Félix Reyes. Sculpting a life.
Félix Reyes Arencibia (Valleseco – Canary Islands, 1941). He has lived in contact with art education and has participated in everything that involved some kind of artistic renovation. He has contributed with his work to dignify the sculpture, placing some of his pieces in public places. He has shown that the artist does not belong to another world and that the spirit that drives him must always be alive.
His work, usually, consists of figures in different attitudes that, at ground level, were located in a clear place facing and allowing the viewer to wander among them. Felix has always taken into account for these works the reference of his experience: memories materialized and turned into art.
What are your first memories of making contact with art?
My beginnings go back to the year 1954, one afternoon, when I was about to go to the movies with my friends, I discovered an open window and inside a man carving the image of a virgin, it seemed to me that everything was like a miracle, I do not have to say that I stayed all afternoon watching how, little by little, the image came from the wooden truck, at that moment I knew that I wanted to be a sculptor. Among the students who moved inside I recognized one, Tinin, I asked him what he had to do to enter as a student, he told me that I only had to talk to the Professor Tejeda Abraham Cardénes. After consulting him My parents they gave me their approval and I introduced myself to the teacher, who accepted me as a student. I was thirteen years old and from that moment every day after school I attended school as a puncher, kneading mud for other students, sweeping the classrooms after classes, sharpening tools, kneading plaster, polishing stone, sanding wood, and all the tasks that were entrusted to me, it was a very hard learning, but necessary. So I had the good fortune to meet such wonderful artists as Ángel Péres, Peregrin, Antonio Santana, Antonio Padrón Diepa, or the great Manolo Bethencourt, and of course the great teacher I loved as a father.
The hardness of the teaching was due, that being so young, I had to demonstrate my will and love of work.
One day, like many others, he sent me to prepare mud, for a life-size head and its support, when I had everything I asked him, Who is it for? His response was, accompanied by a smile, “it’s for you, do what you want”, that was one of the best days of my life, at last, I was already an official student as an apprentice sculptor. Given the open character of D. Abraham, his workshop was always full of people from the art world. Painters like Jesús Arencibia, Antonio Padrón, or poets like the Lezcano brothers. Pedro and Francisco and Pino Ojeda. The big jump was when the school moved to the new headquarters in the neighbourhood of Vegueta, it shared a building with the Lujan Pérez school, a school of character more committed to the avant-garde, directed at that time by Felo Monzón. One of the painters creators of the so-called indigenist art together with Placido Fleitas, Santiago Santana or Antonio Padrón. Then he evolved to abstraction. Every afternoon-evening there was a gathering where the most flowery arts of the Canary Islands met to discuss current issues. From that school artist of the stature of Manolo Millares, Antonio Padrón, Rafaely, Jesus Arencibia, Juan Márquez and his brother Miguel, Paco Lezcano, Jane Millares and Abraham Cardénes himself among many others. These gatherings aroused in me the interest to discover other ways of seeing art until then attached to the ways of making the master, which we had as our only reference. I come from a very humble family, my father had a car from which he was pulling to distribute goods, my aspiration to study Fine Arts was truncated by economic issues. One day after a huge exhibition made by the students of the Municipal Academies, center to which I belonged, and which was very successful between the critics and the public, and taking advantage of that moment. D. Abraham showed up at the City Hall and putting the keys on the mayor’s table said “if my students are not allowed to close the school”. That had a result because the following year I was the first recipient of the City Council and later by the Island Council. With this scholarship I was able to study Fine Arts at the Superior School of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. That’s where the senses really woke up, the contact with other professors, the numerous incursions to the different museums and the great offer of art galleries, and the exchange of impressions of other colleagues, were the keys to my training, let’s call it the second stage. I have to clarify that the entrance and preparatory of the race I did it in the school of San Miguel Arcángel of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, thanks to a money that I earn helping the sculptor Juan Márquez.
What are your influences when it comes to creating? What is it that inspires you?
I am very interested in Egyptian art for its simplicity, the Greek art for its beauty, the Assyrian for its strength and the African for its expressiveness.
In the creative aspect, I am interested in telling stories that I have lived through, such as my creations, Lugar de Encuentro and Mi Barrio, where I remember my friends from childhood and youth making a portrait of the characters in time and space, and reflecting the society of that moment.
Another work of the memories is Solidarity, where I capture the burials of my people, at first, and that later is completed with the terrorist attack of Atocha, is formed by three thousand figures carrying an umbrella, made in alabaster, remembering the day rainy and that did not stop at all to the demonstrators in his silent and solidary march. O Labyrinth, sensations lived in the solitude of my first days in Madrid. And so all other works, such as Women of the market, One life, The road, Child on the ladder, and others.
