Adonis Flores - I'm Free to Express Myself
By: Mireya Castañeda
Adonis Flores (1971) reveals: “I am quite free to express myself. I have no limits with materials or genres; I use everything. I have no reservations, and I am open to all kinds of techniques and discourse.”
And with this auto-da-fé, he began a conversation with Cubaplus in the gardens of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), in an effort to discover some of the key elements of his work, which are recognizable in his series, Camuflajes (Camouflages).
His first personal exhibitions took place in the 1990s in his native province in central Cuba, Sancti Spíritus.
With the start of the new millennium, his exhibitions multiplied, still in his province. Not surprisingly, and in line with the adage “no man is a prophet in his own land,” they were immediately taken to the Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area, of Ontario, Canada in 2004 and 2005, and in 2006 to the Sideshow Festival, coinciding with the British Art Show in Nottingham, England.
And in 2007, the Galería Habana, one of the most prestigious galleries in the Cuban capital, invited him to present his exhibition Carne de Cañón (which includes works of the Camuflajes series), which won him praise from the critics.
The artist also has seen some of his work included in relevant collective exhibitions in Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, London and New York, and he took some very extensive personal exhibitions to Mexico City in 2007 and to Montreal in 2008.
In 2008, at the SCOPEFair in London, the work Visionario, which depicts a soldier who keeps watch by using toilet paper rolls as binoculars, had such an impact that the fair used it in its presentation for three years in a row.
How did everything begin in art for Adonis Flores?
“From a very young age. My mom had studied at the National Art School, and was part of its first graduation. She was very involved in the art world in Sancti Spíritus as a researcher, restorer and founder of what is now the provincial art event. As a very young child, I joined art circlesthat she had created. That's where my love for art comes from.”
First it was drawing…
“Yes, I started making very simple drawings and I gradually became better at it. I also made small carvings, clay sculptures. It was all like a child's game. Since the very beginning, drawing for me was like the handwriting I used to sketch my ideas, and little by little, all through my childhood, I understood my inclination. Together with my military education and my studies at Las Villas University, I continued to develop it and use it as one of my main tools.”
“Photography came around the year 2000, first in my documenting of different works, and then it developed until it had a meaning in and of itself (Lenguaje, Maleza).”
Your topics are always autobiographical?
“I think so. They have a lot to do with my spirit. In some way I always had an inclination for military things. Boys play war games. It all started with that somewhat militarily-inclined childhood, but as part of the world of art. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be an inventor, but I didn't know what type of invention I was referring to. Now I think that the invention was creating things.”
So, the military theme is definitely self-referential…
“Right. First I was in the Camilitos [the Camilo Cienfuegos Military School], and then I participated as a soldier in the Angola mission (1989). Later I spent some time at a cadets' school and did two more years of military service, and did Order 18 [a program for young soldiers to enroll in university] before starting my architecture studies. I really went through many stages in the military. That is why I developed the Camuflajes series with the confidence that originated from my own personal experiences, and observing the world's present situation.”
Is camouflage your central idea?
“It's a series, but it's unfinished, because there have been many ideas that I have jotted down but I haven't materialized them. This one I materialized with performances, photography, and objects that have become intertwined. Most recently, I have produced installations, objects that are growing and taking up more space.”
“I have always worked with that. What happened was that my photography became more widely known starting as soon as my work went abroad and got attention in London, Paris, and Montreal.”
Is this camouflage-wearing military man antiwar?
“It has to do with that and with having gone from a child's game to the most serious thing, the real fact of war. It is a very intense experience where you know what the limit is.”
What are you trying to convey?
“Part of that experience, of what I see happening today, how the world works, how human beings work. I think that I am not just experiencing what is happening, but also getting into the existence of the social being, the one that lives with war. I am using as much of myself as I can. In the works with camouflage, I try to examine how the human being manifests itself in society— camouflaged, with a mask.”
Are your other series different in their themes or aesthetics?
“They may be different, but the concept is still somehow linked to military themes. I fuse together several conflicts, death, violence, and the use of power… It's an essential theme with many branches. Other things come out aesthetically, all linked to the central topic. For example, there is the series of “skulls”(Estrellado, Fortaleza), and of “boots,” which began to emerge from Camuflajes, sometimes like accessories in my performances (La Ronda), or like independent pieces, such as Crisálida.”
What are you working on now?
“I am trying to finish a piece that has taken me a lot of time to finish, almost two years, starting from the idea, the calculations, and the materials. It is called Pelotón (“Platoon”), a large sphere with military boots all over its surface. It has the exact same number of boots that a platoon has. Its round shape invites you to manipulation, to a game, to let it roll in any direction.”
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