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Exhibition of new works by Cuban artist Yoan Capote opens at Ben Brown Fine Arts
Yoan Capote, Requiem (Plegaria), 2021. Installation view of Yoan Capote: Requiem, Ben Brown Fine Arts.



LONDON.- Ben Brown Fine Arts is presenting Requiem, an exhibition of new works by Cuban artist Yoan Capote. This is the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with Ben Brown Fine Arts, and third solo exhibition at the London gallery. Now open at the London gallery, the exhibition presents a new progression in the artist’s practice with the introduction of gold leaf into his iconic seascape paintings. The dazzling gold leaf, monumental scale, and meticulous incorporation of fishhooks in these paintings evoke a spiritual quality, inviting reflection and refuge in a time of great upheaval.

The gallery space has been transformed by the installation of these vast canvases – among the largest works ever created by the artist – immersing the viewer from the perspective of being surrounded by sea, on an island similar to Capote’s Cuba. The tantalizing horizon line conjures feelings of promise, hope, uncertainty, loneliness and even fear. The seascape paintings, now imbued with a precious material that evokes classical artistic traditions of centuries past, are a metaphor for the migrant crises around the world and the need for spiritual healing and respite as we experience global health, political and environmental catastrophes.

The sea is a longstanding theme in Capote’s work, reflecting his experiences of growing up on the politically isolated island of Cuba and the yearning for the world beyond, and more generally as a symbol of allure and danger, freedom and isolation, hope and tragedy. These dualities are revealed in the Requiem paintings — they are at once transcendental meditations on the sublime beauty and boundlessness of the wild seas, bathed in a divine golden light, yet their construction of sharp, menacing fishhooks, many tainted with traces of blood, firmly connotes the dangers and impossibility of migration experienced by many Cubans, and countless others around the world.

Throughout art history gold leaf has signified purity, divinity and the unearthly, as in the early Renaissance paintings that inspired Capote during his travels in Florence, Italy. The paintings in the Requiem series are similarly imbued with a sense of the sacred, rousing contemplation and inspiring awe. In juxtaposing these divergent materials, Capote was able to explore the fragility of the ‘golden dream’ that draws many toward a horizon often fraught with unseen danger. Although traditionally applied to a flat surface, in these works the gold leaf is transferred onto thick layers of impasto, emphasising the tactility of the paint surface, and creating a resplendent play of light on the shifting seas. A classically trained artist with a reverence for Edo period Japanese print-making and 19th century Romantic landscape painting, as well as the earlyRenaissance, Capote sees these works as a way to reconnect with traditional artistic techniques, revealing the universality and spiritual value of painting.

‘In these works, I am moving towards something more spiritual,’ says Capote. ‘The exhibition is called Requiem and it is not just about honouring the victims of the migrant crisis, but of the whole world through the pandemic. Gold leaf has been used throughout art history, and I want these works to reconnect with the spiritual value of painting; for the viewer to feel empathy for wider universal themes.’










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