Some years ago, Arte Continua opened a new space in a very populated and lively district of Havana, the Barrio Chino, organizing conferences, performances, workshops, and exhibitions, trying to bring the “art world” closer to this local audience while also giving fame to very interesting Cuban artists. This is the case of José Yaque, who presented some fascinating artworks in a solo show in San Gimignano a few days ago. These artworks were inspired by a visit to La Palma (in the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands) in 2021. If we remember, September 2021 started one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions to hit a European country in recent years.

Talking about the exhibition, Yaque says: “After that experience, I was convinced that this would later come out in painting. But I wanted it to come out the way lava comes out of the earth, unexpectedly, with power, with telluric force." That is why these works belong to a prolific period that can be defined by an explosion of color. A kind of painting that is done not only with the hands but also with the body: “I’m seduced by the image of a body painting as if it were an erupting volcano, expressing itself with power." While in his previous exhibition Magma in 2015, the pieces had a more serene appearance and featured a range of earthy tones that were associated with the components of rocks and a kind of subterranean world, in Eruzione, it seems that the painting has been transformed into lava that needs to gush, run, and spill because it can no longer be contained.

Yaque continues working with a technique that initiated this series of paintings and with which he has acquired an impressive mastery: he caresses the mass of pigment in order to mix and spread the colors on the canvas. Vibrations and the force of gravity generate a magma that is transformed when the artist wraps the work in a plastic covering. Once the drying process is complete, the protective layer is removed, leaving a kind of eroded paint. In front of the Eruzione works, the viewer is captured by their movement and energy. I was fascinated by these paintings, so I contacted him to ask some questions, and here you can find them.

The paintings that I saw in San Gimignano were really impressive for the energy and movement that you can give to the paintings. Since it was the first time that, I saw your works, could you please tell me your artistic path and how you achieved this (if it was present from the beginning or if you worked on it at the time)?

These paintings and their particular way are the result of years of experimentation since my time as a student. I have always been very curious about the origin and essence of things, and the same thing happened to me with painting. I discovered that 90 percent of the pigments are made of mineral origin, and so I began to study the world of minerals, a world that we do not see and that is found under our feet. So I like to think of this work of painting as a work that speaks of the origin and the very essence of color. I like to imagine when the magma moves and flows through the interior of the earth and draws underground landscapes full of power and incredible energy that we cannot see.

Your previous series was Magma; is it related to this show? Is there any connection between the two series?

The most recent exhibition was called (Erupción), and the motivation for these works was a visit I made to a volcano in 2021 in the Canary Islands. I was fascinated to see the rivers of lava gushing from the interior of the earth and transforming the landscape forever. I thought that they could be rivers of paint building a new landscape.

What is the relationship between your art and nature?

To me, nature is the greatest creator. I like to see my work as a collaboration with the forces of nature. My greatest aspiration is to create as nature creates, and that the same energies that intervene in nature intervene in the birth of a work. So, I like to live surrounded by this source of fantastic beauty.

You said that you also work with the body, not only with hands. Please, can you explain better this way of creating?

I like to think of the body as a united whole; the hands are the body, the arms are the body, and the mind is in the body and not just in the brain. These works are made in a single section that can take many hours in a row; it is like a performance, and the body must be ready for action. The process involves a huge effort; it is not a conventional process. Liters and more liters of paint are used. The idea is to let the body create the work and let the energy flow, and then the image will be revealed.