Maidelina Pérez, between religiousness and neo-medievalism

/ 1 September, 2018

The work of this Cuban artist unquestionably reached its most peculiar hallmark in the last decade. Concentrated on her creation—she has had relatively scant expositions, which she has held with extreme care in Cuba as well as in the United States—, Maidelina Pérez has stood out because of her very personal perspective, about which critics have preferably underlined her systematic religious theme. (…) She has worked on canvas as well as in ceramics not just faith and religious traditions, but also a very specific sensuality, as well as an ethical vision of contemporary life.

Her expressive singularity is established in a diverse series of components. Above all, there is a very clever recycling—and there are moments when it is stunning—of the medieval treatment of painting in its most canonic sense, but particularly certain traits of the illuminated manuscript: the intensity of the color, the clarity of the stroke, the interrelation between the letter (…) and painting, as well as a certain revival of a symbolic imagery that filed the Books of Hours of the bourgeois castles and palaces of the 14th and 15th centuries; a palpable expression of those references to the medieval and even renaissance past is found in canvases like Decorándose el alma or in Diálogo contrastante, but especially in El reflejo de su alma.

That tendency of hers appears at a very early stage in her paintings, and is consolidated, in my opinion, in a triumphant way in one of her pictorial series, Del amor divino, made between 2004 and 2005 (after a stay and two expositions in the United States), which clearly expresses a reinterpretation of the expressive means of the Middle Ages. I dare to speak of neo- medievalism precisely because it is a concept that—used for the first time by Umberto Eco, who originally was a specialist on the Middle Ages and later also on contemporary cultural processes— has gotten to the present as an imprecise term, as vague as the blurred logic of Lotf Asker Zadeh. Because the neo-medievalist visual discourse of Maidelina Pérez not only lacks a historic precision but is also marked by an integration of elements: thus, the plasticity of the old illuminated manuscript or of the Book of Hours appears transmuted by elements that already come from the 20th century Latin American painting, especially that of Frida Kahlo (…), but also from the legacy of pop art, although this element is more diluted and, perhaps, even transfigured (…) There are very few integrations as audacious as this one in Cuban painting, possibly achieved based on the artist’s profound and complex personal inquiries about essential questions of human existence, religiousness and also the complex affective life.

It thus is an unusual, very peculiar, visual neo-medievalism where the fusion of elements of a historic style is achieved through the creation of a truly unusual artistic discourse in which the religious imagery—at times close to the folkloric—of Cuban Catholicism is projected with a completely unexpected force. (…)

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