Alberto J. Carol – Portrait of an Artist in the Post “ism” Age
It is fitting that Exhibeo Art Magazine should open 2016 with a bang, and by that I am referring to my correspondence with an artistic and intellectual power keg of a man – Cuban artist Alberto J. Carol. Over the course of the last months of 2015, Alberto and I exchanged some thoughts about the power of art, the difficult but no less necessary task of artistic renewal in a post “ism” age, the purpose of art in this new context and a shared sense that the prevailing artistic trend of the immediate future will probably be built on the foundations of figurative realism.
Without further ado, I present you with this most fruitful and engaging exchange with Mr. Alberto J. Carol…
Jonathan: Before we unpack your varied and incredibly nuanced portfolio, I’d like you to tell me about this painting “Authoritarian Form”. This is a sinister and incredibly oppressive piece of art. Please understand that I mean this as a compliment. It is precisely these elements that make it so compelling to look at. There is a combination of anthropomorphic features – those stubby yet imposing hands for instance (I imagine them coated with fetid sweat) – that you combine in a disconcerting way with inanimate objects that convey power (I detect elements of a throne), in such a way that we’re left with an uneasy feeling as we gaze at this hybrid infernal one eyed creature. So tell me… what does this piece mean to you? Why did you paint it? What do you wish to communicate to the viewer with this piece?
AJC: Well Jonathan, your perception and understanding of “Authoritarian Form” is right on target. That’s very rewarding for me as an artist because you grasped, even emotionally, what I wished to communicate…to myself.
When one looks at the painting, what can be seen? First, it’s a diamond, an intrinsically expanding shape, more intense than a square, a rectangle or a circle. Then, the over sized, painstakingly realistic hands which, though resting, are potentially capable of striking without notice (as a painter friend of mine pointed out when he saw the picture–you added fetid sweat).
A pupil stares at the viewer from the upper vortex of a form with arms and groin clad in a brown suit. It also embodies parts of what could be a throne. Visually, the whole functions as a pyramid: a solid, static mass difficult to topple. The bright and detailed anatomy of the hands creates a sharp contrast -chromatically and tonally- against a somber environment of black, brown and dark gray. We are before a hybrid uncommon enough to grab the viewer’s attention; human enough to be credible; monstrous enough to be disquieting; intelligible enough to be associated with people’s life experiences of oppression, whether from a state, an institution or an individual.
That’s what the painting means to me: a menacing symbol of oppressive power. I painted it because I’ve experienced the consequences of power of that kind in different circumstances, places and walks of life and moreover, they assault me everyday from the screens of the computer and the TV and from the pages of newspapers, magazines and letters. I firmly wish my painting to provoke reflection, introspection and the rejection of the human condition’s traits that it attempts to symbolize. The painting has resonated with you and many others.
But let me tell you an intriguing story: “Authoritarian Form” was first exhibited at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida, two years ago. The night of the opening, I was standing alongside the painting chatting with viewers who quickly connected with its intended meaning. Then, a very elegant lady approached me asking about the painting’s “message”. As soon as I began my already self-confident explanation I noticed her disappointment: “Oh, I thought it was a cult figure”, she interrupted me. Apparently, the lady was enthralled by “Authoritarian Form” and ready to surrender.
Jonathan: Touché! This painting has a few formal points in common with your Duchamps Suite. The main thing is the hybridity of the subject (and that really is the overarching common thread to all your work – it is present even in your exquisite “Portraits of Nature” suite). But I link this stand alone piece to the Duchamp suite mainly because of its subversive appeal that explores the terrain of primal drives: mainly undercurrents of the bestial aspects of sexuality and domination. But before we start unpacking specific trajectories, tell me about your creative process. What motivates you to paint? More importantly, describe your work program. Your work is strongly anchored in process and historical dialogue, why? How do you develop your ideas and how do you execute them? What are you and your work about?
