Somewhere in the iconographic array of contemporary art –trends, nuances, modalities– an expressive aspect slithers down, one the official criticism won’t hesitate to rule out of the canonic categories. It’s all about a painting style with no explicit denomination and indistinctively linked to the spontaneous or “innocent” arts, like the old-time naïve painting; and even associated, by sheer mistake, to the fair pastiches and, even worse, to autistic painting.

Maybe the fact that leads this pictorial expression to an unshackled space aloof from the hegemonies of the art market and mercenary reviews is precisely its absolute freedom, that is, its disengagement from the formal and stylistic guidelines that rule today’s art metropolises. Therefore, this one-and-only expression of the plastic art sits on the fence and is pushed to a mandatory marginal condition.

But the alleged ill-fated fact of not being on the “top” of the artistic layers, or within the mimetic elements of the “waste” land, saves this bastard painting from what people still distrust, from the tribulations of esthetic globalization. And it does not walk down a solitary pathway; it gathers the different courses of its trendiness in legions. Since nothing comes spontaneously out of the blue nor settles down for the sake of it, let’s just accept its presence of unsuspected strength and let’s recognize its peculiar qualities. Aren’t they part after all of the other discourse, the one that brings on potential answers to the institution-art’s centrism?

The work culled in Poetic against Oblivion bears out the level of a very specific iconography that excels in both the perseverant creative exercise and the thematic proposals it feeds on. This is painting of indeclinable stylization whose features single out the substantial characteristics of the plastic current we were mentioning: heterodox treatment of images (not subjected to a recognizable canon), a concept free from ideoesthetic formulation. Some could speak of excessive illustrative composition in these paintings that actually bring them closer to the bibliographic functions of drawing, yet we immediately notice the feasibility of its lineal construction to splay detailed baroque that ties the image to the argument.

The author, Irene Sierra Carreño, shows the unmatched influence of her uncle-grandpa, the remarkable Cuban painter Mario Carreño, during his figurative stages back in the 1940s and 50s, as in the exulting colorfulness of “Cortadores de caña” (1943), or the bowl design he picked for the faces of anthropomorphic figures in “Saludo al Mar Caribe”, 1951), ingrained now in her own painting with a driving personal stamp of her own.

That’s what we see: a strong artistic personality on the rise. The extensive set of recreations presets three groups of artworks which demonstrate the painter’s staunch dedication: pencil notes and illustrations, watercolors and ink on paper, most of them preliminary sketches of cloths included in the book; acrylics and oils from extensive periods between 1998 and 1999, especially from 2000 to 2005; and the brief exposition of bronze-cast and plaster sculptures. It’s crystal clear that there’s more emphasis on drawing as a composite base for acrylics on cloth, while the ones made in oil boast more looseness and plastic wealth in terms of the making. Perhaps the decantation of her future work that, for the painter’s good fortune, puts that driving strength he expresses in the pictorial paste right on the front burner.

The interpretative texts in this complex argumentative and visual trapping of her works belong to artist brothers Omar and Carlos Estrada de Zayas; to Marilu Ortiz de Rozas, Ph D in Literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris, and historian and art reviewer Osiris Delgado. But it’s right from the author herself, in profound comments on her life and artistic career, that we truly get a brighter picture of the topics and sources tied up to cultural and ambient origins that determine the themes of her works and the manners (“manu: anch’io son’pittore” / “hand: I’m a painter too”) whereby she recreates them on the unspoiled cloth.

Irene Sierra immediately recognizes her debt with famous Dutch engraver Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972), one of the forerunners of the modern trompe-l’oeil and dedicates a painting entitled “El estanque de Escher”, made in 2000. With it, he hands us in the definitive key to prying into the structural concept that rules the nearly entire totality of her paintings: a many-sided layout of spaces construed as interiors (ambiences) or exteriors (landscapes), seen from small windows splayed in the backgrounds; simultaneous or parallel worlds whose backdrop is the visual renovation by the artist of those locations that were both her playgrounds and hangouts as a child and later on as a teenager.

In these multiple standouts –agreed upon thanks to the dynamics of perspectives– the household paraphernalia shows up (fruit stands and pots, kitchen ménage) or related to cults (exotic idols and a few examples of the Cuban-African religious pantheon), objects that keep the pristine memory (or added by the author) of her ecumenical formation.

Irene Sierra enhances the referents and points at the original ambience of her mnemonic ghosts: Lam and Portocarrero are barely hidden in her intricate painting; poet Lezama Lima was her next-door neighbor and puzzling inspirer of the nourishing vein of her own urban environment: Centro Habana. Isn’t then that the reason why she tends to put it all together, the new and the old, that “torrential creek of metaphors? Because this is painting full of symbols and allegories that don’t want to resemble anything and in that effort they get ingrained in a detonative frieze whose sole intention is the invention of memory.

February 18, 2010