Born in 1973 in Havana, Cuba, Juan Antonio Puebla Arias is a self-taught plastic artist. He left Havana and moved to the Algarve in 2015 and currently lives in Lagos. We first came across his work in the Lady in Red (LiR) gallery in Lagoa and got in touch to find out more about the artist and his style.
“I brought a whole world of warm, Caribbean and very personal colours with me to Portugal,” Juan explained. “My palette has the stamp of an island, of lots of suns and endless rains, of human warmth, of smiles and sadness, of coffee, sea, of old colonial buildings, of stained glass, of dreams and realities, where time stands still. The person emigrates, but his native land is carried in his soul, and this is as if he never left it.”
Juan uses oil, acrylic, Chinese ink and sometimes paper on canvas, thus seeking the difficult balance between drawing and colour. “I’ve been influenced by Cuban painters like Wifredo Lam and Sergio Padilla, as well as international names like Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso and Maria Blanchard, from whom I took Cubism as a pattern from the formal and conceptual point of view.”
When you see his art hanging on the walls at LiR, you could, at first glance, be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the artist is local. The vibrant blues, tiles and buildings could be from here. It’s only on closer inspection that you begin to see what is there. The contrast between his Cuban roots and new home are blended harmoniously.
Juan first exhibited in Havana in 1993 and remained on the Cuban circuit until 2006, when he began to exhibit internationally. Firstly in Canada, then over to Europe in 2014. Along with his gallery pieces, the award-winning artist also made two pictorial murals in his native Havana and participated as a jury member in The Fine Art Competition ‘Looking at the Footprint of Valentin Sanz Carta’ at The Canary Island Association of Cuba. Continuously evolving, Juan recently went to Madrid to take the course “Cubism in Modern Culture”, taught by the Museo Reina Sofía and Sociedad Telefónica.
Juan’s style is bright, bold and unique. “Some of my work, as part of the search for the viewer’s own approach, can be hung in different ways, turning it on its four sides,” he says. “It’s through my cubist work that I intend to incorporate a fourth element to add to the three existing spatial dimensions – and that is the dimension of time, thus achieving the space-time link, where all our experiences, our stories and relationships flow between our past, present and future.”
His art focuses on developing and deepening a new cubist vision, where time is the main protagonist. Thus, together with the other spatial dimensions form a more comprehensive idea of both the physical and spiritual environment.
“I show in my work the multiplicity that we always have in the future and that we are the main creators of it. With a look inside ourselves, chaos can appear, the inexhaustible range of possibilities that we cannot control when others intervene and our particular ability to choose, to predetermine the next step,” Juan explained.
“In this present reality that we live, we must understand how powerful we are, how much we can do to improve our future and bring love in every action. Cubism has not died, we have it inside, it accompanies us every day and always takes different paths.”
As for the future, Juan Arias’ dream is to hold an exhibition with several current cubist painters. For now, his paintings can be found in private collections in Cuba, Canada, USA, Mexico, the Canary Islands, Germany and Portugal, and, of course, at LiR, in Lagoa.
By Sarah Young