AJC: A merit of “Authoritarian Form” is that it boosts the viewer’s imagination which in turn enriches the painting’s meaning. A stand alone piece? No; rather the onset of a new body of work, slowly taking shape – not necessarily focused on oppression. But it’s premature to talk about it.
I paint because I need to express myself visually. It’s a natural inclination I’ve strongly felt and practiced since childhood. As far back in time as I can recall, I see myself drawing with color pencils countless episodes of a single narrative: the fight between cowboys and Indians. In my drawings, the Indians were always victorious. When I was in third grade, I presented my teacher a collection of drawings about prominent events in Cuba’s history. It was my own, isolated, extra-curricular initiative. Growing up, the tendency increased – now consciously – encompassing past and current events in the world around me, including the various cultures – both immediate and remote – that I encountered. John Donne once observed: “No man is an island unto himself.” The world affects each and every one of us multilaterally. Better to engage it. On the one hand, it’s an ethical imperative and on the other, engaging the world improves one’s chances of succeeding in it.
I entered art school bypassing admission tests, halfway through the course after showing to an improvised faculty meeting three realistic drawings: two birch trees (copied from a soviet magazine) and a portrait of Tchaikovsky (copied from a soviet biography). Ever since, my work has been centered – either simultaneously or alternatively – on landscape and the human figure.
At that stage of my development, I strove to reproduce as faithfully as possible the chosen model – not an easy task: you always have to re-create. The [Cuban] National School of Arts, founded by the Revolution in the early 1960s, was heavily oriented towards Modernism and the education I received there radically changed my ideas about art and my creative process. We barely had academic training and no instruction in the traditional painting techniques. The overriding emphasis was on creativity and experimentation. In hindsight, such an approach has its benefits but also huge flaws. Whatever I may have accomplished technically in painting as a whole and particularly in realism, is self-taught through trial and error, books, studying the masters at the museums and direct observation of Nature and people.
So where do I stand now? I have no conflict with the ways the physical world appears through our senses and appeals to our spirits. Moreover, very often it’s a source of pure enjoyment for me. I disagree with Kandinsky in that representation is an obstacle to the higher manifestation of the spiritual in art. Thatsaid, what he painted remains very dear to me.
Anyways, after indoctrination in Modernism, I sought tradition and found in it a renewed source of vitality. I spend lengthy periods of time contemplating Rembrandt, Velázquez, as well as Soutine, De Kooning, Burri (to name but a few examples).
I abhor dogmas of any kind and feel equally comfortable with heritage and rupture.
So in my case, the lodestar is not the formal dimension of art which I deem and feel wide open, but the human content: the ideas, feelings, sensations – clear or obscure, pleasant or unpleasant – that fill art from within and make it meaningful and worthwhile. Thus, I pour my soul into any given project that genuinely motivates me and with freedom of the eye, freedom of the hand and freedom of the mind, while I employ the formal means I sense fitting to that specific task.
The creative process is flexible and adjusts according to the need of the moment. A determinant factor is intuition. I interact with the artwork, listen to what it’s telling me, following it wherever it leads me. I deliberately ignore the public and the market.
Your observations pertaining to hybridity as a running theme through my art is quite correct: there’s a profound hybridity at the core of all of my art and artistic personality. That explains why you can find in my “Portraits of Nature” a forest painted in blues or a landscape that, without intending to be surreal, integrates the real with the imagined; or the allegorical mix of Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo that my “Crossportraits” perform; or the irreverent treatment of Duchamp’s irreverence which ends up being strangely beautiful.
Your questions come in clusters. I hope I’ve not ranted.
Jonathan: Not at all and anyways, a well thought out rant is a fine thing to read!
You’ve touched on a few points here, some of which I relate to on an intensely personal level. I’m sure many artists would strongly identify with you when you state:
“Whatever I may have accomplished technically in painting as a whole and particularly in realism, is self-taught through trial and error, books, studying the masters at the museums and direct observation of Nature and people… After indoctrination in Modernism, I sought tradition and found in it a renewed source of vitality… I abhor dogmas of any kind and feel equally comfortable with heritage and rupture.”
