extroverted, noisy and welcoming setting.
Antonio Ferrer Cabello sings to the city and its residents. Portraying the former, he rejoices in improbable but real spaces, in the reddish tone of its locally made roof tiles, in the hundred-year-old balconies, in the cobblestones worn down by the incessant comings and goings of its inhabitants and curious visitors on steep, narrow streets.
He captures the city’s soul like no one else, beyond all visible forms. Gazing at his canvases, we forget that painting is two-dimensional as we “penetrate” those idealized panoramas, where it’s always noon and everything seems to doze in the stupor of the siesta. But that sun doesn’t burn us. That’s how pleasant Ferrer’s Santiago is.
In this regard, Jorge Hidalgo comments:
There are some of Ferrer’s cityscapes that I call “rooftop landscapes,” because clearly he has painted them from his studio or some high point, and they are impressive. This is something that no other painter has achieved, not even the golden watercolorists, as I call Hernández Giro, Bofill and others who – although they are masters – have not portrayed that Santiago de Cuba that Ferrer captures from the rooftops.
And Julia Valdés adds:
No one else is as adept in capturing our city’s luminosity and brilliant color in those landscapes, and from the viewpoint of composition, the city’s architecture and the contours of the land. His stroke is dynamic and I would say that his most recent phase is more daring than the previous ones, and his palette much richer.…
Ferrer Cabello creates Caribbean images. Feverishly devoted to them, he has delved into an iconographic world which is ever richer and more diverse, in constant evolution. The men and women are inserted in the city as if it were a huge, colorful fan. In careful detail, he explores the possibilities offered by his surroundings. Nothing escapes the master’s palette: carnival, the Cubans’ joy and love of crowds. He has given us a vast collection of portraits of conspicuous characters from Santiago de Cuba and other latitudes, as well as affectionate views of the countryside. Ferrer seems to feel a constant need to reveal life itself. He is a man in his 90s who is born each day, creating scenes full of images that are significant, among other reasons, for their documentary value.
His works are like windows opening onto the world, helping us to shape our values and ultimately our consciousness. This master has the constant need to find the essential nature of the reality surrounding us, often by delving into its narrative content. Ferrer presents us with his own universe, which seems to be inexhaustible.
José Julián Aguilera Vicente
Cezanne showed us that the painter can be nature’s sentient receptacle; he understood the importance of the confrontation between the drama of ideas and subjective consciousness. Aguilera Vicente, whose long, prolific life has embodied this confrontation, has explored new paths to their fullest and – as a result of these vertiginous wanderings – offers us a rich and varied artistic production.
The technique of engraving has no secrets from Aguilera. His works not only tell the city’s story; through a strong constructive tissue he incorporates images stripped of their context, like informative material susceptible to a new and less comprehensible reading, coming out of a new kind of logic, compact and substantial. His efforts are so innovative, his tireless spirit so youthful, stubborn and constant, that his works hold their own against those of young contemporaries. His son, outstanding Santiago artist Carlos René Aguilera, observes:
“Despite the unquestionable maturity of [his] pieces, they possess a fresh and youthful experimentation. In them, Aguilera questions some things about human existence, as in the series Llanto por muerto (Weeping for Death); in another, Nada es de nadie (Nothing Belongs to Anyone), he ventures into the minefield of ideas about originality and manipulation.
“One must imagine the context of Nada es de nadie, a time when artists were determined to discover an indisputable formula for originality and personal identity. All of a sudden, Aguilera takes things out of context and begins to juxtapose morphemes of works by living and active Cuban masters, declares that “nothing belongs to anyone” in this way – without [Jürgen] Habermas or [Umberto] Eco on his bookshelf, as one might today – and intuitively explores a concept as intricate as ‘appropriation,’ without labeling it as such.
“In that gallery in Havana, the critics deliberately compared Aguilera with the masters to whom he had alluded, perhaps expecting a negative reaction from the latter. But in fact, their response was one of support for his daring and profound reflections on the structure of originality.”
Enamored of his old city, he perpetrates it through various artistic techniques. He surprises us with his harsh treatment of the subject of human alienation, in which all hope of spiritual survival seems to have vanished. In his expressionist engravings, man appears abandoned to his solitude and his freedom (these features are signs of his totally maturity); and the protagonists’ facial expressions indicate that they do not know whether to turn back or continue down the path. We are faced with a daring work of art fraught with ambiguity and double meanings; hard and silent, authoritarian and enigmatic, that accompany man in his trek through the modern desert.
