Globe, Multiculture, Our People, United Kingdom

A man from the countryside who works stone and sculpts lives

For Agustín Hernández Carlos, giving shape and life to stone goes beyond art. For him, sculpting is as important as passing on and sharing his knowledge and turning humble Cuban children into artists.

 

Yelena Rodriguez Velazquez

 

‘Piedrecita’ is the name of a small town in the Cuban province of Camagüey that, seen from the map, looks like just a fragment of rock with streets crossed by a railway line.

It was there that Agustín Hernández Carlos began his practice as a sculptor. There he began to carve out his story, or at least, his origin as a teacher, the one that makes him proud and feels truly his.

Recently qualified in the specialty of ceramics at an intermediate level from the school of visual arts, ready to “take on the world” to make his dreams come true, one day Agustín arrived in Piedrecita, in what was known as a tractor-bus.

“I just wanted to be consistent with my own experience,” he confesses. And in that, he staked everything for his heart’s desires, and took art to other children from humble and rural families to transform their reality and turn them into artists.

First as a student and then as an instructor, Hernández Carlos achieved his goals. He did it thanks to his perseverance and to an artistic education programme in Cuba, which includes the intuition that is the ‘Casas de Cultura’, to influence the aesthetic education of citizens.

Agustín remembers his teacher, a recent graduate like him, who patiently taught him how to hold a pencil to achieve better strokes in painting and made him “discover the charm of a still life.” He also recalls his teacher Marta Jiménez in ceramics classes. He tells Prensa Latina that touching and feeling the smell and texture of materials for the first time in his hometown of Florida gave him an indescribable feeling.

But the fraternal warmth of the gratitude from those children of Piedrecita also moves him, because it gives him immense joy to be part of their training and growth and to see many of them graduate in the visual arts.

He describes it now with few words, “the primary thing is the student” and the infinite presumption is knowing that you forged “a human being who is sensitive to what happens around him, with his own interests and criteria, beyond the artist.”

This story would be difficult to tell otherwise. The connection with that rural environment and the artistic and pedagogical wisdom acquired based on the heuristic method of trial and error created the support to shape the Agustín Hernández Carlos who arrived in Havana to bet on new horizons.

He then entered the Academia de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Abela Villareal (Academy of Visual Arts) and then the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro National (Academy of Fine Arts), where he consolidated ceramics as a means of expression and instruction, and this is where he remains.

The hallmark of Carlos (as he usually signs his work) is his love and dedication to “integrating into a group of students and colleagues who become friends and deal with differences in pedagogical concepts or the existence of conflicting methodologies.”

He is sure that what is beautiful lies specifically in diversity and teamwork, and he enjoys doing what he calls a “joint critique class” because it awakens the lagging student from lethargy, brings new perspectives to the one whose work is discussed and helps collective growth, even that of the teacher.

With a recognised body of work, which brings together busts, portraits, pictorial murals and monuments such as that of Major Ignacio Agramonte in Jimaguayú and that of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Loma del Taburete, Agustín Hernández Carlos once again opted for academia and proposed to enter the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA, known in English as the University of the Arts of Cuba).

“When you get to know the artistic education system, you identify certain theoretical “gaps” that you need to fill as a professional. What is the use of developing good work, if you are not able to understand it in depth, theorise about it and achieve an emotional and cognitive process?”

“Academia is not a straitjacket, and this is evidenced by, for example, Naïve art, created by the naïve artists who, however, develop in many of their works the sharpness of spontaneity and autodidacticism,” he adds.

“Art is free because it is a subjective phenomenon. The creator must get fully behind his work, concept, idea and strategy and, unfortunately, often face the dilemma of either “doing what generates the best income” or what he is most passionate about,” he says.  (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin) – Photos: Pixabay

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