However, I wonder if anything humans produce or articulate is entirely free of dogma. Even the statement: “The creative process is flexible and adjusts as needed” can be construed as a dogmatic. Language imposes contours to ideas… pegs them down in ways we wish it didn’t.
Perhaps we can frame this semantic debate within the broader context of another weird semantic term, namely: “the contemporary art world”. It seems to me that this term speaks of two things. In the first instance, the actual art that occupies space in this world seems to me mostly obstructive in nature and so obscure in its function that it is practically meaningless. The spatial suffix – the “world” in which this art exists has very little to do with the world we live in. It is a ruderless parallel universe that actively strives for non meaning: Derrida smoking crack on a pile of human hubris.
But if you take away the annoyingly elitist suffix “world”, there is the hope to reclaim this term simply as “art that is contemporaneous to the times in which it was created.” Simple and dogma free!
Once you unpack that for me, I would be interested in knowing what is your opinion of the contemporary art world? It is clear that this question preoccupies you. After all, many of your paintings are discoursing with Marcel Duchamps and Andy Warhol. These guys laid the foundation of this bizarre pseudo place called “the contemporary art world”… a place decorated by art you seem both attracted and repelled by.
AJC: Dogma. The Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary’s etymology of dogma is “that which one thinks true, an opinion, decree, from [the Greek] dokein, to think, seem.” In this sense dogma is everywhere, all the time in human activity and I don’t necessarily abhor this aspect of it.
However, the third definition of dogma introduces “an arrogant assertion of opinion.” Furthermore, the second definition of the adjectives dogmatic, dogmatical reads: “asserted a priori argument or without proof. ” Their synonyms: “imperious, dictatorial, authoritative, arrogant.” That’s also very frequent in all aspects of human behavior and I definitely abhor this facet of the term.
I will add that my personal experience of enduring a tyrannical regime in Cuba instilled in me the association of dogma with rigidity. Therefore, I don’t quite understand the dogmatic spin you perceive when I say that my creative process is flexible and adjustable as needed (unless you refer to the etymology of dogma in the Webster’s; something I believe is true).
Contemporary Art World. I do not think that contemporary art is limited to “art that is contemporaneous to the times in which it was created.” Such a definition is perhaps a bit reductive. Contemporary art exists in a complex, changing historical environment. At least in developed, democratic societies, we have at the local, regional, national and international levels, galleries, auction houses, art fairs, a broad array of juried exhibitions, art centers, museums, non-profit organizations and foundations, grants, artists associations, artists’ cooperatives, art magazines –printed and online- individual and corporate collectors, etc. Art Exhibeo is part of that wilderness in which multitudes of dreams and nightmares coexist and collide.
There are many artists out there, right now, creating high-quality art in different, even opposite directions. I’ve seen the work of some of them and it’s encouraging. But that’s not the whole picture. I notice a sectarian filter that discriminates against contemporary realism –an artistic approach that’s imposing an impressive surge yet is not adequately represented in the upper echelons of the system. The reason for this injustice is prejudice.
Moreover – and this is linked to what I just said – I do agree with you about the obscurity and estrangement of too big a portion of the art that circulates through a system that is structurally plural at the base but goes upwards like an inverted funnel privileging this type of product. Paradoxically, many of those works are shrewdly presented as innovative and socially engaged. I would add that not a small chunk of what is promoted and sometimes sold at astronomical prices is of dubious artistic quality, to say the least.
There’s an anxiety to break boundaries and new ground but what I see is mostly recycling of the already recycled. I have the suspicion that “Avant-garde” has become trite; the “New”, decrepit, barren. No doubt in my mind that we owe it in great measure to postmodern dogmas of extreme relativism and skepticism. Mastery, beauty, the sublime, are outcasts.
