Nelson Ponce holds his opinion on Cuban illustration

Nelson Ponce

 

Nelson Ponce

Havana, 1975. Designer of Visual Communication, graduated in 1998 at the Superior Institute of Design (ISDi) in Havana, Cuba. Co-founder of the Grupo Camaleón (Group Chameleon) in 2000. Illustrator of reference whose works have been recognized and acknowledged in the U.S.A., Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Poland, Mexico and Brazil.

 

Cuban illustration has been quite versatile in its forms and manifestations; in which period do you think it was at its peak?

I consider that in the seventies and a part of the eighties, Cuban illustration was a little bit more solid due to the will of the government to the diversification and proliferation of publications, printing offices and editorials. Several publications were written and edited here, and they were then printed in the USSR or in other socialist country. As a result, illustrators had a great liberty for creating, which was appreciated in the plurality of formats and the use of different techniques.

 

Ilustración del libro Cuentos de Guane

Illustration by Nelson Ponce for the book Cuentos de Guane

Do you think that it is possible to identify any referent that has influenced our illustration?

Yes, I believe that there was a strong influence of American tradition. In a certain way, there has always been a look towards the American way of illustrating, and it is possible to appreciate this in the work of illustrators such as Morante.

Later on, that interest began to redirect and transform responding to the European tradition, specifically the one that was generating in countries of the USSR. At the time, the exchanges between the illustrators of those countries were decisive. Many of those countries (e.g. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia) are nowadays great pillars in the area of illustration, fact that demonstrate their relevance and impact in other contexts.

Ilustración de Posada

Illustration by Posada for the book Criaturas insólitas o desaparecidas

What illustrators do you consider to remain in the collective memory of Cuban design?

I do not think there is much memory about the Cuban illustrators. I consider it an underestimated manifestation despite the fact that Cuba has given great creators in the illustration field. A deep study about our illustrators is not included in the curricula of institutions related to visual arts.

For me (I do not know if they are in the collective memory too), there are dearly-loved illustrators like Muñoz Bachs, Morante, Enrique Martínez Blanco, Vladimir González, Ubaldo Ceballos, Reinaldo Alfonso, Rapi Diego, Miriam González, Virgilio, Bencomo, Lorenzo, Posada, Ajubel, among others that would make this list (my list), something really extensive.

 

Ajubel

Illustration by Ajubel

How would you characterize the state of Cuban illustration?

In a general way, I believe that the diversity and fluctuation of quality characterize the current state. I guess that this is due to the growing presence of autodidacts, the lack of information and the scarcity of a solid market for the progress of this profession. There is a panorama were very talented creators are pondered just like others which are not very qualified; this fact that leads certain disorientation in younger illustrators that are willing to enter the field.

 

Ilustración de Reinaldo Alfonso

Illustration by Reinaldo Alfonso for the book Dos ranas y una flor

What impulse would the Cuban illustration need to increase its growth and success towards the future?

I am a defender of people´s willpower as key to the materialization of projects, but it is not enough. This willpower must be accompanied by an infrastructure and economic conditions that will generate a true impulse. The increase of editorials and the perfection of printing offices are necessary for the truly appreciation of the illustrator art.

At this moment, there are people contributing with their work. For instance, there are professionals writing for children and there are specialists in editorials like Gente Nueva (New People), who are creating interesting projects. However, all of this ends up in the capability of the industry that produces the outcome, and is in that place where main lacks are.

No me pongan en lo oscuro. Ilustración de Nelson Ponce

No me pongan en lo oscuro. Illustration by Nelson Ponce

If the industry progressed, then, more opportunities for designers and visual artists would emerge, and they could express themselves and love this manifestation. Once this happens, there would be other concerns related to the artistic dimension, to creation itself. Another step that I consider important would be the creation of an infrastructure to support the teaching of illustration. The existence of a specialization in the schools related to visual arts would be very significant for the development of illustration field. Maybe, a discipline or major in illustration could be created, which would allow a solid and deep formation in a world where there is much to discover and experiment.

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