MY WORKS TELL THEIR OWN STORIES
-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.