Donis Dayán LlagoUntitled, from the series Transparencias, 2015
Oil on canvas, 130 x 250 cm.
Like most large cities, Havana has an unobserved life, beyond the iconic façades of its illustrious constructions, the joyful faces submerged in a radiant crowd, the deafening traffic, its promiscuous and gallant atmosphere. There is something in it that insinuates itself like a promise denied over and over again, something hidden among its multiple fragments, difficult to catch. The exhibit Transparencias plays its feelings in the never peaceful contemplation of the external and perishable form of this city denied modernity, faded but at the same time classic. It establishes the cult to the city abolishing its customary form, exploiting its inventiveness to evoke the material ensemble of the city through a significant displacement of its representation, now denied the vain splendor of colors, transparent, translucent, and gray.
The notion of transparency cannot escape two essential intentions that contribute to form its image and perception: the first, related with the enigmatic attributes of what one succeeds in glimpsing even without revealing itself; and the second has to do with the physical properties of those bodies that allow themselves to be traversed by the light but which cut the clarity of what may be perceived through them. Without paying attention to this double condition one cannot fully understand what in this exposition is denoted by the delirious overlap of transparent planes. Walls, balconies, a swarm of what was once steel and concrete, are interposed to obstruct the visual field. Thus, the moldy image of that architecture, as imposing as it is exasperating, of the city of Havana is reduced to the ephemeral and equivocal stroke that seeks to define a city that lets it be divined without showing itself.
The mutation of the exterior form of the Cuban capital unleashes here an anachronism of memory that enables perceiving an unnoticed presence, the meanders of a great city full of pretense. The experimental combinations of the image that are brought about by the work of Donis Llago have been put into practice by the piercing side of a city that seems to have suffered an irreparable loss, perceivable only to whoever has wandered way too much on its streets, used to the inhospitable landscape of a city so overburdened and out of order that it cannot recognize itself, as if the contingencies could remove part of its reality.
Testing out new forms of construction of the symbolic capital, this project accommodates itself in the capacity of art to transform its own object, or even better, to reproduce the paradox of an attempt at imagination that wishes to couple to its object, deforming it. That is why the malecón seawall, evoked over and over again, becomes a sign, a word, and renounces being only a passive element, advantageous for contemplation. That is why the vision of the malecón may coincide with contemplation of a fishbowl, where the panoramic view is clear, direct, isolated in its uniqueness, accepting no misunderstandings; a fishbowl of transparent glass capable of consenting visual trade but not trade of the body; a fishbowl that shuts off and cloisters, that cancels the possibility of transit and communication.
We have just started to confirm that the resistant mass of the malecón, which from the outside presents such a compact, persistent and energetic vision is nothing but an enlightening immersion in the transitory and circumstantial. Of years gone by only the memory of the corruptible remains, or the wish to abandon itself to the irrepressible gesture of being able to “mean” something, Twisted, bent, almost in disarray, the malecón presents itself in a new form, now limpid, translucent: adjectives that contain in themselves the fragile consistence of glass and the suggestive memory of water (peaceful and transparent on the most superficial border, but agitated and turbid toward the bottom).
Relating to Havana, this kind of image often produces a feeling like uncertainty, strangeness; a contradictory feeling of living with the symptoms of a drowned conscience, of penetrating the city by her less dear but at the same time more authentic side. Perhaps the Havana of Donis is a propitious place for doubting about the future, for evading every idea of concrete belonging, a place where one does not know for sure who one is, because all the time the conscience feels surrounded by new frontiers that allow sight to go by but restrict movement.
Among other things, the exhibit Transparencias is also a refutation of the myth of the other shore, of the obsession to put something on the other side of that dividing line that separates sea from city. Because Havana, in addition to being a border city, begins to seem a border in itself, traversed as it is by a multitude of walls, of barriers that intertwine in its interior and, at times, many times in the life of its inhabitants; barriers that not only distance the human being from one’s neighbor but violently separates one from oneself. Far from a tranquilizing and optimistic image, the teeming overlap of “transparencies” that form the final image of the city flings us to a more piercing vision of existence, now endured without veils, without cracked walls that cut sight, that disguise and conceal the filth of the small and not so small daily miseries.
–Carlos Aníbal Alonso