Luis Saldaña

Towards the Deep Blue

By Estela Ferrer

The sea, always the sea, seems to predict unanimously the entire work of Luis Alberto Saldaña Soto (Güines, 1987), and it is because in that irrepressible, immeasurable blue, the artist finds his port and hold. Magic occurs in its waters, an intelligible process in which he discovers a different universe, plagued by dissimilar images where at times the influences of surrealism or realism are distinguished, but invariably using painting as medium. Saldaña graduated from the Eduardo Abela Academy of Visual Arts of the province of La Habana in the specialty of Painting in 2006. He has received awards in provincial salons and his work has been part of various national and international exhibitions.

His is a production of visual variety, marked by his commitment to the landscape, which for instants assumes metaphysical marks and inquires about the present, the circumstance and the transcendent. To a large extent, the fact of living in Mayabeque has enhanced his approach to the natural environment, to the docks. Hence, his personal experience is the vital source from which his creations are born.

The series De mares y retornos (Of Seas and Returns) shows the first moment in which the sea captures his attention and the representations assume dissimilar legacies: surrealism, realism, impressionism. It continued with Piedra viva (Living Stone), where Saldaña changes his line of action and now organizes the entire composition from a leading natural element. Different rocks are painted by the artist in multiple contexts creating new meanings through the titles, which go from a road to a lawn or a room, but in all of them without exception the hard material is nothing but a metaphor of the human being, of his internal conflicts. The matter is then a simple excuse, a disguise to conceal the soul.

The concern for formal solutions close to photorealism and the transformation of his art work is evident in Insulares (Islanders), where he reflects on the circumstance of the permanence in the island. The modification of the objects comes exactly from being located within the maritime space and being extracted from the usual ones like the staircase in Exit or Vecino (Neighbor), pieces with a clear allusion to emigration.

Entropias forms a map of resistance, of struggle between objects and the sea, no longer one that does not lacerate, but a sea that marks where the horizon clouds and evidences the marks of saltpeter on the objects their erosion. As in Piedra Viva, the atmosphere again is an essential element to grant the piece additional energy. The object shows the passage of time. The wear it causes and the rust remain as trace of the corrosion by the waters, of the exodus, scars and evocations of a continent. Entropías (Entropies) reveals in painting a map of uprooting with all its implications: the new generations, the witnesses, the traffic and the survivors of the wait that, at times, becomes infinite.

At present, the sea is motif, fragment, beginning and end. Saldaña has reached such an intense point of dialogue with its vastness that now he seeks moments of change with the aid of the camera, transformations in its anatomy in the form of waves and color. The objects are present, but now not inside the waters, but barely at their edge, like looking out in order to cause a reflection.

The discourse, then, is permeated with a certain narcissism, a flirtation of a deep visual poetry where one uses the other as mirror and generates a dual complicity. The result is pieces that go from the whole in small formats to larger paintings that start from photography and embrace the legacies of impressionism, hence their high content of expression. A path he initiated by taking the figures from the urban, daily environment and placing them in the sea –as Atlases carrying a previous content that assume another garment, that of insularity– now changes, mutates towards a circumstance where even the diluted reality begins to be documented.

The distortions of the forms place his work in the limits of the abstract, to the point that it can be seen as a conceptualization of reality through water and its reflections. Saldaña sends us to the deep blue, source of life and death, as a challenge to learn about each one of its wrongs, whether nearby or in the center of his fluency. In any case, always an adventure tinged with indigo, where the water resists revealing all its secrets.