A Cuban Artist with a Background in Science

By Regina Cano Orue

Dioblan Hernández

HAVANA TIMES –  According to Dioblan Hernandez Torres, holism shapes all of our relationships. And, he has agreed to sit down and give this interview in order for us to get a better idea of his artistic view about this universe.

How did the idea for your art come about?

Dioblan Hernandez: This began after I carried out a 10-year research project in Material Science, which involved using a material in the form of paints, which has another industrial use but has also been used for art.

Great discoveries and efforts of many people throughout the history of humankind lie behind every color, every paint we use.

These pigments, paints, which we call particles or ionic solids or covalent bonds in Material Science, blend with these colors, acrylic in this case, which is what I use the most, respecting the color of each paint.

With that, I mixed quartz, iron in its oxidated state, chromium oxide, aluminium, sand and gravel and natural sand from Cuban beaches, many have metal oxides.

Scientific elements were the first justification, using geometric shapes, images in text, material and metal science.

I could use these shapes (in my University classes) and realize that we weren’t only looking at a metallographic image, which had undergone heat treatment, converting austenite into martensite or vice-versa.

We sometimes found human faces in these images, winged hearts, snakes, centaurs, etc. I wanted students to look beyond the science, to start encouraging them to have a holistic view of everything that surrounds us in this universe.

And, I had the idea of beginning to mix human emotions with science. Displaying it in a painting, to try and find a comparison. Going around in circles, trying to find common ground between so-called objective aspects of life, represented by the sciences on the whole, and so-called subjective aspects of life, let’s say: religion, faith, mysticism, maybe certain life philosophies.

Those which aren’t sciences because it hasn’t been prooved that you can repeat them however many times you need to and always get the same result.

And this motivated me one day, mixing these particles with paints and beginning to make paintings, on canvas, cardboard, glass, ceramics, that were electromagnetic. Because these particles also absorb high frequencies, short wavelengths and don’t only work on the visible end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

That’s to say, giving this exchange between work of art-viewer a greater spiritual meaning, unloading all of my feelings and being respectful of scientific texts. 

And beautiful things have happened, I have seen people in the scientific field (which is my own background), how their concepts or equations which they tell me they see in the image (in my paintings), fuse with the vision of those who practice or follow an African religion or freemasons or those who dedicate themselves to different schools of Yoga. So, I am thankful.

I see them all as different types of energy and I have shown them the link that exists between all the different beliefs in the world. We are all a single race, equal human beings, and unity within diversity is the most important thing, transparency, our love.

Unity should define us and we shouldn’t hold onto knowledge and matters belonging to each philosophy or religion, or cling onto them fanatically, because we are all here to share this, to learn, know how to listen, and that has been my message all along.

I don’t have a formal academic background as a painter. I am a Mechanical Engineer, with 32 years of experience, and  I have been able to impart some of my knowledge to third and fourth year students (as a teaching assistant at the University) studying Metal and Material science.

Now, I don’t only teach pure science, I also try to transmit a little bit of this, so that the younger students learn to love this universe a little more. So they aren’t just concerned about more mundane subjects, such as the material world. And that regardless of the cultural background they each have, we have this view about nature and the world, which is what we desperately need, in my humble opinion.

So I take the medium I’ve chosen and go about my analog work, with compasses, triangles, rulers, as if I were doing a project or a blueprint, based on a certain image, adding colors and unloading everything I really feel, always searching for balance and harmony.

I let myself go with the flow in this regard. I don’t delve into philosophical or religious matters because I like to be surprised, in the sense that people ask me: “What is this?” and I tell them: “This is X-ray crystallography” and somebody says to me: “Wow, it has the symbols of my Yoruba culture and my own. It’s impossible. Are you religious?” “No, but no problem (…), thanks.”

“This ceramic disc is called Fractal Shield,” I answered once, thinking about Fractal theory… and the other one… is called Electromagnetic Spectrum, thinking about the well-known spectrum.” And, she continued: “Are you religious?” “No…” “I am,” she said, a respectful person, a University professor, and she added: “You’ve made Orula’s two boards here.”

This is the identifiable message of unity I’ve always wanted to give, between every school of thought, religion and science, so that people can try and connect them all.

I think that everything educates us, teaches us skills, as long as it’s always done with love, in an educational and not destructive way.

What was your first piece?

Dioblan Hernandez: It was a ceramic disc, 500mm in diameter. It combined certain electromagnetic ionic solids with clay in a scientific experiment.

I was teaching classes at the university, I was in the 8th year of my scientific investigation, I was working as the vice-dean of Economy and Management at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA). However, I never said anything about liking painting when I was at ISA, or even that I was painting. I was really busy with my duties in my managerial position at that great and beautiful University.

I had the opportunity to fire both of those discs at ISA and one day, at home, I made Fractal Shield, my first piece. There was a little bit of white and blue acrylic paint and varnish at home. That’s how I made it.

My son’s mother was traveling at the time. I was looking after the little one and the home. And when I had a chance to sit down, I had the idea that I needed to paint.

