A CUBAN LOOK

 

A CUBAN LOOK

 

Solo exhibition of cuban artist Jan Valdes, curated by Conchi Alvarez.

 

Upon approaching the work of Jan Valdés, a Cuban artist based in Madrid, the first impression we receive is the light and colour of his oil paintings. Along comes the originality and, as a good Cuban, the display of a large dose of humour throughout the exhibition.

 

His paintings are figurative and difficult to categorise univocally, as they swing between surrealism, magical realism, symbolism, and even certain Pop Art. All of the paintings tell a story, as Jan is a writer who uses sharp brushes to practice criticism, satire, irreverence, and even cynicism. This is the essence of his Cuban gaze, in an eclecticism that draws from many influences to obtain the necessary resources to develop his critical spirit. But there is no common thread in the exhibition, it is not a novel, it is nine short stories, and each one of them is a beginning and an end in itself. That is why it is unnecessary to follow an order in the exhibition to be able to understand it.

 

Jan’s influences are not to be sought out; they are evidentially present. In the same way that great writers and thinkers are quoted to reinforce and assert an idea, Jan paraphrases other painters, sometimes convulsively, almost excessively, with the references forming a collage conducive to reviewing our knowledge of the History of Art. And thus appears, some of the greatest artists roaming through his pieces: Dalí, Matisse, Wifredo Lam, Frida Kahlo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Hockney, Hokusai, and… even Walt Disney. This artistic impulse towards these geniuses of the past is neither new, nor original to Jan. Bacon reinterpreted Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X in more than 40 paintings, studies, and sketches, and Picasso did it in more than 50 paintings with “Las Meninas” by the same author. It is clear that they were obsessed with Velázquez, and it could have been a tribute to him, but it could also have been a narcissistic attempt to surpass the master. However, this is not the case with Jan, who seems to seek the strength provided from these artistic masters, who reside already on Olympus.

 

In Jan’s canvases, the compositions range from the most classical arrangement of the elements to the baroque style, so deeply rooted in the Cuban tradition, which reaches the quasi-rococo in some pieces. In the scenes, with human beings ever-present, both indoors and outdoors, there is an abundance of exuberant nudes, indebted to the mannerism of the great Michelangelo, constituting amusing and ribald situations that invite us to smile. This can be a perfect thermometer to gauge our level of tolerance and prudishness. Yet there is also space for reflection on the reality of the emigrant who dreamt of fantastic worlds in the Promised Land, failing to find them, or the invitation to reconsider vital priorities as well as inner introspection. The critical vision of capitalist society and its contradictions are also there, very present, in line with the parodic side of the current Cuban scene.

 

 

 

JAN-VALDES
JAN VALDES TELLEZ
h

DONKEY DONUT ISSUES

Triptych. Oil on canvas

90 x 180 cm

h

CAYETANA THE WIDOW OF LA CASTELLANA

 Oil on canvas

90 x 60 cm

h

HOT DOG

Triptych. Oil on canvas

90 x 180 cm

h

THE MEADOW

Triptych. Oil on canvas

90 x 180 cm

h

FRIDA CUPCAKE, FRIDA MUFFIN

 Oil on canvas

120 x 100 cm

h

THE RED HEADBOARD

Triptych. Oil on canvas

90 x 180 cm

h

I WANT TO LIVE IN AMERICA…OR JUST LIVE

Óleo sobre lienzo

120 x 100 cm

h

THE OLD MAN AND THE EVIL

Triptych. Oil on canvas

90 x 180 cm

h

THE UNFORGIVABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

 Oil on canvas

120 x 100 cm