From The Sea To History, Backlit

By Ricardo Alberto Pérez

The landscapes of Antonio Espinosa, born in Manzanillo in 1974, are nowhere else but in his own mind. With extraordinary sincerity he tells us about the fever he experienced as a result of his passion for the work of that great Cuban landscape artist named Tomas Sánchez. From that experience, and other simultaneous ones, a very singular voice came out that suddenly enriches the panorama of the mentioned tradition within the island. A process that chooses to subtract the color, to leave it crouched somewhere in the individual; and in that way to force the spectators to forge it again with their fantasy.

Your relationship as an individual before the landscape becomes very creative; unlike Tomás, he does not establish a religious bond that marks guidelines, and links the spirit with the vibrations of nature. He develops as a fictionist who acquires a wealth of images, and when commenting on the canvas stands out for taking all kinds of freedoms.

Landscapes as poems, as sequences of a film that acquires a nature of vertigo or whirlpool, capable of moving us countless sleeping sensations. Trances where we can feel the pleasure of not being anywhere, while welcoming us a very familiar warmth that is becoming transcendent.

Preferring acrylic, its pieces almost never lack water, announcing the deities of its transparency and the artist’s own obsessions. The water that magically recovers from the escape of color and dominates the surface making other elements end up resizing in it.

If we talked about their boats, they would also provide us with a lucid chronicle of the sensitivity that prevails through Espinosa’s work. On this occasion, these boats provide a sensitive fabric; a space where you can speculate and discover a fascinating network of relationships. Empty boats, abandoned, confined to a drift that somehow becomes disturbing. There they are, some chromed by light, others sunk in shadow, all contained in the nobility of wood, and in the echo of loneliness.

Its places do not allow the slightest distraction, there is a rectitude of the forms, an order of the textures that hijacks the act of contemplation in a very particular way. To establish a kind of dichotomy, sometimes the fog appears; or a radical contrast in the incidence of light. In this way, the piece acquires two well-defined areas that encourage a responsible exchange to break the monotony, and avoid rhetoric.

When contemplating many of these landscapes in consecutive form we will be able to obtain a sensation, or state of mind that makes us think that we are lost; at the mercy of a fascination that does not offer us any reference for orientation. Among small islets, on a depth difficult to determine, and sheltered by a vegetation that mixes the entangled with verticality.

The Contraluz series is a new challenge to mastery, an attractive breakout of the interior tones that a being can show from the prominence of a tree, or the brilliance of the waters. Each one must choose the possibility of traveling through the illuminated area, or through the shaded area; with this he will be giving away essential questions of his nature. The sensation of depth, of being able to penetrate as far as your own self requires, does not seem a concern when you are in front of these pieces, in which no visible noise appears, but a superior force capable of removing countless conflicts that seemed to be somewhat numb.

When thinking about the production of marine landscapes within the Cuban pictorial tradition, we have the certainty that in Espinosa’s marinas this is something else, not only because of the absence of color, but because of the planes involved and the remarkable complexity that can be appreciate in each of the proposals. On this occasion we are usually thrown out to sea, while an almost exclusive dialogue takes place between the sky and the tides. In these canvases the artist shines through a wide variety of clouds linked to the effect of light, which represent a large percentage of the temperament that remains impregnated in the image.

These marines also have the ability to intervene in our state of mind, provoke ideas, and even remove areas of memory, which do not have to be linked to the sea. There is a certain freedom to choose where you want to escape when you are before them; I, in particular, meet again with that misty sea that I learned by reading some of the great English poets; I refer to the sensations in that sense that William Blake’s lyric brought me; and the unique sea of ​​Colegidge in his Ballad of the Old Sailor.

However, Antonio Espinosa is a creator who has not limited himself to the guidelines imposed by the landscape; his expressive concerns go much further. It has concerns that are linked to the universe of the social, of the political and with the resonance that History is leaving in the life of each individual. For this, he has the gift of moving through other supports, such as engraving, drawing, sculpture and photomontage.

From concerns about the effect that propaganda produces; and the curiosity to remove in the nature of these, has produced remarkable works as much in the conceptual aspect as in the aesthetic one. In this sense, he is very interested in exploring the transitory and relative nature of these phenomena. Because of the high influence of ideology to which we have been subjected for decades, we inhabit a rich space or context to display this type of controversy. Focused in that sense, he produced a series entitled Cuban Ideological Landscapes, pieces that gave ample scope to reflect on issues that, when imposed, can not be digested responsibly.

In their displacements through these creative aspects their links with very specific moments of The History of Art greatly influence. He has assimilated some experiences in that sense in a categorical way; issue that is made visible by the memory and modernity that usually drag with the character of its language.

One of the questions that injects force into this area of ​​Espinosa’s work is his appropriation of the disparity that often occurs between the image and the word, and between slogans and reality. In this way, it puts forward in the subjective terrain of doubt statements that have appeared as «proven» truths.

To learn about his most recent work, and try to unravel it we were able to get closer to the Villa Manuela Gallery during the months of December-2013, and January-2014. There was exposed his personal sample History is long, life is short, a title that places us precisely in the terrain we are going to step on. Here he surrenders to the rigor of words such as Resist and Revolution, conforming his letters with elements that denote an open symbolism; as are the case of medicines, and commemorative stamps. I especially enjoyed a triptych of photos-montages, exposed under the title Collective Subject; that contains the Alienated, suggestible, and conformity pieces, which manage to capture sensitive behaviors of the current subject before the avalanche that always lurks.

In this sample I was also caught, especially for its conceptual efficiency, two other pieces: the first, Family Relics, using as support six French porcelain plates, which were stamped the logos of the six congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba. The second, made on cardboard with watercolor, is called Renunciation and Ambiguity (2012); and it is related to the reordering of discourses, and their incidence in the masses. Both seem to confirm that Antonio Espinosa is an artist connected with the conflicts that surround him.