This is a passionate artist who calls for a return to a dark terrain feared by modern pragmatic man. It is the work of someone who understands the false pillars on which reality is sustained, an artist who seeks human liberty, not in property but in participation. Striping off the masks, he confronts human beings with his hidden truth.
Aguilera’s expressionist work emphasizes the presence of an existential separation and fragmentation. And, as Octavio Paz pointed out, fragmentation “is the most perfect and vibrant expression of our time.”
Miguel Ángel Botalín Pampín
Miguel Ángel Botalín is a fervent student of the city’s structure and physical features. On one hand, he portrays the urban reality and contour as the shapers of an architectonic space. On the other hand, he tries to transmit the values of balance, distance, form and proportion.
In an artistic analysis of his city – our city, which he considers a living organism – we see that in the first place he emphasizes what we could call its anatomy: narrow colonial-style alleyways, hilly streets, sunny passageways, rooftops – in other words, the city as inventory.
But Botalín also portrays what we consider the city’s physiology: the role of the streets, dramatic and communicative. And he moves from physiology to psychology: the streets as drama, as the city’s internal scripture. In these elements the city’s history is written, and the daily events that characterize its residents. Streets are important as inventory; they have as much form and life as the buildings; meanwhile, in their formal representation their verticality and depth resound. Thus, anatomy, physiology and psychology create a whole revealing the city’s vital essence.
In other words, Botalín presents to us a city that knows its own morphology, its type of construction and its relative space. In his work, we see the city as it is: a spatial structure, a collective human accomplishment extended through time.
His canvases are a tribute to precision, to minute description, and he converts the city into a form of light, in which poetry and architecture are two constructive arts of the same ontological category.
Botalín’s city-light, totally loved, explored and perceived, reaffirms the idea that his cityscapes are a mental concept built on the association of memories rather than on geographical strata.
There is a great iconic intensity in this excellent artist’s work, which goes beyond what is being described and itself becomes the reality.
The mastery he has achieved makes it possible for the viewer not only to see the landscape, but also to become a part of it. As in real life, the viewer soaks up the sun’s intensity, is dazzled by the light, and even gets thirsty from the climb up the steep, sweltering streets, devoid of shade in the intense midday heat. Botalín is so powerfully suggestive because he appeals not only to sight, but also to memory, awareness and experience, especially if the viewer is from Santiago de Cuba.
Making use of a peculiar alchemy – technical mastery, precise strokes, a well-laden brush, and a white, hot palette – he is undoubtedly one of the city’s most outstanding cultivators of this genre.
Is Miguel Ángel Botalín a romantic with an archaeologist’s spirit, or a realist? We do not know. In any case, he is the painter-builder who identifies with his city, and who in addition to painting it, inhabits every bit of its territory.
In this master’s work, the past blends with the present and extends into the future. His is a time without seams, unitary and global. He concentrates on the time that lays between imagination and certainty, offering us images of our eternal Santiago, definitively captured in his beloved views.
Reynaldo Pagán Ávila
Without a doubt, Reynaldo Pagán is one of Santiago’s most outstanding postmodern artists. During his intense and prolific career, he has ventured into almost every trend. He knows and has explored virtually all of painting’s mysteries. He has sampled and appropriated elements, and in some of his pieces he has spotlighted exotic Eastern Cuban elements, with heavy doses of irony and eroticism. Daily life is the theme of some of his other pieces, perhaps alluding to his own childhood and pointing to violence possibly suffered by the artist himself or others he knew, and almost always associated with the presence of bars or rails limiting the space. Humans are the subject and object of analysis frequently related to individual physical and emotional appetites and needs, whether overt or covert.
Pagán has created an esoteric character, an androgynous being of jointed wood, timeless and faceless. It is a mannequin that he manipulates at will, which serves to reveal diverse situations and meanings associated with contemporary processes of human existence. Rather than stating, he suggests: the figure is dressed, playing a woman-violin, the surrealistic object of disquieting appearance; or he falls prey to the powerful sexuality of a geisha girl who dominates him – he lies at her feet while his sex blossoms and she, the powerful female, uses it to satisfy her carnal appetites. He can be active, tentatively holding a docile young man between his legs; or he can assume the attitude of the fisherman in Puvis de Chavannes’s well-known painting and wait in a boat for the needed food that he will presumably obtain from the sea, while elements foreign to the original work are added, suggesting death and sex. Likewise, the android personifies assassinated revolutionary Marat, immortalized by David in his famous painting.
