Magazin - Onay Rosquet. June 2020


-Hello Onay, you live and work in Havana, tell us first how you are living this Coronavirus situation? Are you and your family well? 

The Corona-virus situation, to be honest, is not something that affects me so directly, my work routine is practically the same. My days are spent painting in the workshop, from morning to afternoon, when I realize the current situation more, is when the day ends. Normally, after work I like to walk around, watch people, the traffic... it clears my mind and refreshes my eyes. I need to see everything that is normal for me, and I can do that when I finish work. For my family, it is more difficult, many work outside the home, and this situation has changed their lives, but fortunately they are all well. 

-We've been presenting your work at the 100 Kubik gallery here in Cologne for some time now, and also at the Berlin Fair, like for the first time in Europe. Your paintings always arouse admiration because of the amount of objects you paint on them and the complexity of the compositions. Tell us, what elements are most important to you when composing? What is your quest? 

In fact, the basis of my work is the objects I compose in it. If I had to choose one in particular, it would be the box. Everything is created there, the boxes are like my blank canvas when it comes to composing, it makes it very easy for me because I lock the whole message inside them, and it gives me both light and shadow. It would seem that they are all gathered at random, but behind each object there is a why and a long time of compositional work. Almost always I choose an object that is the focus of the composition, it doesn't necessarily have to be the biggest, nor the one with the most strident colour, it is simply what the space, or the idea I have conceived, asks of me. I particularly like objects that don't look so modern, I like antiques. It's those old objects, the ones that have more stories to tell us, although also, depending on the series, I've used some not so old ones. Here in Cuba, objects are inherited from generation to generation, it's almost a tradition. It's very easy to find a 50-year-old sewing machine, or any other antique. It is very normal to hear my grandmother say that a certain object, which she currently uses, was her own grandmother's. Those are the ones I look for, the ones that have an individual history, and by accumulating them in the box, they have a dialogue with each other. Inevitably, when we are in front of them, our memories simply flow and then the dialogue work-spectator begins, that is what interests me most in my work. Each of my paintings has a story to tell, or a concept, either individually or as a series, with the objects always as protagonists. What I enjoy most is that each viewer who is in front of one of my works can tell himself a completely different story from mine. 

-You usually work in series. I guess that allows you to research and squeeze a subject to its very end. Tell us about your topics, what do you want to tell in your works? 

I'm interested in making people feel identified with the work, in finding a discourse that can also be theirs, or maybe not, but in the end it makes them think about it. That they dialogue with the work, that they discover a feeling, that they make each story their own, that they question, but above all that they understand my discourse.  Yes... I work in series, it allows me to start from a specific idea and from there, to start touching on various related themes. Each work is an idea, a related concept, but at the same time, treated from another point of view. The themes can vary, I like the social chronicle, or reflect some particular event very marked. I also think that my work is a bit self-referential, it is inevitable not to transmit in the work my state of mind. Painting is a state of mind, the moment I go through in that instant, in some way everything is related in the end. 

 -I think that, although close to hyperrealism, your works go beyond the photographic description of objects. How would you define your style? 

This is a question I am never asked, and so I am the one who has to come out in defense of myself, in this interview this is not the case. I don't like to be categorized in a particular style, the ones I listen to most are hyper-realistic, or photorealistic, for that matter, nothing is further from the truth. I think hyperrealism is too cold a term, which does not admit of mistakes or freedoms. It is true that in my work the similarity with reality is evident, but that is only a tool, I do not intend to create a work based on the perfection of the technique, it is not what I am looking for. I have the facility to show what I think, or what comes to my mind through oil painting, it's like a language. It's not the photographic capturing of an image on a canvas, I think that would be a mistake.  I wouldn't define my style then, I would define myself. I think I am a person with the gift of, through the technique of painting, making see and awaken emotions or reflections about what surrounds us, or once surrounded us. 

-The situation for a young artist who works from Cuba and wants to show his work to the world has improved in recent years. What are the difficulties you encounter? And what are the advantages?

Working from Cuba certainly has its difficulties, as well as its advantages.  The difficulties are many, the one I encounter most is the lack of art materials. The oils, the canvas, the varnishes, in Cuba it is impossible to find them. In that sense, I feel privileged, every time I go on a trip I buy some, although it is not very pleasant to ride on a plane with a 2-meter-long roll of canvas, but it is better than not having any. I say I'm privileged because I have that possibility, but the vast majority of Cuban artists doesn't, and Cuba is a country of artists. Here in Cuba there is a great advantage: even the least renowned artist can live from his art. It's a very good thing because when you start in this adventure you find many stumbling blocks. The beginning is always difficult, it's a stage where the young artist is very vulnerable to disappear, or to not even start and give up. But in Cuba there are many art schools, many community projects that can help get the young person back on track. Showing your work to the world is a matter of consistency and also a bit of luck, I think. In my case, I exhibited my third personal show in a gallery in Havana and a foreign gallery owner fell in love with my work, and so, little by little, I've made my way into this beautiful but complicated world of art. The situation, I think, from the artistic point of view in Cuba has improved, it has opened up a little more to the world, there are cultural exchanges, scholarships are granted, I am not saying that it is perfect, but it has improved. Even with the arrival of the internet, although late, I think artists have benefited from this too, they can now promote their work more easily. I think that yes, there has been an improvement, although much more can be done, we must not forget that we are Cubans, we live in a very particular country, a different country from the rest of the world, atypical I would say, but well, maybe there is our charm. 

-Thank you very much Onay for your words. We can announce that your next exhibition at the gallery will be in 2021. But we'll talk about that some other time.

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