Abstraction in expression

Abstraction in expression

Visual Arts

By Roxana Consuegra

On Línea in Vedado, one of Havana's arterial avenues, at its intersection with another main street called Paseo lies a space dedicated to young Cuban art, a conceptual crossroads where the paths of some of the country's most contemporary artists converge. Irsula Studio is a place of poetic and stylistic dialogue that springs from the creative spontaneity of four emerging artists who have already won recognition over their so-far short careers.

Abstraction in expression

One of them is painter Arián Irsula, a graduate of the National Art School in San Alejandro and the Universidad de las Artes in Havana.

Beholden only to the painter's inspiration, his pieces reveal a fascination for abstract art, a tangible expression of work that recreates fragments of the universe or of finite and infinite space. In Irsula's paintings the allusions to planets, satellites and celestial bodies are a product of experimenting with the material itself. Images relating to the cosmos constitute points of contact with abstract expressionism, referencing a style the artist considers himself an heir to.

His experiments with acrylic on canvas and other media are born of his inventiveness, finding images similar to the surfaces they represent. The series Zooming does just that. In it Irsula also plays with scale, as if zooming in with a camera lens, a technique he appropriates to manipulate the paint and achieve more expressive results.

Abstraction in expression

Many of his pieces pose questions about what is really perceptible, simulating the movements of a blood sample on a glass lab plate, or just bringing the viewer's attention to a specific detail in the work. This is a recurring theme and applies to paintbrush and lens, both tools that can transmute becoming microscopes able to capture images indiscernible to the human eye, details that are only visible at a larger scale.

The artist's inclination for rescaling spaces does not only draw the gaze in, but it can also push the gaze out, away from a particular element. Some of his paintings seem to trace the methodical layout of a city, an effect created by the artist making the most of the expressiveness of his brush, applying water with pressure to surfaces to achieve this end.

Abstraction in expression

These kinds of representations transcend the limits of work framed and hung on walls, intensifying the freedom of the space. Using the same technique the artist creates three dimensional forms that can be used in different ways, as columns, as seats or as landscaping. Playing with the forms, the set of building blocks can become different pieces.

Canvases like those of the series Costa Azul (Blue Coast) can be interpreted as aerial views of marine and coastal zones, reinforced for example with capsules of spirulina (a dietary supplement derived from marine and lake dwelling microorganisms) representing small islands in the middle of the sea.

The sea is a theme the artist returns to in another series, this time centred on Havana's sea wall, the Malecón, and the meanings that underlie it. How many people visit the Malecón every day, for talk, for romance or just to enjoy the sound of the sea? The sea wall is always there, witness to the years that pass, relentlessly attacked by time. The continuous battering it receives—the physical battering of the waves and the chemical battering of saltwater eroding its structure—leaves marks that persist despite constant efforts to maintain and restore it. And these marks are what make the malecón a special space, an almost obligatory place to visit in this city.

Arián Irsula's work is diverse, spontaneous and brave. He treads a path towards new takes on abstraction, his mixing of techniques and styles is the starting point. This road winds along through trials and experiments in a continuous dialogue between subject and medium. He constantly provokes both viewer and point of view, showing how perspective can shift beyond an aesthetic agenda.