Surrealism and expressionism have a strong presence in Pagán’s work. Expressionism is seen in deformations and formal exaggerations affecting the figure and the color treatment, sometimes distorting the subject at hand; surrealism is revealed through a myriad of absurd elements. Both trends take the viewer from the dark sea, infested with threatening fish, to the human congregations wrapped in their frustrations – which in turn adopt deceitful forms of happiness, appearing as brilliantly colored balloons coming together in the air, blocking access to the sky. The viewer is also confronted with groups of humans who, all with the same expression of panic, hold tight to an apparently inoffensive chair.
A recurrent theme is that of exodus, of the trans-territoriality so common to island people that generates suggestive images and is symbolized through significant elements such as oars, which in Pagan’s work are capable of making navigable any object: royal palms; dead people who rise up, like the woman who clings to the oars, willing to escape even her own sarcophagus to join into the migratory fever. Another suggestive image is that of the holocaust at sea created by our condition as island dwellers, which on this occasion is symbolized by a paper boat overflowing with an infinity of beings with panic manifest on their faces; furthermore, the newspaper from which the boat is made bears a text that reinforces the message.
Just as exoticism is fundamentally represented through personalities whose sexuality is often ambiguous, daily life is also present in his works. Shown are the lack of communication between couples, sexual frustration, the peanut vendor, the Santería practitioner and her ritual adornments, precarious homemade stoves, an old couple resting on a park bench, a woman knitting, and other images forming an iconography of everyday life.
Reynaldo Pagán is a well-trained artist with a clear mastery of Cuban and universal art (he pays tribute to Marcelo Pogolotti and Ángel Acosta León), and he conveys his message through techniques that are almost always in line with the selected themes. He functions equally well in the classic brushstroke and in aggressive expressionism. He adjusts the composition to his specific interests, he alters the colors to vary the semantic force. His formal and conceptual solutions provide the opportunity, from any perspective of reality, to reflect, smile and meditate on the existential anguish that threatens today’s society.
Joherms Quiala Brooks
Joherms Quiala Brooks, who admits suffering from a kind of “Dalí epidemic,” combines his visual message with his cultural experience, and most of all his critical references. Like Dalí, his images are subjective, with a heavy semantic force. Like the Catalan, he has formal training which allows him to create images of great beauty and skill. He uses what in other painters would be obsolete to achieve effective and poetic images. He is a paintbrush virtuoso whose works are seductive and intriguing, presenting a mystery that must be unraveled in order to perceive the artist’s true meaning.
Among the themes Quiala tackles are sex trade, the use of the dollar in Cuba, an element which is aggressive but as ever-present, recognizable, secure and constant, as the government-sponsored food ration system within our planned economy. He also deals with the Cuban landscape, the Tower of Babel as a symbol of utopia, self-portraits (the artist feels he must describe himself), and a recurrent element: a cloak made from elegant fabric and regally draped, taking on a very suggestive corporeality which on occasions seems to cover an invisible form. Is this a way to hide things, or one of the various religious symbols appearing in his work? In any case, this element seems to legitimate, through its very presence, the actions taking place on earth.
In one of his landscapes, this artist, with his great religious sensitivity, shows Christ on the cross, substituting a sickle for the nails. In another landscape a crown of thorns descends from the heavens and sprays the Cuban countryside with blood. In yet another landscape, which could well be considered the completion of a trilogy, a hand appears in the heavens holding a piece of skin, whose double meaning harks back to Dalí’s multiple image, or “critical paranoia.” These are three wrenching visions immersed in the Christian spirit and referring to the specific moment of the crucifixion.
Like many other Cuban artists of the 1990s, Quiala utilizes the U.S. dollar’s sudden presence in Cuban life as an expressive resource, which he expresses basically in two themes: the flesh trade and the dollar’s aggressive effects on rural life, which he portrays in a detailed, hyper-realistic manner. The aggression implicit in the dollar’s imposition suggests the sale and loss of identity. A condensed drop of water clings to our sky, suggesting comfort but with conflicting intentions, but this does not keep us from enjoying the illusory configuration that it creates.
