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Living intensely, using no masks, often helps us to return to the starting point, with no adulterations in our minds or any false feelings. That’s why I perceive that many of the ceremonies filling Quintana’s paintings are collections of everyday instances collected and recycled through almost an entire lifetime.
Quintana efficiently exaggerates the quintessential matters within the very nature of existence. The act of exaggerating in order to obtain strange metaphors underpins the strength of the images and places these works into a surrealistic but incredibly authentic vein.
The human element in his work is surpassed by the living, particularly a zoological assortment of enormous unusual beings, coming to enrich a series of events that become narrative intervals through which we find a new way of seeing the passage of events referring to our existence, our surroundings, the closeness of others and, of course, to the nation.
Animals, plants, flowers, spirits and deities à la Quintana; vessels that will have to support the density of what has memory and has become inactivated by the violence of the passage of time (Almacén, 2009) are all part of this fair. Odd communions, private zones where, with a little cunning and lucidity, we are able to enter and stay for a while.
There are animals that often seem to be wounded, sick, crazed and sometimes disturbed by the unhealthy influence of rational beings. But since we cannot doubt for an instant that we are looking at the work of an artist depicting ruptures, one who prefers difficult inclemency, these animals could be surprising and stealthily attack those rational beings.
All the complexities brewing in his paintings do not interfere with the visual joy that attracts viewers through different ways. The images manage to maintain a sort of state of grace. Quintana is a master of color, which he uses to interpret an endless range of moods and a plethora of circumstances. Certain limitations between sorrow and joy disappear through the use color and a somewhat melancholy aura permeated by enigmatic heroism takes over.
On the other hand I think that Quintana has dared to sketch out an extensive chronicle about dependencies which, to a large extent, are marking the ties human beings have with each other (Si te suelto, caes, sonso). These dependencies create relationships of power and take us along a scarcely-worn path that represents power per se, sequences in which parody and irony attain fruition as they merge into atmospheres without any abruptness (El equipo nacional).
For a Cuban artist who belongs to the 1980s generation, the theme of resistance is practically incorporated into the metabolism. But what now turns that conflict into an artistic event is the subtle form of dealing with it, the highly personal style that allows him to do something and barely notice what he has done. With that magic he has managed to summarize his opinions on resistance in pieces such as La mujer cubana es gigante and Todos los cubanos son gigantes.
Those of us who were there at the beginning of Carlos Quintana’s career have a clearer idea about what drawing meant and still means for him. Nowadays, it elegantly merges into the rest of his pictorial activity, sometimes focusing on moments of exquisite craftsmanship that makes use of spaces that are apparently empty.
Text within the composition is a detail that must not be forgotten: First because of the naturalness of the language he has been building which denotes a unity, or coherence, that is capable of speaking about the soul in all his work in general. Then, because of the sensitivity in having captured a generous dose of popular wisdom, which rarely we see so well illustrated. The aspect of his calligraphy is significant because it describes an uninhibited gesture that is enhanced by that more powerful thing we tend to call “intuition”.
Before concluding I’d like to comment on his painting called Muchos monjes en la campiña cubana (2001-2003). This is a piece that appears to synthesize many of his ideas and obsessions in a simple manner. The painting’s heart or center of gravity contains details that connect the sacred with bucolic exaggerations (the beak of a woodpecker). Relationships are set up between the spaces and the antagonism that dilutes any rough edges. Suddenly, a feeling of visual depth overcomes us and his mission seems to have been accomplished.
May 2015 This article formed part of the May 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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