If “art is anything you can get away with” (Warhol), art is nothing and gets nowhere. In a recent interview the famed Venezuelan Op artist Carlos Cruz Diez pointed out: “We are seeing the end of a civilization and the beginning of another one. The last years are the decline of Duchamp’s academy. In art there are three stages: who invents it; who develops the inventor’s ideas and who perverts them. Now we are living the perversion, but it’s normal. Every perversion and decadence is synonymous with progress. Wonderful things that we don’t suspect are in the making” (El País, Madrid, Feb. 24, 2014; translation is mine). I hope he is right.
Warhol. I value and have learned from his formal inventiveness–particularly from the interaction and integration of the figurative and the abstract, whether flat or gestural. But except for his early series on disasters, the civil rights demonstrations and the electric chair–which I find powerful–I don’t connect nor agree with his Duchampian indifference regarding content which, in my opinion, is a deeper concept than that of subject matter. He turns everything into a nice and distant thing, deprived of feeling – even in his supposedly erotic works – and of course, moral judgment. To render Lenin and Mao as if they were movie stars is for me obnoxious. In my Crossportraits, I mix Warhol with Frida Kahlo who, in spite of a few common personality traits, is artistically his opposite. In my Crossportraits he is portrayed quite differently from the icon people are used to see.
Duchamp. It’s obvious how influential he has been and still is. For better or worse, Duchamp is important. But my empathy with his oeuvre is zero. Moreover, I reject his rejections. That’s why I embarked on the Suite Duchamp – a body of work that submits his most emblematic production and his artistic persona to an irony and irreverence as caustic as his. I do this employing exclusively the pictorial language he deemed obsolete.
Jonathan: Regarding your depiction of Warhol in Crossportraits – it is true that he is portrayed here quite differently than the carefully controlled iconic image that we all know so well. Some love this image and still celebrate it as avant-garde. I must confess that I do not. I can’t connect to art that is basically a zero sum equation of style and vacuous irony. Warhol’s first casualty in this respect was his own self image: carefully stylized and vacuously ironic. With Warhol, there is no strong leanings, no sense of conviction about anything, no active involvement with the subject… no humanity. I understand that for many, that is precisely the appeal. That’s fine – but to me, Warhol is the Manchurian candidate of the art world… a wind-up toy that runs off a sleuth of soup cans and Mona Lisas while a mechanical voice ceaselessly utters “Uh, gee, great” over and over and over from some hidden voice box. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
Now your Crossportrait series does something interesting with this overwhelmingly frigid persona: you humanizing him. Of course, your vision of Andy’s humanity suggests deep layers of neurosis (“Wounded Deer”, “The Mask” “Nostalgia” and “Alter Ego” speak to me of trauma based Dissociative Identity Disorder) while “Necklace of Thorns” seems to question the man’s humanity altogether… All in all, this series takes me on a compelling, aesthetically pleasing but also kind of horrific journey into a weird parallel universe where Frida Khalo and Andy Warhol (I mean really…of all possible combinations, this has got to be among the most incongruous) are alter identities that are part of a hitherto unknown entity hinted at in an esoteric manner in the piece “Black Sun”.
You seem to be using this series as an allegory of some sort of alchemical unification of opposing forces. Is that a correct assessment? Would you care to elaborate on this?
AJC: Yes, I humanize Warhol with a transfusion of Frida Kahlo’s blood, precisely the kind of intake that his organism would be incapable to assimilate. And vice versa, I adorn Frida, her troubled and straightforward humanity, with an array of Warhol’s brilliant makeups…the kind of decoration she would definitely discard.
What’s surprising is that in some paintings like “The Party”, “Superstar”, “Glamour”, “Double Frida”, “Most Wanted”, “Mexican of the 20th Century”, the otherness seems to fit in and even underscore traits of the receiving self.
