When spring arrives in London, so does the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea. The Fair is firmly embedded in the annual art calendar, yet the first Fair was only initiated by Will Ramsay in 1999 and it now takes place in several locations around the world. In Battersea this week, over 100 galleries are showing work from over 1000 artists from Britain and around the world.
With Cuba having been in the news due to the improving relationship with the USA, is Cuban art a growing market? The gallery Ecilop Art thinks so and is here for the first time showing “some of the most exciting emerging talents alongside some well-established and esteemed figures from the diverse and vibrant Cuban art world.”
In case you haven’t noticed, Ecilop is ‘police’ spelled backwards, a link to their first home – a converted 19th century police station. The artists include Alan Manuel who studied at the San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy before moving to the USA and developing a successful career as an artisan cake decorator before returning to Cuba and his painting in 2006. His work explores political themes through deep metaphors which link back to places and events in Cuba. Also on show is Luis Ulises paintings of old well-used doors and windows to suggest hidden and deep messages. Ulises is developing a new series ‘Doors to the World’ in a collaborative project with Ecilop Art.
James Sparshatt, a photo-journalist and former editor of the Bolivian Times, is a frequent traveller to Cuba and his black and white photographs depict the unique character of the Cuban people; their love of music and dance and their character. He has been developing his series Rhythms of Emotion since 2000 through visits to Cuba and Buenos Aires while Spirit of the Revolution comprises portraits of many of the people who stayed after the 1959 revolution and have maintained incredible spirit and optimism through the years “The Buena Vista social club found fame as much for their incredible spirit as for their music, but for me it is the everyman that you meet on the street, cigar clamped between teeth, a glint in the eye, that embodies the true spirit of those who have lived through 50 years of struggle.” (James Sparshatt)
Ernesto Fernandez Zalacain integrates his photography into illuminated rusty water pipes, which can be interpreted in different ways depending on your perspective. “ His work revolves around the idea that all reality is entirely subjective, that an event or experience of a place changes as soon as it is interpreted or told to another. In particular Ernesto is interested in how this relates to the history of emigration from Cuba to the United States and what drives his friends and neighbours to risk their lives in small boats on the open sea in the attempt to cross the Straits of Florida.” (James Sparshatt)
As a contrast, Barry Cawston’s photography is more colourful and cinematic and perhaps has synergies with the paintings of Luis Ulises. They show places empty of people, stuck in a time warp, which somehow continue and decay as times moves on.
Change is often a catalyst for innovative art; how will artists in Cuba respond to the more optimistic and changing environment?