Ramon Carulla


By: Jorge de la Fuente

Ramˇn Carulla┐s work has had a singular evolution: his pictorial vocation begins with abstract forms. It is known that an auto-didactic painter, in general, focuses initially on conventional visual forms-buildings, landscapes, local scenes, portraits, etc- much like an elemental method of representation. It is the nemesis or imitation that Plato situated in the origin of art itself. In this particular artist┐s case, his first steps in the art world are marked by the an uncommon interest in the formal appearance of surfaces, in the visual suggestions products of chance and the textural evocations of walls and ramparts. The bottom line is that it has been like an intuitive lesson of the semantic value of the ways in which would later crystallize in a work where the thematic search is accompanied by carefully done compositional work and the expressive value of the pictorial material.

Since the 1980s and during a gradual process of accessing figuration, Carulla starts the incorporation of torsos, bodies and other referential elements that appear to sprout from his improvisations on canvas. They are visual suggestions that start taking concrete shapes. A stage characterized by expressionism of a very personal tone begins: the tone that imposes an enticing advancement through very codified ground in modern painting armed basically of intuition and sensibility. On that road, Carulla comes to find his own style of expression, in which it is possible to appreciate a warm human message, emotively and empathically charged.

Of the abstract phase of this painter a peculiar sense of planimetry is conserved, and the impression that the figures are superimposed over the canvas. The backgrounds, on their part, are generally neutral or very simplified which help the figures to stand out. Such expressive features transmit to the images a sensation of levity that gives a lyrical tone┐sometimes naive┐to the finishing of the artwork. And this is a central element in Carulla┐s expressionism: stop human anguish and alienation reflected by the most orthodox expressionists, this artist proposes a less dramatic approach to the human theme, very conditioned by the pictorial treatment of figures and other subject matters. The loneliness of Carulla┐s characters is unlike that revealed by E. Munch in his anthological painting The Scream, or unlike the ironic and shocking image of man that we find in F. Bacon; the loneliness of Carulla┐s characters has no impact whatsoever nor does it have the mythic transcendence of existential crossroads with dead end, because the isolation of Carulla┐s characters is the daily solitude and nostalgia of the emigrant. And it is the evocative strength of memories what confers a lyrical tone to the lack of human supports and the lack of physical and cultural spaces of identity that typify Carulla┐s characters.

The arsenal of pictorial motives of the artist is permeated by the nostalgia and at times are memories of a dual sense: as presence in the memory and as objects that have been saved in his trips and in his daily life. The familiar sofa, the first bicycle, the umbrellas and the circus are recurring subjects, just as the stamps, the rings of tobacco, napkins and such small ┐memories┐ of trips have incorporated physically into his works through the use of collage.

Among the memories of childhood that have nourished Carulla┐s artwork is the circus, which is for any Cuban child growing up during the 1940s and 50s the initiation of the world of entertainment and illusion. Perhaps of this thematic atmosphere develops the magician┐s hat as the paradigm of a national surrealism that later on becomes an object of infinite variations. Almost all of Carulla┐s figures wear a hat and extremely unusual garments for the heat of the Caribbean. Somehow, the garments and the hats of these characters are an exterior symbol of their inappropriateness, of the artist┐s intention of placing them at the beginning of the fictitious plane. With a basic design, these figures showing their profiles and facing each other are engrossed with their interior solitude. It is the lack of communication represented through the potential interlocutors; there they are, facing each other, yet unable to make any human contact; the hieratic and absence of their gestures gives them away. On occasion, the artist uses indirect ways in order to establish a "dialogue" between the characters: in Los Magos (The Wizards) the contact is established through a recurring symbol: the small umbrella and the miniature boat that cites the theme of his series El juego de la vida (The Game of Life). Another piece in which an object ┐in this case a fish- incorporates the message is Si me pides el pescao te lo doy (If You Ask for the Fish I will give it to you) in which he contrasts the solemnity of the scene with the type of offering. Here, the artist represents in a literal way a common phrase of the Cuban argot that implies a sexual offering. From my point of view, the way in which Carulla elaborates the meanings is of great spontaneity and that confers the works a peculiar charm. It is what happens in a work like El So˝ador (The Dreamer) where the detachment of reality of this concept is represented by two very codified elements in popular culture: to be suspended in air, not have the feet on the ground and the successive masks that show the change of identity so common in dreams.

Carulla┐s pictorial work has been gaining in coloring and emphasize on the use of textures and fillings. On the other hand, in his recent drawings on paper one can perceive a renovated interest in supporting textures and in the expressive use of the line. His registers of solitude are also part of the experiences and the perception of the world of today┐s Cuban, immersed in what Carulla himself has denominated "..the difficult search of interior freedom."