I’m aware it’s bizarre, but absolutely heartfelt and backed up by an inescapable artistic intuition. I stand by them. They perform two additional ruptures: the mechanical reproduction and the repetition-–so typical of Warhol’s output–are subverted by painstaking hand-crafted techniques and by completely new versions of the same portrait in every link of the chain. They speak–through allegorical cultural hybrids of two very familiar and commodified icons–about disparity, friction and antagonism but also about harmony and complementation between cultures and personalities that for whatever reason come together and interact.
It happens everywhere most of the time and grows exponentially, for better or worse, in our inevitably globalized world. I’ve lived it and continue to experience it in my personal and professional endeavors. The Crossportraits may be a reflection–at an allegorical level that relate to many issues without being limited to a single one–of those existential dynamics that mark with danger and promise our present times.
Jonathan: Regarding your Duchamp series: It seems to me that this series functions as a cautionary fable – and like all fables, the moral of the story is exploited through humour.
If you had written this story instead of painting it, it would run something like this:
Once upon a time, in what seems like a long time ago, humans engaged in this thing called Fine Art. For the longest time, Fine Art required actual skill: an understanding of proportion and volume, the ability to draw, paint and sculpt and build structures according to plan in order to produce something that – regardless of subject matter – tapped into aesthetic beauty by way of the mysteries of geometry.
Now it is true that that kind of art is still produced today, but it no longer occupies the privileged position of Fine Art as it did in the days of old. And the reason for this is because a guy by the name of
Marcel Duchamps came along one day and took Fine Art hostage. He locked up the aesthetic of old in a dungeon and threw away the key.
He then replaced the old way of doing things with a concept called “ready made” where anything at all could be elevated to Fine Art. Thus began Western civilization’s artistic descent into chaos. This New avant-garde aesthetic redefined Fine Art completely. Functional objects denaturalized from their original function paved the way. Coat hangers, umbrella holders and porcelain receivers of piss made Rembrandt’s innovative late career looseness seem positively archaic and stuffy in comparison.
Artists traded in their brushes and chisels for shovels. They then began to shovel piles of their own shit into cans and this too became Fine Art.
As for Duchamp, he was posthumously crowned King and Lord over this hubristic land where vainglorious mental masturbation continues to be favoured over genuine inventiveness, passion and actual skill.
Does this story correlate with what you set out to achieve with this series? Do you have anything additional to add?
AJC: The Suite Duchamp is made up of many fables: one for each painting. An irony directed against Duchamp’s irony pervades all of the pieces, albeit in different degrees and ways.
In “Consummation” for instance, Duchamp’s famous readymade “Fountain” is completed by a jet of water, thereby taming, neutralizing and countering his subversive gesture. But in “Regression” the readymade is repositioned to its original place on a wall and filled with urine, which is a much more caustic approach.
In “Dungeon” and “Dungeon II” the Venus of Milo and Michelangelo’s David are imprisoned in Duchamp’s readymade “Bottle Rack” clearly pointing to his attitude towards tradition and its consequences, whereas in “The Pinch” it is the Duchesse de Villars –from the anonymous painting of the Second School of Fontainebleau in 1594- who, resting her right arm on a canvas instead of a bathtub, squeezes with her left hand the purported nipple of the bride element in Duchamp’s “Great Glass”; evidently, a revenge of tradition. And so on.
What all these stories have in common is that the readymades, other Duchamp’s works and his own image are re-contextualized attending not only to the concept he imposed on them but to their visual traits, the so-called “retinal” values he so petulantly underestimated. This is a relevant ironic dimension. Thus, “Hat Rack” and “Bottle Rack” placed on his head become a Crown and a hypothetical Concept Launcher; the moustache and the goatee he mocked the Mona Lisa with cause the same effect when stuck on “Rrose Sélavy”, his feminine alter ego. And so forth.
