THE FABLES OF MATRIARCHY.
The recent work of the Cuban artist Jesús Nodarse is distinguished in the first instance by its marked theatricality. It is a great carnival in which three fundamental characters parade before our eyes: the minotaur, the buffoon or harlequin and the woman. Among the three of them are woven intense dramas characterized by sexual scenes, relations of power, monetary transactions, psychological tensions, lust, debauchery.
These three characters represent the mutations of an island that has become a staging to satisfy international morbidity and curiosity. An island that exports, among other things, sex and its women as the main letter of introduction. These are women who are torn between love and hate, tenderness and hurt, affection and violence. Women who offer both a kiss and a sharp nail scratch on the skin.
For their part, the harlequins are perhaps the most complex characters: they inhabit the space of the fold, the simulacrum, the pretense of a reality that is not such. They are moral «transvestites,» for whom ethics has become a fairy tale, a story of the past. The jester suffers and appears to be happy before others. He smiles when he has «the night nailed to the soul.» He amuses others while camouflages his bitterness. He is a prisoner of his own ethical inconsistency. And the worst thing is that, deep down, we all have a few buffoons inside.
Meanwhile, the minotaur represents that animal instinct with which the hegemonic centers of the West look at us and desire us. That insatiable appetite that amuses itself with the insular need. That «cultural other» that finds in the insula the most hidden pleasures and adventures. The Minotaur comes to negotiate with our exoticism. Sometimes the business goes well. Others, he ends up defeated by the Caribbean «jellyfish,» by the dangerous females of the «hot» island.
All this gives the work of Nodarse a profound anthropological and social dimension that places it among the best of today’s Cuban plastic context. A work that uses sharp metaphors to portray the multiple transformations of today’s Cuba and its people. A difficult Cuba, but at the same time beautiful.
We should also highlight the artist’s ability to deal with representational space, pictorial illumination, contrasts between lights and shadows, chromatic combinations and, above all, drawing. Jesus Nodarse is a great draftsman; the line in his work is extremely sensual, lucid, seductive. It is an accomplice of all stories (or more than accomplice, protagonist). It is the beginning and the end. The greatest weapon of the artist.
Another virtue of Nodarse is his ability to handle any format, from small to large. Especially the large ones, through polyptychs of complex narrations that function in the manner of cinematic sequences. There is much mystery in the works of the artist, as if they were a «suspense movie» full of intrigue, doubts, emotional blackmail, multiple provocations.
There is a particularly revealing work, and it is the one that presents a character (female?, masculine?) showing his/her back, while we observe the wounds caused by a scratch on his/her skin. Here the interesting thing is the number of questions that comes from the work. It speaks more from the absence than from the existing elements. Who hurt the character? Why did he or she do it? Was it an aggressive or erotic gesture? Or both? What type of relationship did the abuser have with the victim? What did the character do to deserve such a wound? What will happen next? Is the wound the beginning of a major conflict? Or the end of a tragedy that reached its climax moment? We will never really know, and it is this faculty to fable stories in our minds what makes these works a special set.
The relationship between the human kingdom and the animal kingdom is another feature of these works of the artist. Thus we observe owls, jellyfish, butterflies, octopuses, peacocks, among other beings who participate in the scenes as actors or as eyewitnesses. Humanized animals, calculators, almost always perpetrators, sometimes simulators, cynics. They interact with the typical woman present in the scenes: libidinous women, at times naked or semi-naked, sometimes shaved, with intense red lips. And their looks, flirting with the viewer, as if calling us to participate in the scenes. They tempt us to «sin», poking at the most licentious side of our being.
In short, the universe of Nodarse´s works is a world ruled by women. A society of matriarchy, where the females decide the course and destiny of the male existence. They submit, subjugate, play with men, have fun with their imprudences. They are the «lethal girls,» the queens of a chessboard in which there are only kings of shift, ephemeral and of low impact.
Piter Ortega Núñez