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Much of his work centers on a series of images that symbolize happy moments from the past, which have been demolished by the aridness of evolution. A kind of frozen childhood makes its appearance. His paintings are not the mere delight of putting together a character dominated by color and the desire to establish a new manner of expression. He is drawn to seeking the drama of an individual, of many of his contemporaries. Dawn, fire, a river, fields, a tree, fruit, the sea or a train—all these are symbols that interact with the characters in his paintings. And these characters are beings that have been deeply disturbed by dilemmas and who invite the viewer to discover their essence.
Niels’ journey of apprenticeship to the present has been a patient one, proceeding step by step to remove the outer layers until he has been able to touch his truth and to create a recognizable style.
His clearness of form comes from abstraction, maturing into a style that depicts the complexities of a gesture that may have different meanings. Some of his paintings give the impression of being scratched with a knife or spatula thereby making the images more credible, emotional and dramatic. One can see the filtration of the echoes of vanguard movements: Bad-Painting and Post-expressionism, for example. Surrealism is present in his unique lyricism and a touch of the absurd: Llevar hierba para el dragón [Bring Grass to the Dragon] (2010) or La última presa de la temporada [The Last Catch of the Season](2010). These two works and others created in 2010 have an excellent narrative quality. Reyes creates a kind of mystery that leaves the viewer in suspense and works very well for him. Nothing is ever completely resolved.
El primer Amor [First Love] is a fabulous painting that has removed itself from anything that is pretentious, the product of a naturalness that gives the impression of being ready to throw the lovers on top of us without giving us the option to escape.
Since 2005, the contents of Niels’ painting have gone through different stages. To be noted is how his lead characters face up to the story. Sometimes there is a frontal approach, a direct relationship that makes the conflict perfectly visible. At other times they are fugitives from the story. The stories are often rooted in the everyday such as in a series of paintings on cardboard that were done in 2010 under the title of Emos: he depicts picturesque beings who are denizens of the night along Vedado’s G Street. It is a comment on an era and a specific social milieu. In 2009, Neils had also used such characters in a work entitled Pop histerico [Hysterical Pop]. The characters appear to be followed by a shadow in Síntoma del milenio [Symptom of the Millennium] that represents strength and energy and directly intervenes in the spectator’s form of being. These canvases have proven to be particularly effective.
Much could be said about Niels Reyes’s children. The pupils of their eyes are captivating, apparently allowing the essences of things to enter and exit through them. From Un niño ballena [Whale-Child]to Niña que mira [Little Girl Looking], a bridge has been constructed like a fiction that is capable of capturing the viewer again and again.
In his 2013 work, Niels reveals a strong autobiographical tendency. A crucial moment between art and life is evident in Esperando a Carolina [Waiting for Caroline] (his daughter). In Born, the little girl is poised between the destinies of this world and becomes an obsession that presses on the creative nerve.
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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