Niels Reyes: Beyond the inertia

/ 21 October, 2014

Niels Reyes, like most of the artists of our time, is concerned about transcendence; he feels the urge to go down in history as one subject who was able to find his reason of being in the art. In the relatively short time he has been developing his work, he has been able to deploy, from creation, a solid aesthetic line, backed by awards such as the K.K.A internship, in Vienna (2012); or the recent Grand Prize of the expo-sale of Cuban contemporary art: Post-it (2013), in which second edition he participates as a juror.

His work speaks with a pictorial legitimacy that goes back to the very beginnings of Cuban art. From the oil paintings by Jean Baptiste Vermay, first director of the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts; to Cubist portraits by Servando Cabrera Moreno, or the baroque Floras by Portocarrero, his creation revisits a genre that has earned more than a few followers. However, amid a many times busy tradition; the young painter manages to find his own path. For him, the aesthetic principles of portrait go beyond the reproduction of mere facial features. He is not limited to the expression of a look, or the nakedness of a torso.

His Rostros (Faces) reflect that condition, exclusive of the artist, which lets him addressing other people’s lives and be nourished by their experiences. It is that “unquenchable desire to always be elsewhere”, that Junot Diaz mentioned at La breve y maravillosavida de Oscar Wao (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). Through his works, Niels transforms reality around him and arbitrarily reconstructs unknown stories. He is even capable of concocting stories that are extraordinarily fascinating. Each of his characters is the autonomous hero of his own sequence with the thickness of a past that agglomerates family histories, generational conflicts, nationalism; all in a sublime, evocative moment in which existence itself is reduced to a piece of canvas.

For the young artist, oil painting is a living space, the immediate circumstance of his characters; he burns in pastels and reveals expressions, moods. Oil painting represents the context, the past, the future; all juxtaposed in those volumetric layers; condensed around unavoidable looks. Beyond free effects, the imposition of the line, the destabilization of the forms, or even color distribution, prove it. These are resources that facilitate him the narrative of fragments, or better, segments of a distorted reality: a story without the use of the word; a masterful symbiosis between concept and form, which code is universal, but at the time unique, indivisible; arranged so that each viewer ̸ reader to find reflections of their own existence. Hence the indeterminacy is another of his weapons; an uncertainty that germinates in the cracks of the experience of others, and the creator knows-or fully manipulates.

“The art-as Philip Roth admits in Zuckerman desencadenado– is always controlled, directed, is always rigged. This is how it seizes the hearts of men.” Niels Reyes is fully aware of this, I can assure that. Hence, I refer to the idea of transcendence, to his compulsive need to contribute in some way to the modeling of Cuban art. Therefore, he insists on completion of his works, in an apparent chaos that eventually turns into order, cataloging and scrutiny of moods.

While imagining these visceral worlds and narrative flow through his hands; he leaves an indelible mark on the canvas, a brand that tells his story, the one of the man he was, or even that he could be. Definitely, there is an implicit voice in the inertia of those looks; in the traits reproduced by those Faces, that an avid receptor is able to read, between lines, the artist hidden on them. Transcendence-and excuse my insistence, once reached this point, stops being a problem.

Rigoberto Otaño Milián

Rigoberto Otaño Milián

La Habana, 1987. Licenciado en Letras por la Universidad de La Habana. Actualmente ejerce como especialista del sello editorial Collage Ediciones del Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales. Ha publicado textos sobre arte cubano en catálogos y revistas.

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