Another shared dimension of irony is that the Suite Duchamp is executed exclusively by means of the pictorial language Duchamp deemed obsolete. All his readymades and objects are conquered by painting if you will, brought back to the realm of aesthetics, rescued by Beauty and moreover, in a style rooted in the classical tradition diametrically opposed to his goals and prejudices.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but to my knowledge, no other artist has ever before done something about Duchamp’s oeuvre and artistic persona with such extension, consistency and irreverent originality. If you put the Suite Duchamp in the context of the contemporary art world… I’m really going against the grain, which is to say that I’m in trouble because all the rhetoric about “thought- provoking” art, “pushing the envelope” and the like, is mostly fake, sheer snobbery. But to be fair, nobody can fully foresee or control the consequences of his or her acts. Duchamp opened up possibilities and paths that have been employed later on by other artists with perspectives and goals quite different from his.
Some examples: “Disks Bearing Spirals” (1923) can be considered a forerunner of the Op Art; the evolution of the Readymade into the broader concept of “Found Object” is a component of the work of many important contemporary artists; the use of unconventional materials is essential to the fabulous contributions of Burri and Miyares.
Jonathan: I’d like to expound a bit on your comments about the state of contemporary art… you state above that there is a general propensity to filter out art that goes back to the business of making art built upon the foundations of classical canons of aesthetics where instead “Mastery, beauty, the sublime, are outcasts.”
I agree with that – at least to a degree. But what about actual content and a driving concept behind that content? I see a lot of aesthetically pleasing art anchored in realism that is rather bland and uninteresting. Given the choice between that and Soutine’s black abstractions, I’d rather look at Soutine. There’s content there. The issue, to me, is not necessarily the aesthetic mode of expression or pictorial “ism” (let’s face it, the era of “isms” is done), but rather it is the more profound question of a general lack of actual content… no message, no thought process, no narrative driving force behind the picture. Without a story anchored in the human condition, it’s just wallpaper… decorative tripe.
Where and how do you draw the line between “mere” decorative art (which we both know has always been produced) and a piece of art that transcends mere decoration and arrives at that special place where concept and aesthetic come together in symbiotic union and give birth to something great?
AJC: Art stems exclusively from talent. To create great art, great talent is indispensable. Any subject matter, even the most trivial-–or no subject matter at all– can be the threshold of exceptional human content and aesthetic value provided that a talented artist pours his or her soul into it and “beyond it” (to use Wyeth’s expression).
Examples abound in different artistic styles and periods of art history: the modest, worn out shoes painted by Van Gogh; Wyeth’s “Slight Breeze”; Durer’s “Turf”; Goya’s “Half-sunken Dog”; Picasso’s “Goat”; Kandinsky’s “Improvisation,” to name just a few. These are examples of humble subject matters –or its absence- elevated to universal content and aesthetic masterpieces. As for the decorative, it can be great art too. Think of Marie Van Oosterwijck’s still lifes with flowers or the Art Nouveau movement. The decorative can become transcendental and vice versa, something with important narrative and high aspirations can end up being shallow. For me the divide is between the deep and the superficial; between Beauty and the mere pretty; artistic quality or the lack of it. Superficiality is a constant threat for everybody including representational art in general and realism in particular. Depth is only accessible through artistic talent.
But to be fair, talented artists, even geniuses, are not equally deep all the time. That’s why when great art is achieved it is so precious. If we shift our attention to the contemporary art’s historical and cultural context, at least for me, things get entangled: I don’t understand, for instance, the forces underpinning the worship of banality –the superficial- nor that people who are very successful in their respective fields of entrepreneurship can be rather easily coaxed to pay a lot of money for products whose scarce aesthetic significance is not difficult to grasp. Which factors in contemporary society propitiate and stimulate these alienations? Maybe you can help me to find the answer.
Jonathan: That’s the wonderful thing about symbolic imagery – it expresses a wide range of inter related ideas at the same time. Symbols are multi vocal – they speak with multiple voices; they are polysemic – they have multiple layers of interconnected meaning; and they are multivalent in that they make multiple appeals.