In several works, he employs the postmodern technique of intertextuality: Christ painted in Byzantine codes, immersed in a realistic landscape along with a black African; on another canvas, a neoclassical landscape traversed by a machete used for cutting sugarcane, treated in the classic style of a pop art comic strip. Yet another painting harks back to Jeff Koons’s One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. Without specifically alluding to well-known brands, he evokes the seduction of consumerism through the presence of canned beverages which, in open sacrilege, are served to a celestial baby and provide refreshing moments to earth-bound children and adults. Furthermore, the can located in glorious ambiguity is surrounded by a crown of thorns. The artist criticizes and deciphers the spirit of consumerism as part of the vital saga of contemporary man. He understands and reflects the process that leads an individual to turn into a consuming entity, and this is an interesting conceptual proposition.
Quiala’s works are a significant whole, in which each of the elements acquires a different aesthetic sense and a dream-like transfiguration moves happily down art’s path, without becoming cute or grotesque.
Guillermo Orlando Piedra Labañino
The work of Baracoa painter Guillermo O. Piedra is marked by a pleasant expressionism and multicolored composition. One of his objectives seems to be to portray the Cuban character through the faces of hard-working campesinos, who gaze at us with kind and honest expressions in open contrast with their powerful physiques. Amid apparent chaos, the elements that occupy the space are organized with a very personal compositional logic, conveying a dynamism through the use of warm colors and intense tropical light. One feature is the use of a clear line that emphasizes the subjects’ strength.
He himself explains that in order to achieve the desired effects he uses a spatula, a piece of sackcloth, a paintbrush handle, and the paint tube. The result is a manipulation of the pictorial material that lends an unusual animation, a vitality that is the most distinguishing characteristic of his compositions.
In contrast, his landscapes boast a clear balance, in composition as well as in the use of color, thus transmitting a sense of peace that apparently could not be broken by any force of nature. The watercolors of brothers Juan Emilio and Rodolfo Hernández Giro had a great influence on Piedra Labañino, inspiring him to create very visual scenes that rival Nature herself, through an excellent handling of color.
Roel Caboverde Yacer
Baracoa, where Roel Caboverde Yacer was born, is one of the most beautiful regions of eastern Cuba. Everything there breathes vitality, exuberance and color.
This cane cutter turned art instructor focuses his keen eye on an imaginary world that speaks to his traditions. That is why his themes are so simple, reflecting the universal experience of the region’s campesinos and fishermen. What limits can be put on an artist who lives and works surrounded by majestic mountains and an intensely blue sea?
Caboverde paints country festivities; hard work in the sugarcane fields, in the shaded coffee plantations, and out at sea – often preceded by tender farewells; cockfights; leisure time accentuated by the sounds of a strummed guitar; dice games; and of course strongly erotic scenes in which women await their men’s return. “I am a man in love with life and women,” he has said.
His technique hardly varies from one piece to another. He is faithful to a Mannerist expressionism resulting in an exaggerated elongation of the human figure, a deformation that confers greater representational force.
Sometimes the hands of his subjects are reminiscent of the outstanding Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín. Added to his compositional skills, his strident use of color confers a good deal of drama to his theme.
His composition is very clear and ordered, with a precise differentiation of planes. Multiple viewpoints characteristic of cubism abound in a curious work, in which an architectural element occupies the central subject’s head. His expressionism is based not only on the deformed faces: some figures with their backs to the viewer assume postures denoting the harsh physical effort of working in the cane fields. This is a device employed occasionally by Pablo Picasso.
In his painting, he also deals with love and melancholy, fundamentally through females like the young woman who waits, nude, for her lover in the middle of a cane field.
Caboverde’s pictorial pieces have a grotesque expressive presence, created by exaggerated anatomical deformations. This can be interpreted as an effective way of calling attention to the artist’s themes and makes his work unmistakably his own.
Rubén Manuel Beltrán Guerra
“Manzanillo has a brilliant, intense light. It never stops, even in the shade.” The man who made this statement was born and has lived with the blinding clarity of the Caribbean Sea illuminating that 200-year-old city.
