My previous three-week blog spoke of a painting I had planned to complete at the residency. Whilst the painting had been informed by the themes, motifs and symbolism unearthed during my first time in Cuba, the formal attributes of the painting were very much embedded within my existing practice. Omar was determined to break me out of it.
In one of many invaluable coordinated visits by Unpack Studio, the coordinator Ene Seijo, introduced me to the director of a print workshop ‘El Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana’. Intrigued by the woodcuts by Jorge Rigol in the National Gallery, my interest was spiked in conversation with the collective at the workshop who spoke of its socio-political importance both within Cuban history and contemporary art practice. Sacrificing the painting in the studio back at the residency, Ene and I negotiated a placement at the workshop.
For 2 weeks I worked as part of the collective; a group of rum drinking, cigar smoking, guitar playing, hardworking men led by a formidable and warm woman. They introduced me to woodcut techniques and supported me in the creation of a series of prints based upon the painting I had planned. I’ll never forget when a Cuban artist came in, looked at the block of cut-up and blood-stained wood I had been struggling with and said ‘that’s Wifredo Lam’.
The placement remains a formative moment in my early artistic career. The prints have since been shortlisted in the UK for a prize in contemporary printmaking and I am currently seeking funding to continue my research and practice in the medium. I could never have foreseen the prints, and it is a testament to the residency, and to Omar, who managed to break me out of the confines of the studio and the little cubes Picasso to take on Cuban art with both hands in the streets of Habana Vieja.