“When I put a Buddha with open arms, reflecting on the world will be like after the COVID-19 pandemi
Felipe Alarcón Echenique is a Cuban painter who is an engraver, draftsman, and writer who has been based in Madrid for more than 20 years. Felipe was born in Havana in 1966. He received his diploma in fine art from the Academy of Fine Arts San Alejandro in 1986. Felipe has also been a professor of art education; he taught Plastic Arts from 1987-1995. Felipe’s interest in learning more about art continued when he studied at the Higher Institute of Art ‘José Varona’ from 1995-1998 to achieve his Art Education degree, and then he expanded his knowledge at the Study-Workshop 1996-1997 in Obispo, La Habana, Cuba. Felipe is a proud member of the Association of Painters and Sculptors of Madrid.
Viaje a Portugal, serie Ceguera, 2020.
Felipe’s most recent series of artworks is based on the COVID-19 pandemic and are inspired by Saramago and his book La Ceguera. Felipe has created around 25 art pieces on the theme, which will be exhibited at the Nimba Art Gallery in Lisbon by the curator Luis Vicente in November. Felipe shared that his inspiration for this theme came from one of the articles in the book La Ceguera by Saramago. The book talks about the pandemic, blindness, pain, and death. Felipe is a passionate reader, and although he read this book five years ago, today, he explores the similarities of pain and death in this current pandemic,which motivated him to present his thoughts representing different characters depicting many stories.
Ruptura Celestial, Series La Ceguera, 2020
Here is how Felipe explains his new series and its inspiration:
“I read the book La Ceguera about five years ago, and the author talked about a kind of blindness that affected an entire population, except for one character: the doctor's wife. That novel is one of the most important ones; it has even received the Nobel Prize in literature. Saramago also celebrated 25 years since its publication, and it is as relevant today--perhaps more than ever in this pandemic. The deaths happening all over the world are tragic, and Saramago appears to have predicted this pandemic in his novel in a majestic way. In my series, I address the theme of death in works such as global confinement, which is a portrait of the pain as we are experiencing with so much death and the desperation and the need to find a vaccine while racing against the clock. An artist who is committed to society cannot look the other way, and that is why the novel by the Portuguese writer was the common thread in my series of La Segura.”
“I work on the universe of nature in a series that starts from the chronicles of reality in the past, present, and future, while looking for a dimension that goes beyond the flat and two-dimensional horizon on canvas. Each work is its own universe where I experiment with earth, recycle cloth cuttings, and collage my drawing portions so that the formal and the conceptual accentuate my dreams and delusions. I see art in objects invisible to some, and I appropriate it and make it the protagonist of a formal result in a concept that goes beyond myself in a superimposed and free universe that emerges from within,” says Felipe.
Memorias Saramago, El hombre Duplicado, 2020
While we look at Felipe’s paintings, we observe many characters, emotions, and stories. From painful characters to peaceful ones, the works exhibit depths of emotion from terror to spiritual and destruction to perfection. These characters vary in size; some are zoomed in while others form a larger picture. Since all of them overlap beautifully, it makes them easy to understand, and it also allows for a moment of play and time to slowly figure out and see every figure born within another. Here is how Felipe explains the various characters of his paintings: “These characters are from different cultures, such as the Buddhists, and it is necessary to save the best that humans have created in different religions and cultures. When I put a Buddha with open arms reflecting on a world after the COVID-19 pandemic, where it is possible to again touch and interact with each other, it is a metaphor within so much pain.”
Memorias del Convento, 2020
Well, seeing such stories depicted in a painting is truly a moment of self-realization. One might wonder how he transforms his ideas onto the canvas. Felipe explains, “My work is a portrait of the reality that I live in, with a critical look and a contemporary vision where I use mixed techniques, collage, and a neo-cubist figuration to address different themes. I work directly on the canvas with a combination of paintings and sketches. Instead of pre-planning every single stroke in advance, I allow freedom and a free flow of ideas at every moment as a creative process, just like creating a dialogue.”
Grandes Memorias en cuarentena, 2020
Since Felipe works in mixed media, there are even some edible materials that he uses. The material he uses are acrylics, watercolors, graphite, waxes, colored pencils, Chinese ink, and oil on a single piece of artwork. Other materials include colored sand and clays to give different dimensions. The interesting part is when he mentions, “Also, I paint with saffron, coffee, and wine in some works, and that makes me feel aboriginal and closer to my mestizo roots.” This is something that excites viewed when looking at his works.
De este mundo y otro (II). Series La Ceguera, 2020
During his journey as an artist, Felipe has been inspired by Picasso’s Guernica, and Felipe calls it “the indomitable beast,” which represents the Allied bombing of the Basque City Guernica and has inspired Felipe to create his series named Mestizo. He says, “It is a series where I address the issue of Afro-descendants in Cuban Culture. It is a Chronicles of Terror, and the series is also inspired by the attacks of M11 in Madrid, Spain.” Felipe has been exhibiting his artworks internationally for the past 25years, which makes him quite experienced in his field. Felipe’s solo exhibitions have been held in Cuba, Spain, France, Germany, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, UK, Italy, Florida, and Peru. His most recent shows this year include Dialogues of Mestizaje at the Jean Monet University Saint Ettiene, France; Rebirth of Utopia at Casa Medrano’s Gregorio Prieto Room; Argamasilla de Alba in Ciudad Real, Spain; ADN Cervantes at the La Obra Civic Center 'Príncipe de Asturias'; and Quintanar de la Orden in Toledo, Spain. Felipe has exhibited his art pieces in almost 100 group exhibitions.
De este mundo y otro (I), Serie La Ceguera, 2020
Felipe’s paintings are widespread around the world, as he has more than 30 artworks located in the permanent collections of museums, universities, institutions, and public places such as the John F Kennedy Library in Hialeah Miami, Florida, The Embassy of Cuba in Madrid Spain, at the Museum-Casa Cultura de Casablanca in Havana, Cuba, at Jean Monnet University of Saint-Etienne France, at the Ex-Minister of Cuban Culture and advisor to the President, Mr. Abel Prieto in Havana Cuba, the Katz & Bach Galerie Richter Berlin Germany, and many more places.
Equipaje de Viaje, Serie La Ceguera, 2020
“Catharsis is the purification of the emotions, especially pity and fear, primarily through art,” sai Aristotle. In this quotation, Aristotle is getting at the importance of characters, plot, tragedy, fear, pain, and pity in poetics, drama, and art, because they to purify the emotions, which completely relaxes the audience. Felipe brings in his artworks a tremendous combination of numerous characters altogether within a single painting.
Amor Fronterizo. Serie La Ceguera, 2020