Excerpt of Interview with Artist Carlos Estevez

from Spring 2017, Vol. 8 ©2017 West Trade Review

for full interview see Vol. 8, 2017 West Trade Review   http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html


Carlos Estévez’s work, which spans more than 30 years, explores the complex relationship between man and the universe, and reflects his lifelong passion for creating art with a philosophical profile. Estévez masterfully weaves themes of the human experience, history, culture and anatomy, resulting in work that is both mythical and surrealist in nature. His recent installation, Bottles to the Sea, is an intricate, complex project exploring communication in the form of a message from the artist to an unknown person in an unpredictable place and time.

Carlos Estévez (1969) was born in Havana, Cuba and currently lives and works in Miami. His education began at the Escuela Elemental de Artes Plásticas, continued at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, and was completed at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana in 1992, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts. His work in painting, drawing, sculpture and installations has received international praise, notably the Grand Prize in the First Salon of Contemporary Cuban Art in 1995. He has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions such as the Fine Art Museum in Havana, Cuba, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, and the Center of Contemporary Art in New Orleans, Louisiana. His works may also be found in public and private collections worldwide, including the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, The Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida.



WTR: One noticeable feature of your work is what appears to be energy centers within human anatomy that resemble chakras.  Was that your intention or was there another motive for their use?

CE:  For me the human body is like a map. But a map is the representation of a place and also is a place itself. I think maps are a very accurate metaphor of the human soul. We have a body; but what we are as individuals is inside us: invisible, unreachable. The chakras are points of energy. I use them in my work as important points of the body in a symbolic way.

WTR:  There appears to be a tension in your work between the organic and the non-organic (i.e., the machine), what do you hope to accomplish through such tension?

CE: My intention is to create a metaphor between the relationship of nature with that of the machine. The universe has a structure as everything else has inside the universe. Humans make inventions based on the observation of nature. We reproduce the mechanisms and create planes, ships, cars, telephones, etc. From my point of view, there is not tension, it is an attempt of integration, to create harmony.

WTR: Each of your works is amazingly detailed, whether it is the geometric shapes within a work, the use of interconnecting lines, texture, and hue.  In general, could you describe your creative process and your intention behind it?

CE: My process is similar to the process of the alchemists. They were looking for the formula to make gold, and what they found instead was knowledge. My goal is to find the knowledge. I want to translate my experiences in life into images and share them with other people. The work I do reflexes my inner world, and it has to be done with all the complexity that this process requires. That is why it need to be very detailed. Everything single element is important: the background images, colors, textures, lines and the title.

WTR:  A critic once remarked that you have been influenced by Kant and Nietzsche.  Would you say their philosophical leanings have influenced your creativity in some way?  How do you take their concept of morality and transfer it into art?

CE:  Of course, my work is influenced by my readings, including philosophy. However, I don’t transfer any concept to my art intentionally. It doesn’t work that way. I read a book and I use it as fuel for my brain.  For instance, the philosophy of Kant is very complex. He creates his own concepts and his own system of ideas. What I got from reading his work could be far from his original intentions. I do my own interpretation and this becomes the inspiration for my work. I never know exactly what, how, and when it is going to happen, but one day an image appears that is connected with something I’ve read.

WTR:  You have noted before that your art explores man’s mission or purpose in the universe.  Are you suggesting that art is man’s best tool for understanding existential questions?

CE:  My obsession is to discover the meaning of life. Why are we here in this universe? This transcendental answer can perhaps never be answered, or perhaps it has so many different answers. One thing is for sure, neither science nor history can contain the human knowledge that art so deeply achieves.

Excerpt of Interview with Artist Julie Heffernan

from Spring 2016 West Trade Review 

©2016 West Trade Review

For full interview, see Spring 2016, Vol. 7, West Trade Review




Self Portrait as Boy in Flight by Julie Heffernan



Related image



WTR: Describe your process for painting; where do you get your ideas? How do you start? Do you complete several studies before actually putting paint on the final canvas? How long does a typical painting take you to finish? Do you paint with show themes in mind, or do you just paint and then assemble the work for shows?

JH: I start a painting with a faint image in mind and make a transparent wash. I don’t do preliminary drawings, but I do wait for an image to well up before I start working. I move

things around in the painting and make a thousand changes until patterns and shapes emerge that interest me and say something about the subject matter. It’s only then that I think about finish.

My work came into its own after I had been painting for a number of years –maybe I had had enough of those accidents that teach us so much. I was on a Fullbright in West Berlin and painting all day every day, working my way madly through a multitude of ideas and painting problems. I was working in a sardonic Neo-Expressionist mode, making paintings about the fecklessness of humankind, and doing a lot of them. For some reason, one night, after I’d painted all daylong and, exhausted, had gone to lie down for a bit I began to notice, suddenly, a stream of imagery welling up in my mind’s eye. These pictures appeared to me like film stills and each was fascinating, like somebody else’s movie in my mind; not daydreams or memories or anything familiar like that. I wanted to look more closely at those images and know them better: the best way to do that seemed to be by painting them. I taught myself a different way of painting in order to make these pictures as clear on the outside as they were to me on the inside. If there were such a thing as a core of creativity within me, this image-streaming seemed to point the way, so I threw out that entire sardonic body of work I’d been making, which now seemed superficial to me.

Over time I continue to use that method of conjuring to figure out problems in my work. The process functions in a way akin to what happens in an epiphany. You identify a problem and you seek an answer to it; you get frustrated and, with a sense of despair, give up and go take a bath, or a nap or a walk—something that relaxes you. Here’s where interesting things start to happen. In a theta wave state, the alert but relaxed brain tells the pre-frontal cortex to go into action and search the entire brain for a solution to the problem. When the answer is found gamma particles line up, as if incandescent, and we have an answer. I wake up with a newly configured image in mind that is some interesting combination of those half-formed ideas I’d been flirting with before, now reformed by the subconscious into something much more germane and complex in meaning.

Recently my concerns about the environment have become the subject of my work, imagining what a hotter world might look like, how we might adapt, where and how we might live. But the deeper content of the work is never clear to me until I’m inside the painting, where it will then show me what I really care about.

WTR: Can artists truly make anything original? How?

JH:  Is a dream original? Yes and no. There’s the ‘new’ to each individual, but that’s always relative. What’s original is the new combination of things aligned with a fresh perspective that allows me to see things I’ve known in a way I hadn’t before. Spilled paint wasn’t new to Pollock – he just noticed how beautiful the drips on his studio floor were (as most artists do) and took them seriously. I don’t worry about originality – I don’t think any serious artist does. It cannot be the first thing on your mind when you go into the studio, or you wouldn’t be able to work; and if it’s the last thing you think about when you leave the studio you

probably weren’t working hard enough. I think most of us just want to notice more, make things that surprise us, that we can get pulled into, like a gambit or a hike through unknown territory. It has to feel new and urgent, but original? – I don’t think it’s up to artists to worry about that.