Rubén Beltrán Guerra creates images with impeccable skill and a clear vocation for landscapes. He rejoices in vistas of verdant vegetation and old houses with red roofs and large windows decorated with ironwork, where the passage of time has left its mark on walls worn down to the brick and mortar, small towns with cobblestone streets or dirt roads that contribute simultaneously to rural tranquility and urban comfort. His aesthetic creed involves the rationality of the elements and representational synthesis.
His landscapes are pervaded with an absolute calm that nothing can alter. His composition is perfectly organized, with diagonals reinforcing the sense of balance. This atmosphere is complemented with a clear and intensely blue sky, plus a careful mimesis.
His recurrent dream is the ideal city – which he says does not exist but is located “between Santiago de Cuba and Manzanillo.” On one of his canvases, he represents that ideal city surrealistically, in a baroque composition in which the buildings seems to come up spontaneously, without any regard for nearby structures. One of Beltrán’s achievements is having brought together – and at times even mixed – classic urban symbolism with icons and features of an imaginary city.
Beltrán’s works contain many fascinating elements, with an evident zeal for detail. While the task of defining landscape painting continues to be difficult, the fact that it is being studied helps preserve its critical importance.
This artist, who states that theatrical design is his life, does paintings characterized by stage composition, in many bright colors. Using a number of elements from Chagall, Sánchez creates an expressionism that is his alone, in which the line plays a relevant part, dynamically dividing up space. The couple lying face to face and levitating, like the celebrated Russian artist’s Paris from my Window; the wandering minstrel who assumes the pose of the Green Violinist; the lovers among flowers; the nude woman with blue skin reclining languidly against a bamboo trellis; a circus atmosphere; cooing lovers; campesinos; visions of a city with empty buildings and superimposed figures: themes undertaken in the style of David Salle, employing fragmentation as a recurrent device, although it is unclear whether it is for decorative purposes or mere distraction.
As for technique, Sánchez has noted that he tends to be matterist, creating volume with colors, or using pointillism as a way of bringing vibration and mobility to the canvas.
Sometimes he complicates the scenes so much that the viewer must do a great deal of decoding. He does not allow the eyes to rest at any moment; on the contrary, he forces us to shift our gaze constantly, in search of a coherence leading to ultimate comprehension of the matter at hand. Thus, agitation is the common denominator for all his work. It could be assumed that his strongly chromatic paintings are aggressive, but instead, there is an amiability that impacts the viewer, given that this procedure, with its rhythmic spontaneity, can be playful and even fascinating.
Alfredo Cecilio Rodríguez Cedeño
Alfredo Rodríguez, who never had formal art training, has absorbed the Cuban and international landscape painting tradition through the examination of color plates and bibliographic material. In this way, he has received the influence of the Barbizon School, 19th-century British painters and the best known Cuban painters in this genre.
Given that lack of training, the technical skills he has acquired are surprising. He creates panoramic vistas into which he inserts diminutive but precise elements representative of the Cuban countryside – palm-thatched huts and royal palm trees; oxcarts; streams and bridges; daily labors; topographical contours – and through them he demonstrates a deep love linking him irreversibly to the landscape he recreates.
One of his most impressive works shows a winged but isolated island that tries in vain to follow behind a flock of migratory birds fully enjoying their freedom of flight. This embodies a great contradiction: the island is shown as a floating space that is heavily constrained by fragments of a wall and on its verdant surface, among the huts, palms and tropical trees, is a giant, powerful wing attempting in vain to take flight. Despite its diverse elements, the piece functions as a whole; the details, nuances and intensities are placed there with a clear purpose, and always to good advantage.
Another of Alfredo Rodríguez’s significant pieces, full of symbolism and signs, is also a landscape, but with a twist. It is located on the tablecloth of a large rectangular table, creating a constant dialog between movement and stillness. It expresses life’s multicolored, dynamic nature as well as stasis – with human beings to one side – that converts the scene into something stable and permanent. The overall effect is quite elegant.
Another of his favorite themes are hands. If I had to categorize these scenes, I would put them in the broad classification of expressionism, as the viewer can easily understand.
Like all expressionist artists, Rodríguez interprets reality by extracting it from the natural, cultural, environmental and experiential surroundings. He takes the hands out of context and places them in an atemporal dimension. They become tensed muscular structures suspended in space and time, without a perceptible setting, without perspective and without support. They are distorted muscles, twisted and anguished roots, hands forged through labor that occupy an imaginary and unsettling atmosphere, as well as being highly erotic.
