David Alfonso Suárez (Santa Clara, 1980). Graphic designer graduated from the Higher Institute of Design in 2004. Illustrator and plastics artist co- founder of the group Camaleon. Has taken part in several exhibitions in Cuba, Ecuador, United States and Spain.
1. There are always referents that mark our perceptions and creations, what artists or designers have influenced your vision as a creative?
When I got my university course in design I didn’t know what it was about, the only thing I liked was the plastic arts. Life took me along that way and when I began my University studies at ISDI I started to be familiar with design. At the beginning Miriam Abreu, the professor of the subject Basic Design in the first semester, was a very important person, she helped me to see design with an artistic view.
Then in the second year of myuniversity studies I joined Camaleon and logically Nelson Ponte and Pepe Menendez became my key referents.
I have always valued the Cuban vanguards’ work like Amelia Peláez and Wifredo Lam, Mendive´s work has also attracts my attention. In the international context, pop movement has marked me, the work of Andy Warroll and Basquiat. In Pernambuco, where I live now, artists like J. Borges and Gilvan Samico has been an important visual reference. In the case of Samico there is a more detailed proposal, he makes armorial art and uses engraving very much.
2. What do you remember most about your experiences in Camaleon?
Camaleon was a very important group in my development as a designer and artist. In Camaleon I could go deeper into the world of plastic arts; I could experience urban intervention and leave design over a little; I could release my wishes of a plastic artist and say what I wanted to say using metaphors.
In Camaleon we made lots of illustrations and signs, I remember la Jiribilla de papel, a project that allowed us to diversify and strengthen our creations. Although we worked in different areas, we created a group of five designers that made art as well. There comes a moment in which you don’t know whether you are a designer or an artist.
On the other hand, I remember with great affection the work in team. As designers or artists it was more important the final result of the work or the project than to show each one identity. Now Nelson, Idania del Río, Darien Sánchez, Eduardo Sarmiento and me are very good friends. We never had a problem or an argument because we trusted in the work and devotion of all of us.
3. What is Recife Carnival and how do you get to the project?
The carnival of Recife is a big popular celebration. It is a festivity where people take part individually or collectively for three whole days in February. The carnival also includes the participation of formal structure groups which represent the cultural diversity of the region. According to our inquiries it is the only carnival that has a huge scale scenographic project. It is done through an identity project that includes street elements that can have dimensions of 7 or 8 meters, the design of the boxes and stages, the visual involvement of the shops, the airport, the bus terminal, the costumes design and the signs. Each year the topic of the carnival changes according to the person, event or group that is decided to honor due to its relevance in the cultural context.
I am shy, I don’t like to knock on doors to show my portfolio and look for projects, I am lack of that as a designer. I got to the carnival because I was in an advertising agency for a long time and there other people started to know my work. I have always liked the carnival and I wanted to participate in its development, but I knew that it was so difficult for me as a foreigner. One fine day Carlos Augusto Lira, whose architecture office was in n charge of the carnival called me and invited me to design, the winter festival of Garahuns together with him. It was the biggest popular culture festival in Pernambuco with a smaller format than the carnival, but far superior for its contents and the dimensions of its proposals. Then I made the festival in July 2013 and luckily the experience was repeated until 2017.
As a result of this job, Carlos Augusto Lira invites me to do the carnival. Since ten years ago, his daughter, the designer and illustrator Joana Lira made the carnival, so they were looking for a new designer. Therefore in 2013, while I was doing the festival, the design was done by Isabela de Andrade Lima.
When the festival ended in 2013 they were starting the preparations for the carnival in 2014 and invited me to work together with Isabela. At the beginning it was very difficult because we had completely different styles, experiences and visual point of reference. Isabela had worked a lot with illustrations and geometrical elements, I was more comfortable with drawing and the human figure, and then we got to the point in which we had to find a balance.
The carnival is very complex; you have to take into account many factors when designing the scenographic involvement, for example, the structures that support the totems, the electrical system to light them, the urban patrimony, aesthetics and functional issues. In the first carnival we divided the job involving us and step by step we complemented each other, we loved the result and it was crucial for the next carnivals. This is a very intense job that is performed in three months in stipulated periods. We do the design but during the process we keep contact with the architects. It is a big team where producers, lighting technicians, printers and set designers take part. In the second carnival we agreed that I would do the design of the figures and the level of color and Isabela would enrich all the designs with details and plot allegorical to the topic. It worked very good, made us optimize the time and give a more complete proposal; at the end we felt much more satisfied than in 2014.
In 2016, Africa was the topic and the concept we managed was the arrival of African cultures in Brasil. It was a delicate topic. African cultures have a lot of symbolic elements and to deal with their arrival in Brasil some elements that could be shocking, in an event of this kind, had to be dealt with. Then we had to research and to be very careful when designing and presenting the proposal.
We decided to show the arrival of the different African ethnic groups in Recife, their costumes and main habits; we worked with symbols like the cock, the goat and the mermaid. We were pleased with the end result; the scenographic project was accepted by the residents and received IF Design Award 2017 (Germany) in the category of communication.
4. How has the Brazilian culture and this project transformed your perception and creative process?
Totally. Pernambuco is a region that has influenced my job in a great deal as a designer and artist of the plastics due to the folklore and the topics I had to deal with. Perhaps when you live here in Cuba, you are not conscious of all the traditions, of our cultural syncretism. I went to work to Brazil in 2007 and I realized that I arrived with a sleeping folk culture and gradually it woke up and I started to have a deeper perception. I started to read and study about the African and Brazilian traditions, cultural experiences and their relations. You are like a sponge that absorbs what you see and what you experience, everything mix with what you have lived and results in something very interesting.
5. Which project would you like to give all your time and attention?
I would like to bring some of the experiences I had in Brazil. I would love to make the carnival of Havana with that approach and dimensions. It is a dream, I don’t know if it will come true. Now I have a project for an exhibition which was presented to Fondo Pernambucano de Incentivo a la Cultura (Funcultura PE), which is the main way to promote and spread cultural productions of Pernambuco. The fund goes to the direct financing of artistic and cultural projects by selecting them publicly. If I am chosen then I would do the exhibition in the Museu Do Sertão that is a museum for Brazilian folklore.
It would be a project with everyday use traditional objects, for example, a basin, a canoe.
It would be about objects that involve a history and have a concept which could be re –examined from the design and the plastic intervention. I am working hard wishing the exhibition could be possible.