Carlos Estévez | Observatorios Observables.
Observatorios Observables, is the most recent body of work of Carlos Estévez (Havana,1969), comprised of nine large paintings that depart from the idea of surveillance, navigational instruments and vision from a metaphysical point of view. Estévez is fascinated by the construction of spellbinding objects, painted and perfectly-arranged, that embody their own sense of sculpture, regardless of their function. He is inspired by ancient architectural drawings and gear schematics, the inner mechanisms of watches and cosmological charts, resulting in large and detailed technical depictions of imaginary yet complex mechanical devices. Obsessed by our relation to the universe, life and the cycles of nature, he has created his own mapping of apparatuses that function in metaphorical ways.
As one observes each painting, comprised of these fantastical objects and what appear to be x-rays of the innards of machines, a metamorphosis occurs: What initially seem to be a compilation of machinery parts, or parts of devices or mechanical drawings are instead something entirely different. Planets become eyes, towers transform into caterpillars, gears bloom into flowers, then astronomical clocks, followed by solar systems, and, finally, pupils that keep watch over us. All these moving drawings of devices suddenly become depictions of all that is natural, yet each represents an entirely abstract world in their own right. Each “tower” is simultaneously a machine, a skeleton of a machine, a map, an animal, a clock. He fuses the human, the mechanical and the natural, along with the unknown, the known and our reality.
In Observatorios Observables, most works depart from the formal construct of surveillance towers; those that we human beings build to watch over others. Estévez plays with the notion that we all become metaphorically the observer and the observed at the same time. It is a metaphor not only for what we see, but what we think, and the realities we construct. Whimsical and playful, every object on the canvas builds relations to the other side, creating a cartographic plan and a body of work that is an homage to our minds and our creativity.
Estévez has long been interested and fascinated by machinery and gears, anatomical charts, cartographies, systems for measuring, the mechanisms of time pieces, optical measurement devices, architectural plans and machines in general. To him, they are all metaphors for the inherent functionality of all living creatures, similar to modern automatons, moving mechanical devices made to imitate a human being. They intend to explore the physical experience of nature and the constructed reality that is parallel to nature, of systems such as nature, the body and the cosmos that work imperceptibly, unnoticeable to most, while we exist.
Black watercolor pencils are used to draw on dripped and textured oil-based paint backdrops, like a set for a movie. Estévez paints an entire series of works concurrently, each series similar to a filmmaker’s narration of a story for which he has the entry lines but is unaware of exactly how each will end. Each canvas or paper is the visual representation of the development of an idea , a chapter in and of itself.
The concept of surveillance towers is a starting point from which to conceive a poetic reflection on the natural and the constructed, and the understanding that human creation is itself part of the natural world and at the same time, our inspiration: What we create, what we emulate from nature, we dissect, similar to Da Vinci’s drawing of primitive flying objects inspired by the flight of birds or of submarines based on the mechanics of swimming, mechanical marvels and incredible engineering devices that were centuries ahead of their time. These poetic associations create new machines, new figures, new abstractions, new senses. For example, Transfiguraciones (2018), is a mutation of figures that transform themselves into machines, apparatus, architecture, organic elements, all in a fusion, along with the always present visual reference to the surveillance tower. Or Macroscopio (2019), contrary to the microscope, is a fantastical machine that measures more than our viewing capacity; it is a tool for envisioning the larger picture: what we can create, construct, build and transform through the power of imagination, the larger picture, the macro world.
In Observatorios Observables Estévez creates a cosmogonic firmament using intricate craftmanship to symbolize the transition from the essence of things to our actual perception of reality. He strives to rethink what it means to be human, to explain, metaphorically, the phenomena of creation, nature and perception while constructing diverse realities, to design hypothetically inventive machines that reveal human processes, the analysis of our surroundings, exalting the mere act of creation. These machine/animal/architectural systems exist to contribute to and complete a larger history of the collective attempt to understand ourselves through drawing, an essential act that seeks to explain the process of human thought.
Visual artist and Art Historian