And after Fractal Shield came Electromagnetic Spectrum. She came back from her trip and had been able to get me two or three more colors.

I have always relied on the cooperation of many people to have a little bit of paint, a paintbrush or two, primed canvasses, well-cut glass or cardboard, which I am really grateful for.

I don’t only paint, although I really would like to.

What is painting to you?

Dioblan Hernandez: In some way or another, without even realizing, I began to discover something I had within and this was the message that I kept hearing over and over again: learn how to listen, to be able to live a healthy, well-balanced, just life. Nobody is completely right.

Painting is another way to relax in this world, just like meditation is. Painting is the act of creating something, in a nutshell. And, meditation is present when you paint.

Our cells are intelligent. One establishes positions, timetables, places and there is energy in this too, always doing the same thing, in the same place, in the same way. These are patterns that we have as human beings. 

Painting is… Wow! Something I can’t ever stop doing. When I don’t paint, I don’t feel good. It comforts me, it’s a great complement in my life (regardless of the job I have) which I dedicate most of my time to, sometimes even the weekend.

In 2015 and 2016, I already had 12-15 pieces. I kept them hidden for a year because I was embarassed to show them to anyone, until I spoke to a colleague, Jorge Braulio, the dean of the Painting Department at ISA (Higher Institute of Arts). He recommended I continue working so as to put an exhibition together.

In the beginning, Braulio examined my work and he was surprised because he didn’t imagine that I was making these kinds of paintings. He is a part of the family. Every time I finish a piece, he tells me what he thinks and always comes to my exhibitions, if it’s a personal exhibition, I always have him to speak. He has been a great help.

And what about the spiritual side of things?

Dioblan Hernandez: I also started painting with more of a spiritual idea from the beginning. Intuition hasn’t been the only way.

About 12-13 years ago, I had to undergo different surgeries on my spine. I found myself subjected to big changes and I learned some forms of meditation. You can see visualizations of this in my art.

Learning about energies and chakras really moved me, I rejected it in the beginning, but medical science answered, between MRIs and diagnoses: “… here there are Syringomyelia cysts, which have disappeared…”

Between one phase and another, six months, I met someone who helped me and was doing this kind of technique.

The change was significant. And I asked myself: “How is it possible?” I was moved and it also motivated me to change a little bit of what I had studied and practiced for years…

Mechanical Engineering, delving into this Material Science research and immersing myself in 10 years of preparation, between scientific theories, discoveries and proof, dabbling in material chemistry, heat treatments, quantic physics and learn, from a scientific point of view which has always intrigued me, to dabble a lot in electromagnetism (where there are really beautiful things)

… and open my eyes and realize that we should be able to be very open-minded, as everything is energy at the end of the day.

Health and science inspired me at the same time, it later helped me, a man of science, to unload everything I was feeling into these pieces of art.

Maybe people with a vast background in science think that this is a little nonsensical or absolute madness. I respect them all a lot, as I also respect people who have cultivated their talent for creating art.

I have humbly tried to be respectful to the emotions I have and to try and see this holistic view of everything, to paint it, put it out there, trying to instill it in people a little, especially my Metallography students who have always been the first ones to see all my work. And to always have time carved out, amidst so much work, to paint.

And, what can you tell us about meditation?

Dioblan Hernandez: With more time, I try to meditate at least once a day to get its health benefits or just before sleeping, so I sleep better and wake up in better shape, to be more productive.

When I have less time, if I have to choose between meditating and painting, I choose painting, letting myself get swept along by what I feel and it’s almost like meditation for me.

First, I meditate for health reasons, but stemming from this sense of life, everything around you, colleagues, family, students, can be more in line with this energy you have (physical, state of mind, spiritual or energetic), which is your aura and vibration according to literature in this field and many people, and they feel better around you.

Sometimes, I can give myself the luxury to do both: meditate without thinking about what I am going to paint or that meditation will help me with this.

If you create an honest painting which is connected to the message you want to transmit, then people enjoy your work and they understand what you are trying to convey better.

Have you been influenced by other painters?

Dioblan Hernandez: I haven’t spent much time studying painting in general. If only I also had this information.

Lately, people have been recommending some books to me and I have seen how some people paint, but I have been very respectful of what it is I feel.

I asked Jorge Braulio: “What style is this? What do I say,” because my work is a mix of techniques, using acrylic, oil paints, 3-D pieces. He told me: “There you have naive art, primitivism, expressionism. It’s a great combination, in a very unique style.”

No particular artist has influenced my work, or a way of painting or drawing. I have always liked being a little more authentic.

I prefer not to research because then you get ideas in your head and when the piece is being exhibited, I hear what people are saying and I begin to research.

Everything can form part of the same message, of the holistic nature of everything and fractal theory, quantum physics, studies about dimensional energy, they all have their importance.

Sometimes, you make something and then find, six months later, that someone has painted something very similar to your own piece.

I have tried to do what I feel, in my own way and that’s all.

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