On how to redefine our notion about landscape*

/ 1 December, 2017


Part of the obsession I will share here arose several years ago, to be exact on a 2005 morning, while preparing myself to paint doors in the air along the Havana sea wall (Malecón), an action that brought about Finisterre, an eleven–picture sequence work documenting my actions on the wall and that I later digitally “painted” on the computer. In that process I realized I was painting “landscapes”, an expression approached at present from varied interdisciplinary lines (…).

I remember by December 2011, (…) I was in my second year at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA) and I had to submit several projects for the Environmental Sculpture Workshop taught by Jose Ángel Vincench, a context that generated Paisaje itinerante and Reconciliación, then conceived for spaces in ISA and subsequently exhibited in public spaces in the capital.

By then, the Shitao’s (1642-1707) painting treaty had made it into my hands, clarifying much of my inner turmoil (…) This brief writing is first of all a manual, a set of recommendations to better perform as a painter, with unquestionable ethical implications, provided with a metaphysical position. Although the treaty that revolutionized Chinese painting can be seen applicable only to painting, it sparked in me the willingness of an “encounter” with a landscape beyond painting. (…)

Reconciliación (Reconciliation) was created to mix with the urban landscape. This was a standard streetlamp that illuminates opposite directions of a street, with the usually straight, extended arms of the two lamps intertwined to form one. The two lights used were public lamps from Cuba and the United States. (…)


In the year 2015, I launched the call for collaborations for the Árbol de Luz (Tree of Light)[i] (…) The idea appeared in the series Estructuras Sensibles, even before Reconciliación. (…) But the Tree, together with other ideas from the same series, waited for a budget or for the opportunity to be made. Then, in 2015, for the 12th Havana Biennial, I saw the chance to dust it off, on being invited to the second edition of Detrás del Muro. The site selected for its location was La Punta, in the intersection of Malecón and Paseo del Prado (Prado Promenade).

The call for collaborations was launched months before, sent to email addresses, and published on social media. Initially, there was great uncertainty for those working on the project. Some lamps from different nations were in Cuba, most sent by persons who wanted to cooperate from their home countries. We gathered lamps from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, the United States, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

(…) Once the Biennial had ended, we pleasantly learnt that Eusebio Leal, historian of the city, had appointed a place for the permanent exhibition of the Tree of Light. With the collaboration of the Office of the City Historian and the Cuban Cultural Goods Fund (FCBC), the art work was donated to the city and positioned on a mound especially built for it in front of the Museum of the Revolution, diagonal to the Fine Arts Museum on the corner of Monserrate and Aguacate, in Old Havana.

Precisely during the Biennial, we started negotiating the possibility to place a Tree of Light in Miami, upon the request of philanthropist and collector Jorge Pérez. A couple of years later, at the beginning of 2017, the layouts and drawings of that Tree started. (…) So far we have received some shipments, many are interested in participating and we hope we can put together lamps from seventeen countries. Before long, the artwork shall be permanently installed in Miami, in a public park on land donated to the city by The Related Group.

* Rafael Villares, Estructuras Sensibles. Sobre como redefinir nuestra noción de paisaje. ISA Bachellor Thesis, 2015.

[i] The call for collaborations can be found at www.rafaelvillares.com

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