Interview with Cuban artist Yasser Castellanos
Our founder and director, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, had the unique opportunity to travel to Cuba earlier this year for a cultural exchange. The trip was an exploration of the lives of Afro-Cuban women through the lens of the media, literature, music, poetry, film, the blogosphere, and in their own voices. The following interview is an excerpt from one of these women.
This is an interview by Yusimí Rodríguez López, a young woman Cuban writer and blogger, with Cuban artist Yasser Castellanos.
Y – When did you first feel the need to express yourself?
YC – Since I can remember, I’ve been drawing on a sheet of paper with common pencils, color pencils or ink markers. With the passing of time, the expression became more conscious and complex.
Y – When did you become interested in art?
YC – To say when I became interested in art, I should go back to childhood, cartoons, comics, and posters announcing films, the public advertisements with political messages, radio. I was interested in the topics of the moment all the time. When I studied at the University for a career to teach Art Appreciation in secondary schools, I took Art History , and although Asia and Africa were not included, that gave me a wider and more clear vision of the issue. I should also say that accepting the presence of God, despite having been raised in Atheism, has led me to reinterpretation of the History of Art.
Y – Describe your work and creation process.
YC – I try to describe the way in which I perceive the existence of the divine in these exceptional moments. I generally experience a feeling or a new understanding on something that, in my mind, can be almost automatically translated into an image, as if this were one more aspect of that process of understanding, as if it just completed it somehow, though, sometimes that image is rather a concept that helps me choose the elements with which I will express it. Sometimes that process appears in a more organic way and then a Hip Hop text can emerge, which I consider to be one of the more attractive ways to express a thought. In fact, the line designs I use in my paintings are influenced (among other things) by break dance movements.
Y – Do you work in a workshop, where do you work, and how?
YC – I work in one of the rooms of the apartment where I live with my wife and son. To paint, I place the canvas or hard paper on the floor. When the canvas or hard paper are too big, I paint on them.
Y – Do you have a body of work?
YC – From my point of view, everything I do is framed within just one topic: the relation of the human being with the divine, except for some works I have been doing with the Cuban flag and dealing with more social aspects.
Y – What do you work on and what materials do you use?
YC – Due to how expensive the materials are, it was only from 2007 on that I could start working only on canvas, and since I can, I paint exclusively with acrylic.