Guanabacoa, some 20 kilometers from the center of Havana, the multifaceted artist Tomás Núñez has restored an old building as a home, studio, gallery, and community center, a comprehensive project that he has been named 259 Corral Falso, the address on the street that has welcomed the event.
The inauguration of the centenary residence, surrounded by lush, green gardens and adorned with several of the artist’s sculptures, has seen no better moment than the opening of the exhibition that Núñez - known by friends and colleagues as Johny - entitled, appropriately, Jardín (Garden).
A collateral site for the XIII Havana Biennial, the show includes ten large format pieces, which combine shapes and elements in the now-recognized Nuñez manner. He says that he has taken “a sort of turn, since I have incorporated canvas as a support or background, you could say theatrically, on which I work seeking volume. I am not content when I see something flat. That’s why I always say I’m not a painter.”
By invitation, we visited the studio-gallery and conversed about the exhibition, his creative efforts, and community work.
How does the exhibition relate to the Biennial’s theme of “Construction of the possible”?
It fits because the house’s garden and the exposition have been constructed beginning long ago. I am not attempting to make a direct reference to the novel Jardín by Dulce María Loynaz, but it has something to do with the garden as an interlocutor, a meditation on the arts, and the possibility to create a different space on the basis of some leftover scrap.
I began many years ago and, without realizing it, felt obliged to work with recycled elements. Maybe it was because of the shortage of materials, but since then I’ve used everything I could find, ceramic, glass, metal, paper, elements discarded by others.The ocher colors?Somehow it is a way to rescue all those elements that at one time had color, and I give them a patina that adds an antique quality, that they have seen some time.
The issue is that people think that something pretty has bright, happy colors. I don’t see it that way. Something ugly that I find on the street can be lovely because of its significance and other pieces have a beautiful feeling as a result of their history. I love beauty from all its points of view. The dark is not ugly; it has its own significance, a peace, not always sadness.
Tell us about your creative process?
I’m very spontaneous and work with a general idea. In my workshop, I have a kind of archive of elements that I find and save, that at some point I find a use for.
It’s not a bunch of things randomly placed. It’s not a mess. Every element in the piece must have just the right place. In the end, Jardín is a perfect metaphor for life. It must be created, cared for, developed - always under construction.
Tomás Núñez is part of the XIII Biennial, and he has also been invited to participate in the collective exposition of contemporary Cuban art, HB, in Havana’s Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro and the ceramics show in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
The expansive Ninth Biennial offers Havana a special opportunity to appreciate the international and Cuban contemporary visual arts scene.Beginning April 12 and over the course of a month, the Cuban capital, which is celebrating its half millennium, opens its doors to more than 200 artists presenting their work in different genres, installations, performances, video art, and painting.Margarita González, assistant director of the event and the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, noted the presence of works by creators from Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, France, Peru and Spain.
La construcción de lo posible is the curatorial axis of this edition, González said, a broad theme addressed from different points of view: ecology, interpersonal relations, and the exchange of knowledge, to learn “what is happening with man in the contemporary world, considering migration and many other factors that affect society.”
The core of the Biennial is composed of approximately 80 artists from Cuba (17) and abroad, selected by the curatorial team, with works that dialogue with the chosen theme, which have been placed in institutions affiliated with the Visual Arts Council, the City Historian’s Office, the Guanabacoa Museum, and Pabellón Cuba.Also noteworthy are collateral exhibitions and collective projects such as Detrás del Muro, created in 2012 and continued in 2015 as part of the official exhibition, with pieces advocating the insertion of art in one of the capital’s most significant public spaces, the waterfront Malecón.Other collective shows can be seen in the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Factoría Habana, the Arts Institute (ISA), and the very important Línea Street cultural corridor. This central artery in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood is the object of a extensive new revitalization project, to be completed within three years.