So when I say above that art devoid of actual content is bad – I am not so much referring to a lack of complex subject matter, but rather art that fails to pour out the content of the soul into the work. I agree that simple subject matter can be quite powerful … if it has been enlivened with the contents of the human soul and taps into that nebulous place in the brain (the thalamus perhaps) where we process symbolic imagery.
Simple things: Dogs, goats, turf and breeze have, in the Human mind, complex associative emotions and imagery. A “talented” artist is an artist that can open up that evocative primordial universe of thoughts and feelings in their seminal form. Some artists have it even if the skills in draftsmanship are not so great. Others have amazing draftsmanship, but lack the other more mysterious talent of of actually moving you in the direction of the sublime. I think you’ll agree that not all paintings depicting shoes and dogs constitute great art. It’s a strange thing, “talent”. We know it when we see it, and we know when it’s absent, but it remains an elusive thing.
As for the overlap between the decorative and conceptual qualities of art, well, yes… that overlap has always been there. The decorative aspect is actually important because it taps into human notions of beauty at any given time. But like you say, the real divide is between the profound and the superficial. That’s where you and I share a very real concern: when did the trite, the banal and the flimsy become beautiful? What does this say about us?
And yes, even with the great artists, one is presented with art where we’re left with a sense that the piece before us is a little voulu… sometimes it records an instance where the artist was trying too hard to a very bad effect, or worse… no effect at all. Francis Bacon had a good policy going in this respect… he would go out of his way to destroy these pieces.
But we haven’t talked about your “Portraits of Nature” which I find quite beautiful. Here you use color to surprising effect. A rubber plant painted in orange hues ceases to be a rubber plant. Changing the known and familiar color of things frees the viewer of immediate and obvious associations. It’s an interesting experience, visually. Would you like to tell me more about this series?
AJC: Since early childhood I have felt a profound spiritual connection with Nature, especially the forest. It has had and will always have a considerable impact in my artistic output.
In 1982 I began Trópico, a series of drawings and paintings combining figures and landscapes. Soon the landscape took over completely a body of work that stretched for more than a decade and evolved from an expressionist style into a full-fledged magical realism. I ended up calling it Portraits of Nature.
Trópico depicted the forest from within as if the viewers were trapped in it. All the paintings were imaginary, invented realities. Nature was not the model: it was the symbol through which I conveyed my emotions and feelings . That’s also the case in the Portraits of Nature but with the difference that at some point in time I started taking photographs and basing my paintings on them- -although frequently as a point of departure.
In the Portraits of Nature some components of the landscape that were not present in Trópico come to the fore: the sky, water, the forest seen from afar. Nonetheless, oversizing, the use of close ups and the arbitrary color remain essential traits of the way I render Nature because it’s how I see and feel it. Reality remains recognizable yet enriched by intensely subjective representations. I really enjoy doing this and see no reason for stopping, especially in times of environmental fragility and climate change.
Jonathan: They really are beautiful Alberto…
I’ll wrap this up with one last question: what are you working on these days? You mentioned at the beginning of this interview that you were developing the underlying themes of “Authoritarian Figure” into a full-fledged series. Can you tell me more about that?
AJC: The world is in turmoil. I’m painfully aware of the injustices and dangers that surround and threaten our very existence as civilized and free societies. I have some ideas that have to do with that awareness and my responsibility as a human being -who happens to be an artist- regarding those issues of our time. I’ll work on that trend slowly, gingerly.
In the meantime, I’m painting some Portraits of Nature, benefiting from the healing power of beauty.
Jonathan: Alberto, thank you so much for your time and erudition. This has been a wonderful experience.
AJC: Thank you! That is a mutual feeling…
For the pleasure of viewing the full spectrum of Alberto’s work, be sure to visit his website: albertojorgecarol.com