By Helson Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — A young, Cuban visual artist, Grethel Nuez looks to social networks to develop the interesting work we address in Havana Times today. “We continue to look for the distinctive and unique in Cuban digital art.”
HT: What specialty did you major in at art school?
Grethel Nuez: I specialized in engraving at the San Alejandro National Fine Arts Academy, where I learned different engraving techniques and completed a number of optional workshops. These, and the workshop I took in particular, allowed me to learn and to develop as an artist next to a staff of professionals.
HT: What do you take away and leave behind from what you learned at San Alejandro in the creative process you have decided to follow for your works?
GN: Well, my work is experiencing a process of evolution and regeneration today. This is no doubt a product of my academic training and what I have picked up along the way individually. To answer the question in general terms I could say that one is trained within the academy, where one must meet certain requirements and regulations. You take what is essential and try to retain as much you can, in case you need the training at some point. But we shouldn’t get into our heads that we need to conform to that. One must go out in search of ideas, delve more deeply and become more aware of things, much more than you might have been expected to do at an institution or training center.
HT: Why the jump from engraving to digital art?
GN: When I started out, engraving was the specialty that helped me give shape to the different genres I was interested in visualizing in my work. This was a kind of conceptual training for the digital, virtual and material and didactic formats I would take on later, to complement what I was already developing as a subject or preoccupation. I can’t say it was technically a jump. It was rather a change in what engraving represents for me as a medium.
I see it differently. Let us not forget that engraving is the product of technological developments at different points in history, a technique art has used as an instrument and format to represent and express things. Engraving continues to be developed as an artistic specialty and is being practiced through advanced technological means, which not only confirm the genuine value of traditional techniques such as woodcut, chalcography and lithography but are also incorporating mechanization, digitalization and nanotechnology into the field.
As such, my “digital” works do not represent a radical break with what was once a more traditional practice. Rather, I always try to be in step with new developments while defending the preservation of traditional engraving, trying to fuse it with what’s being done in contemporary art.
HT: What subjects does your work address?
GN: I have always insisted on simulating, distorting, disguising or suggesting the conflicts humanity faces as part of its chronic social problems, availing myself of animal forms. In my pieces, I always try to have characters, situations, dreamscapes or imaginary habitats co-exist and come into conflict with one another, and I am interested in having a series of situations and controversies arise from this clash with which the spectator comes into contact, where they can feel the satirical and ironic spirit that moves my work conceptually.
HT: Your work has moved beyond the gallery and found a space in social networks.
GN: Yes. I have used social media and networks as a means of exhibiting part of my work. Some of the channels where my pieces have circulated, trying to find the ideal means in which the vicious circle between the artist, mediator and public is “closed”, are part of a cycle in which the reincorporation of these images that have been transformed into works can continue to evolve where I first discovered them. I look at these as open spaces where a digital public – art connoisseurs and not, religious or not, politically or artistically inclined or not – moves. I conceive of art as a means of universal expression that currently makes use of digital media to reproduce, exhibit and sell itself.
HT: Tell us about digital art in Cuba.
GN: Not only artists but I believe some institutions are working to promote and legitimize this form of expression in Cuba’s contemporary art scene. I should not only mention the artists interested in exploring and experimenting with the different technical resources and formats afforded by virtual and digital tools, but also the institutions that organize gatherings, events, projects and exhibitions to integrate the medium into the valid art forms that have been developing and growing in Cuba since the 90s.
The art form continues to look for different means of expression, despite the country’s technological deficiencies, stemming from a shortage of resources and the fact individuals are unable to purchase up-to-date instruments. Despite this, we continue to look for the distinctive and unique in Cuban digital art. From my own personal experience, I can say that I not only try to legitimize digital formats but also fuse them with other formats.
HT:? Tell us about your Pinguins and the longing for the North Pole.
GN: Look, I believe that longing for the “North Pole” in these “southern penguins” can be felt in the context of the Caribbean’s stifling summers, where I have made them come into contact with one another. I am currently immersed in putting together a series of imagines which have the working title of “Penguins in the North Pole”. I’ve already published a number of pieces that give you a sense of the series on Facebook and have received positive feedback. This is the project I am actively involved in at the moment, but I also want to involve myself in exhibitions and workshops where I can show my work.
HT: Any information for readers interested in getting to know your work?