A poetic display of passion set against a surrealist backdrop of the ocean has filled the walls of Full of Beans café these past few weeks as Cuban artist Yonier Powery Serrano enjoys his first solo exhibition in the Cayman Islands.
A fully trained and highly productive artist in his home country, Yonier Powery Serrano has continued exploring his talents further in his new home in the Cayman Islands.
Moving to Cayman in 2010 from his home in Cuba’s Isle of Youth allowed him to be nearer to his Caymanian father. Meantime, Serrano says, the need to be creative has been running through his veins since he was a child.
“I started to sculpt wood when I was around five or six and then moved into painting,” he says. “I then went to ballet school, where I was quite successful. I even tried to get into a school that trained people for the circus, but I didn’t make it.”
Serrano says he eventually enrolled at the Wilfredo Lam Professional Academy of Visual Arts, where he studied for four years, particularly enjoying creating with acrylic and ceramics. At the end of that period, the college asked him to return as an instructor, which he enjoyed until he was required to undertake national service in the army.
Making the move
After moving to Cayman, Serrano says, he realized that even though he had moved from one Caribbean island to another, living in Cayman was very different than his previous life.
“It’s very expensive to live here, so I knew I had to work as well as paint, whereas in Cuba I could just make a living painting,” he says.
Working full time at Jacques Scott, Serrano could have been forgiven for letting his art slip.
“My father gave me some beautiful words of advice and that was to never give up painting,” he says. “I’m so thankful for those words.”
Artwork with a message
Encouraged by friends and family and his new wife and daughter, Serrano began painting again. His artwork gained a new lease on life, full of energy, color and texture, dominated by surrealist images of the ocean and conceptual in nature, always with a deep message that the artist seeks to convey to the viewer.
“In my work, I try to capture what is taking place around me in my life. Now that I have moved to Cayman, my work has changed as I take on board my new surroundings – the different colors and concepts,” he says. “In particular, I wanted to include the passion that people have for this island in my work, their love for the sea and the importance the sea has been, historically, for the islanders.”
In his painting “Equilibrium Limit,” Serrano has created the rusted hull of a ship perched high on a cliff edge with a tightrope walker balancing on a rope as he walks away from the ship. Serrano says this is a metaphor for the importance of shipping for all of us who live on an island. The tightrope walker wears a backpack and Serrano says this stands for his belief that man should save up all that is precious and keep everything with him wherever he goes, not just his belongings, but his dreams as well.
A voice for the elderly
A consistent image throughout Serrano’s work is that of elderly faces, which appear like ghostly figures on the hulls of ships, entwined in ocean creatures and within the belly of fishes.
“I believe the elderly are often overlooked in society, yet these are the people that took care of us, who created our experiences, so I wanted to bring their images to life in art,” he explains. “Elderly people have so much wisdom and experience of life, they speak to our history.”
In a critique of Serrano’s work, critic and curator Fredy David Rodriguez from Nueva Gerona City on Cuba’s Isle of Youth gives some background to Serrano’s fascination with the elderly, which was evident in his work in Cuba also.
He “…visited the old people’s homes, parks, newspaper kiosks and any kind of place these persons would attend frequently. All with the main goal of talking with them to know their most intimate realities, so feeling in his own flesh, despite being so young, what was the meaning of being dejected and excluded from the rest of the society.”
Serrano’s genuine love for humanity and his thrill at living here in Cayman is seen again and again throughout his work, yet the artwork clearly has an incredible depth that has more to it than just a pretty picture.
Rodriguez says of Serrano’s work:
“When art goes beyond the limits of the pure technique to establish a deep conceptual speech, the act of creation achieves unexpected dimensions and those are the attributes that characterize the work of the artist Yonier Powery Serrano.”
Serrano says he is excited about exploring his artwork further and finding out a lot more about the history of the island he now calls home.
“I love this island,” he says, “It’s a good place to live.”