Culture, Multiculture, Our People, Visual Arts

Maykel Herrera: thematic unity, colour and coherence

This Cuban painter’s work is composed of allegories and playful images that, mixed with a range of painting techniques, burst out with seductive force into the reality of each viewer.

 

Ivan Herrera

 

Famous for reflecting on children in his work, he is also known for combining materials such as acrylic and oils, ochres and reds, and even elements of abstraction to reinforce his presentation, although he does not define himself as an abstract painter.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, the artist stressed that his work is part of the figurative art movement, in that he relies upon representations of people and everyday objects, but out of context. Among his pieces we can find weapons, telescopes, speakers, animals, fruits, pans, caps, helmets and other equipment related to children that demonstrate the various psychological peculiarities of human beings.

According to Herrera, it is vital for him to use little ones in his creations, as they help to reinforce the message that he wants to communicate, as well as allowing him to take the viewer on an enriched journey with multiple interpretations.

“I turn to them only in the conceptual sense, as an expressive resource or visual path. They imprint a sense of naiveté and self-assurance in my work, something positive which connects with and sensitises the adult public more quickly,” added the author.

In order to exercise his social criticism and point out the imperfections of being human, the creator of series including Dwarf Princes (Príncipes enanos) and Truth Seems a Story (La verdad parece un cuento), uses satire, jokes and irony as motors to drive his work.

However, his work goes beyond playful and childish images and he prefers not to be recognised just as a painter of children. He believes that behind each creation there exists a message, which could be of satisfaction or pain, for him to transmit.

In this way, he considers his creations to also be a reflection of society and the people around him; this is where he gets his commitment to the most pressing problems of the individuals. Therefore, each detail in his pieces has a function to satisfy those expressive needs; working without technical prejudice and without neglecting any artistic device.

He takes advantage of even a stream of colour that falls unexpectedly right the way through to a patina, a type of less vivid hue that gives a sense of ageing and is also associated with the characteristics of the town in which he lives.

“All these years of work have allowed me to develop a painting technique that suggests wear. I make a type of mixture for the base, with aggressive textures and strokes influenced by the North American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock,” explains the artist.

As well as this painter who is known for his unusual way of splattering paint, he recognises the influence on his work from Joaquín Sorolla and Leopoldo Romañach’s techniques. They provided him with ways of addressing each work with an emphasis on visual elements, such as textures, illumination and glazing, a technique that allows smoother tones.

According to his comments, his creative process goes in stages, with defined routes in the series where each one has a specific aim, so that all the pieces breathe as a thematic unit and move in a coherent way.

These and other elements – enrichments of his creations – have allowed him to participate in more than 30 private exhibitions and make a collection of a hundred exhibits in Cuba and other countries.

His paintings are also found in private collections in Germany, France, Spain, United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, Bahamas, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Greece, Costa Rica, Andorra, Argentina, Japan, China, Holland, Belgium, Lebanon and Brazil amongst others.

Also, he has various awards from national and international competitions. He recently won the World Quality Commitment prize in the Gold category at the BID International Convention of Quality, Innovation and Excellence in Paris, France. This is a prize created to reward prestige and quality in the work of businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs in different fields, including the arts.

Origins

From childhood he has been linked to other forms of culture. As well as the visual arts, he also took music classes and dabbled with poetry.

For part of his childhood he took piano lessons, an activity in which he seemed to have some ability judging by his teachers’ notes and comments, but his interest in painting was greater.

For Herrera, he had an obviously cultural environment at home as his father always encouraged an appreciation for good art. So, at night he played his guitar and his love of the poetry of Juan Manuel Serrat, among other singer-songwriters, was very clear.

From the time he was young, Herrera took pencils and special pens from his father’s technical drawing table and made his first cartoons that he then improved, thanks in part to his father’s encouragement.

In primary school, he was frequently scolded for his caricatures and drawings in class. This situation continued until he was a teenager, when he began taking lessons at a painting workshop. His link with this workshop came as a relief, as he no longer got into trouble. Then, he arrived at the Camagüey School of Arts, located in the province of the same name, more than 500 km from Havana.

After finishing his studies in this school he spent several years in the Fidelio Ponce de León art room, a meeting place where the talented of the province converged, and where he won a prize of the same name that gave him the push to take his career as a painter very seriously. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison. Email: donna_davison@hotmail.com) – Fotos: Wikimedia Commons

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