The greatest value of these pieces is the combination of factors that allow the artist to achieve his objectives with a wide variety of effects.
Marcos Pavón Estrada
Born into a poor farming family – which in pre-Revolutionary Cuba deprived him of any possibility of education – and infected with polio during childhood, Marcos Pavón was faced with a sad reality. When he was just a few years old, paintbrushes substituted for the toys he did not have, and he taught himself how to paint. His very limited frame of reference was nourished with the legends that rural families pass from one generation to another: stories of elves and apparitions, witches and ghosts.
In 1963, when education became freely available to all Cubans, regardless of gender or social status, Pavón took his first art lessons while a patient at an orthopedic hospital in Havana. Upon his return to Holguín province, where he was born, he was given a specialized education; after graduation he found a job that kept him in close contact with the world of painting.
There is no doubt that the life of this hard-working artist is unique. He says that painting is a challenge, but he always succeeds. His life is a challenge and he has succeeded. Unable to use his hands, he holds the paintbrush with his mouth, and remains undaunted despite the difficulties.
The subject matter of his work is often heart-wrenching, like the painting of the mother whose screams of despair come from her very gut and can even shake tree roots. She is holding two squalid, inert children who could well represent the truncated, disjointed and cruel childhood suffered by the artist himself. The woman’s face, exploding with pain and rage, is drawn with precise, intensely expressionist lines that seem to tear into the picture. There is a violent chromatic contrast between the central figure, painted in yellow, and the twisted tree, just as strong as she is, painted in a gray-blue and creating a strong and balanced composition. In the background, slender palm trees and silhouetted mountains make it clear that this tragic scene is taking place in the Cuban countryside.
In another one of his pieces, a pair of lovers embrace tenderly, with happiness frozen on their faces. The encounter takes place in a factory setting, with a background of chimneys belching out smoke. This makes for a perfectly balanced composition, and the pure colors accentuate the work’s message.
Another of his favorite themes is rural work. In a multicolored composition, two campesinos are located very close to each other. While in the foreground one of them is resting his hands on a book, the other is planting a seedling. Are they both Marcos Pavón? Are they doing what he wanted but never could do? Is this an allusion to the dirty trick life has played on him? Once again, there are well-defined lines that emphasize the young workers’ musculature, plus the twisted tree trunk, and the mountains’ contour, painted with a technique ranges from pointillism to long, extended strokes.
And there is the world of the elves, reflecting a childhood they inhabited in the campesinos’ fascinated eyes, in the whistle of the wind, hiding their faces during the day, appearing and disappearing, changing and fading away as the sun illuminates the land.
This exceptional artist, a model of courage and constancy, presents us with a body of work with deep significance. He has touched on eternal human themes, ones that define our very existence. Those themes are love, pain and work.
Jorge Luis Hernández Pouyú
Pouyú, who declared his break with figurative art in 1998, presents us – through his series Motivos Reales (Real Motifs, 2000-2002), consisting of about 30 pieces – with a new stage of artistic creation in which he feels “free and unfettered.” This freedom of choice has led him down the difficult path of abstraction, from vitalist and intimist positions. His work still responds to his need to express himself; through his work he intensely communicates his reality. It is not by chance that this series is entitled Real Motifs.
The artist, whose technique involves gesture and matterism, is the first person awaiting the result of his acts upon the canvas, since he has no preconceived notion of what he will paint. To a large extent, the pictorial elements flow and overlap somewhat spontaneously, with chance playing a large role in the work’s final outcome. Enticing images emerge, greatly influenced by the titles (which reveal that he is an avid reader); his visual metaphors constitute a real challenge to those viewing the work.
His paintings, intended more for visual enjoyment than for interpretation of symbols, are full of lyricism, and unforeseen structures emerge. They are sets of signs, consisting of shapes and colors that reaffirm the concept that a painting exists only to be viewed.
Pouyú paints with honesty, without concessions or flattering formulas that his interior truth would not permit. He obeys an ethic that should not be confused with compromise. His goal is “painting” – in other words, affirming artistic values (always in a dialectic struggle between doubt and certainty), in order to create new spaces resulting from his capacity for innovation and his will to express himself in his own language.
