The Weightlessness of Metal
By Yeni Osuna Morales
Since the hands of man-creator discovered how to master materials such as metal and take it to the language of sculpture, many artists have been in love with this mode of expression. Eulises Niebla (Cuba, 1963) is one of them. Throughout his career he has devoted himself to exploring the dissimilar ways in which industrial materials can be challenged with the intention of transforming them into volumes that are mouthpieces of the transforming capacity of art and its many suggestions.
To date, Niebla’s production boasts a remarkable number of sculptures of large and small formats that he has been able to conceive both for public and environmental spaces, as well as for indoors, domestic or gallery spaces. He is currently concentrating on the realization of small-format pieces, which finishes make them function as autonomous works and also as models of future sites that can be located in any city.
Niebla has ventured into various materials such as metal, marble, glass and the combination of these. In the last five years he has been working mainly with steel. And as a result of this dynamic that is established between the artist and the metallurgists who accompany him in the realization processes, precious works have been born that already speak of an identifying style in the production of this artist. His work shares the aesthetic concerns deposited throughout history in the minimalist sculptural practices, and he has felt identified with the work of creators such as Ramirez Villamizar, Gelen Escobedo, Richard Serra, among the most important that he recognizes as influential in his thinking and way of assuming the language of sculpture.
A characteristic to highlight in Niebla’s creations is how he clings to the beauty of what is a priori beautiful –an eclipse, a sea horse, the growth of a plant– reinforcing this quality with the inherent tools of the artistic. Likewise, he chooses motifs that allow him to analyze and trap in his volumes the idea of movement and weightlessness. And for this he starts with a material that is rigid and heavy. Hence, his best works stand out for the dynamism and the illusion of lightness that they manage to transmit, forgetting when we are in front of them, that they are volumes made of a metal of very hard consistency. His designs become a permanent exercise in experimentation, trying new ways to bend –literally– the inflexibility of the material. Some of the forms he has outlined seem to take off in flight, or move in the wind. Sometimes they are filled with folds, bendings, or come to curl, or intertwine with each other . And in this way he looks for possibilities in which the movement gains evidence and credibility. Likewise, he pursues that the visual results participate in another issue that he considers essential for his work. And that is the matter of harmony. A harmony that is also reinforced by color and texture. Giving each thing the exact value: a striking polychrome that hides the natural color of the material; finishes on surfaces that leave them shiny, polished, smooth, and with certain airs of sophistication. The beautiful, the sophisticated, the dynamic, add distinction to the surrounding space in which Niebla’s sculptures are integrated. That space resurfaces and resignifies itself.
On very few occasions he has opted for morphologies that can be easily recognizable. His production, in general, seems to pact with the abstract form; an abstraction that is inspired by real elements that are transformed by lines and curves; simplifying to the maximum all the parts until the vestiges of figuration disappear and reach other forms. It is the line, a preponderant element in all the work of this artist. It is the line that gives the illusion of lightness and movement to his sculptures.
Each of these components is articulated in the body of the work in such a way that what we have in front of us is an indivisible whole in which everything has been absorbed and transformed. When we observe sculptures of this type, one begins to compare. For example: a sculpture and the body of a car. Both are made of steel. A sculpture and some screws, hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, things like that that come into our hands. All made of steel. In this very simple exercise of comparison we can realize the mutant nature of the material and the dissimilar meanings they acquire once transferred to everyday language or to the language of art. In the language of art, the material acquires a lofty value, of worship, of contemplation. And the sculptures of Eulises Niebla remind us of that.
Design, color, texture, the new form, the form that has been constructed, that no longer exists as it once was on the outside, that now is something else, that perhaps it was always something else in the world of creation and they named it similar to what was in reality, the small scale that gives the illusion of monumentality, of projecting outward, of expanding or gathering… Each work of Eulises Niebla interpellates our senses. And it leads us to question ourselves about the possible ways in which a piece of metal can become , the strenght of that metal, in this case, in a neat, perfect, rhythmic piece, reminiscent of another order of things.