A moment that marks a before and after in your career?
Without hesitation I will say that it was when I won the exams for the Volume class of The School of Arts and Crafts of Logroño, that gave me security and freedom to do art without thinking about economic issues.
What are the phases through which your creative process goes? Do you follow some method or ritual?
The creative process for me goes through many phases, first of all, to see what things I want to tell, how to tell them and in what matters to realize them. When the thought is in order begins the realization of sketches, seeing how to make the work as clean as possible, subtracting forms dialoguing with them, the material and space, to stay with the essential, eliminating the anecdotal and seeing the values that give me the chosen material.
The method to follow is to work tirelessly, not settle for the first idea that emerges, although sometimes it is the most successful, but I can not deny other possibilities.
The ritual that I follow is to talk a lot about the work with my wife Rosa Castellot, and with friends because every time I talk about it, I am visualizing the work, so I also know the sincere opinion of the people I love.
How did the idea of Art on Earth arise?
This was after having participated in a meeting of sculptors, in the province of Belluno, Italy, where I was invited to participate in 1997, what was seen and lived was wonderful, I really liked that activity where the competition did not exist, only the meeting of artists wanting to tell things, I admire the generosity of all the artists who undressed plastically without hiding anything from anyone.
One day, talking with Rosa, we thought about doing something similar in Santa Lucia, so we spoke with five artist friends, José Carlos Balanza, Carlos Rosales, Carmelo Argáiz, Demetrio Navaridas and Oscar Cenzano. We all liked the idea, we thought then that it would be good to have proof of what was done in a catalogue, for this we went to ask for a grant from the General Director of Culture of La Rioja Domingo Rivera. He thought it was a great idea and with the help of the Government and the Caja Rioja Foundation, we set out, having passed in these fifteen editions more than sixty artists from many parts of the world, being a reference for many scholars.
Art on Earth is distinguished by the ephemeral character of his works. Do you think that art is or should be transitory, a fleeting expression in time?
It’s an option, from the beginning we liked the idea of the ephemeral. First, because the field in which it is carried out, the rural field, we borrow it for a time from the farmer and he takes it back when he needs it to plant a new crop. Second, because the work does not become old, neither conceptually nor physically, we have in mind that many of the materials used, according to cases, are perishable, and easily break down.
Is there any work that you feel especially proud of?
I think of all of them because each one of them meant something to me at every moment, but to answer your question I’ll tell you, because of its size, the emotional content of the work and the time it cost me to define it, that would be Solidaridad. Here I tell my feelings of childhood, the burials of my people Valleseco, which culminated in the demonstration against the Atocha bombing on a rainy day, that day I found the solution to carry out the work, a straight line and all walking in the same direction.
The work, which gave way to my way of telling stories, is a meeting place and my neighbourhood followed later by Solidaridad, Laberinto, or Mi Vida, El camino, Espacio Cúbico, and Las Mujeres del Mercado.
Among the materials that you use in your sculptures are wood or bronze. Do you have any preference for any of them and why?
All the material is thought from the beginning, since you conceive the sculpture because it has to dialogue with the work, if a work is designed for stone should not be made in wood or other materials, because the characteristics of each material help the concretion of work and its beauty.
Lately the sculptures I think and made in wood because it is a very warm element and brings colour and veins that give the work a very interesting aspect, as well as the surface treatment, with polish and brilliance, giving it a special touch to enjoy touching it. If touching them.
Here I make a defense that the sculptures should be touched. And I understand that these are prohibited in museums. And it is that when caressing a sculpture the senses are triggered and the hand sees things that the view does not perceive.
The stone for me is the ideal material for sculpture and worked directly, this was my chosen material until after a heart attack I was forbidden to work it. Bronze is a material that does not have its own character, allows the reproduction and seriation of sculptures, being the original material of any material.
A city that you would like to know?
A person whom you admire?
Many, but the most Rosa, my wife, who is an essential part of my life.
What advice would you give to those people who are starting in this profession?
Do not hurry. Never fail, because there are very hard moments.
May they always be honest with themselves.
That art demands a lot and that it has to give everything every day. That it is very good to see everything that surrounds you, but that the truth is within itself.
And finally, any professional challenge that you have left to fulfil?
You always have challenges, every day when you wake up you want to go down to the workshop and meet your creatures, and get into a rampant way with the material, giving free rein to your imagination. I believe that for each artist his best work is to come. This at least in my case, I wait for it with real expectation, waiting for it to surprise me.
Teresa Dulin & Mario Lopez