The painter often insists that he is an expressionist to the core, and he interprets reality by isolating it, within its surroundings, from its emotional context and its environmental circumstances. Through form and color, he has created a magical space where his Real Motifs develop. At times violent, they do not tolerate any indifference and on occasion they betray a contagious melancholy, while at other times they communicate optimism. Thus his painting, in its current phase, exudes a semantic ambiguity and, facing the new millennium, the artist demonstrates that he has achieved a greater conceptualization of the motifs he has undertaken.
Eddy Ochoa Guzmán
Despite what one might think, Eddy Ochoa is not a hyperrealist painter; he himself has confirmed this criterion. Indeed, if we compare his work to the hyperrealist or photorealist pieces by Malcolm Morley – who initiated this trend – Ochoa’s astonishing landscapes have nothing to do with that form of painting, which emerged as an echo of pop art and is the product of a consumer society that tends to subject its subject matter to the fierce dictatorship of photography, simultaneously dehumanizing the theme by rejecting all points of contact with the normal representation of the human presence. This trend, also called “cold realism,” almost always puts its subject in an urban setting, assigning it a leading role, stronger than the role of humans.
Ochoa could not be identified with this trend, either in his themes or in the technique he employs. His main interest is capturing our beloved landscape, which José María de Heredia praised in his famous “Ode to Niagara.”
Of all the possible media on which one can paint, Ochoa chooses to express himself through oil on canvas, in a medium-sized format.
Painted in an intelligent, well-conceived plan that is never ingenuous, his Nocturnos (Nocturnes) spark a restlessness inside us, despite the apparent tranquility of the landscape. That restlessness comes from the light that transgresses conventionalism and fluctuates between reality and unreality, reflection and questioning, because that peculiar illumination makes us wonder, “What is it? Where does it come from?” The answer would clear up the mystery that transcends these pieces. We note that surreal luminosity in Ensueño de la tarde (Afternoon Dream), limiting space, defining planes, denoting contours and allowing this perceptive and skilled artist to revel in the details of his impeccably crafted work, which is simple in appearance but also quite profound.
He is an artist who, from a position of radical independence, confers knowledge on painting, embodying a principle of Cezanne’s in his pictorial treatment: he constructs masses and volumes through color, while his fine, precise sketches center on psychological evaluations of his admirably portrayed landscapes.
These works reflect the confidence of an artist devoted to the daily task of painting. Repetition builds skill, which – when combined with sensibility – makes it possible to work miracles.
Danis Montero Ortega
Whenever artist Danis Montero seeks our attention, it is in the name of landscape painting. At this time he uses mostly oils and acrylics, adding textile effects that sound a dramatic note. After going through various stages, currently the painter catches our attention through the ambiguity of his attractive but enigmatic landscapes, the fruit of an inexhaustible inspiration belonging not to the natural order, but to an imaginary one.
In the series Concreciones (Concretion), we are invited to move into hidden reaches, to discover and capture the essence of the landscape, which is concealed behind the evocative appearance of these images. We wonder whether we have “seen” the real landscape. This may be the artist’s intention, arising out of his great capacity for invention and his determination to speak in this suggestive language.
These forms, which appear to us as natural or architectural, emerge mysteriously from the represented spaces, full of sensual connotations. His creative method consists of gestural brushstrokes, letting the details flow with absolute freedom. Apparently dissatisfied with the art around him, the painter searches for themes from within himself, in his own potentialities, letting his vital force guide his hand in the creation of Concretion.
This technique has fostered the emergence of images that, although vaguely familiar, reveal a new type of landscape painting with a wise compositional strategy, in which it is possible that the line takes on greater importance than before. The somber colors to which Danis has accustomed us is softly seductive; the light that brings to life well-designed forms helps to highlight a skillfully achieved combination of transparency and opaqueness.
On this occasion he reveals a new approach to composition, incorporating figurative and abstract elements. He has broken with traditional watercolor techniques through the insertion of experimental formulas, including textile and collage.
Upon the unpolluted white of the Bristol board, the range of blues and grays, yellows and ochres strongly reinforce his message: the environment is in real, not imaginary danger. His aggression takes on definite but perfectly recognizable forms. We are surprised by a human figure, always absent but necessary here as an attacked or attacking being, or expressed through an abstraction filled with lyricism and drama.
His large and small pieces, figurative or abstract, alert the viewer to the catastrophe to come. Humanity’s future is endangered. All of us, at Danis’s side, must save our landscape, which is tantamount to saving life.