I am susceptible to everything that determines human consciousness and history. Though living in the digital era, I reserve great admiration for the world created by mankind from its beginnings: I am equally impressed by a bison painted in the depth of a cave, a temple, an opera, or a couture suit. My enduring interest in topics of universal history, poetry and ancient music now merges with the incertitude born out of in concert becoming an immigrant and a father.
Oil painting is and will always be my greatest ambition, as is the perdurability of my work. Over the last few years, I have felt the need of gradually reducing the colors in my palette. As evident for many before me, the apparent simplicity of the monochrome lets through a more naked message, emphasized by the selective use of color.
I particularly admire Jan van Eyck and Johannes Vermeer, but I am similarly attracted to the work of twentieth century artists like Kent Bellows and Roberto Fabelo. Choosing the portrait and detailed figurative representation as my form of expression is my attempt, as such masters of art history have done, to narrate the times from my personal corner. The fantastic figuration in my work has continually mutated together with the dialog within my subjectivity, at times attempting to distort and offer the illusion of a model directly extracted from a nonexistent though familiar reality. As the louder voices of my new reality in the United States join the fainter ones from Havana, they transform my previously well-known world into a strange and new semblance, a kind of alter ego of old and new landscapes, things, and persons.
Leonardo Cuervo is a fantastic realism painter interested in exploring the human figure and bringing out its unsettling side. His work is infused with all things fantastical and esoteric, making us wander away from the reality of society to explore the unreal world in our imagination, and then, subtly, bringing us back. In the words of Artillery Magazine, “unusual and provocative in style, Cuervo’s technical skill in realism is also exquisite.”
Cuervo started as an engraving student at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, in Havana, Cuba but was immediately drawn to traditional oil painting techniques. During his artistic career in Havana, he presented solo shows in prestigious local institutions and constantly engaged in collective exhibitions. His early work was influenced by the XVI and XVII century European culture and artists. The enigmatic world of Bruegel, Jan Van Eyck's elaborate execution, Rembrandt's engravings, the strange tranquility of Vermeer's interiors; Cuervo's early pieces strove to make all these essences come together in a contemporary language but still indebted to the past. The image obtained was a direct reference of the old masters but within a system of fragmented images, full of the quotes, audiovisual images and chaotic information that is the contemporary world in which we live. Not surprisingly, that stage of Cuervo's work naturally resonated with the Belgian audience during his first international solo shows in Brussels, in 2005.
Restless in his exploration to transcend beyond the traditional representation to a more precise, meticulous form, Cuervo encountered hyperrealism and the way in which this school treats the pictorial image. His origins as engraver motivated him to also embrace pencil drawing as a complete form of photorealistic expression. Still, Cuervo's new direction do not renounce to his fantasy but brings it together with the elements of the real world. For Cuervo, it is not just about the inspiration alluded by a beggar painted by Goya or Rembrandt: it is now about the real homeless, trapped with a camera on a street in San Francisco, faithfully reproduced in a canvas or paper, and embedded in the poetic discourse that only fantasy can afford.
Upon arriving to the U.S. in 2012, Cuervo immediately inserted himself in the American art scene with his first U.S. solo show at Beverly Hills, and has been invited to present his work in the vibrant New York and San Francisco art scenes. He has been a winning artist in the “Realism-Human Figure” category of several editions of the American Art Awards.