Jassiel Palenzuela: A Young Cuban Painter

Helson Hernandez

Jassiel Palenzuela

HAVANA TIMES — Jassiel Palenzuela is a Cuban contemporary visual artist. “Plurality and diverse ways of making and taking on art, that may be the posture that defines this generation,” he said during his interview with Havana Times.

HT: What art schooling did you have?

Jassiel Palenzuela: I studied at the San Alejandro National Fine Arts Academy. I graduated as a painter in 2008.

HT: Is your generation defined by any specific tendencies?

JP: It’s hard to speak of any specific tendencies among contemporary artists. Plurality and diverse ways of making and taking on art, which may be the posture that defines this generation.

For some years now, my field, painting, has been gaining more and more strength. A group of artists revisited the discipline and have had an impact on me and the generations that came after them with a fresh and un-engaged form of painting. I have always defended painting. As a medium, it has fascinated me because it is a true challenge to devote oneself to it these days, in terms of the tradition and the many influences out there, I mean.

Candy Island by Jassiel Palenzuela

HT: Have you explored photography as part of your work?

JP: I’ve done photography, but painting has always been central and I’ve developed it more vigorously. Photography bears no relation to my current work. I think, rather, that it nourishes my interest in inventing a world for myself. In my photographs, this was achieved through settings. In painting, through the appropriation of elements from educational videogames, as a means to telling different stories.

HT: Tell us about the naivety of videogames, as it is used in your most recent work.

JP: It is one of the visual resources I use. I begin by appropriating elements of didactic or children’s videogames in order to tell stories or express concerns of an existential or social nature. The contrast generated by the childish aesthetic evokes the cynical or ironic tone with which I address these issues. The sweeter and cheesier the image, the cruder and more cynical the work, making us vomit rainbows, cry out stars and ooze out glitter.

HT: What led you to adopt this style?

JP: Motives are never too clear. The work stems rather from concerns or preoccupations. As you work, you find the way to be true to the idea and how to best convey it. I am very satisfied with the kinds of paintings I’m making right now, as I have very positive memories of my childhood, which was a truly happy time for me. This does not, however, mean there is any kind of nostalgic longing in my work.

HT: Tell us about Cuba’s current social context and the creative development of a Cuban painter today.

Waiting for war. Jassiel Palenzuela

JP: I believe Cuban institutions provide strong support for culture but that it isn’t enough. Materials one needs are often scarce. There are arts events that promote the work of young artists on the island, such as the Havana Biennale and gallery showings and competitions. These are an excellent opportunity for young artists.

HT: What are you involved in right now, creatively?

JP: I am currently preparing a solo exhibition. I have been working in it since the beginning of the year. It is tiled Desniveles (“Unevenness”). Some of the images you see here are part of that series.

HT: Do you sell your work?

JP: Not in any regular or stable fashion, but occasionally. If someone is interested in my artworks, they can contact me at: [email protected]