“From each painting I learn something new that I can then apply to the next one” - the new exhibition of Ernesto Cánovas

By Aina Pomar - Wednesday, September 16, 2015
“From each painting I learn something new that I can then apply to the next one” - the new exhibition of Ernesto Cánovas

I meet the artist Ernesto Cánovas at Halcyon Gallery, where he has his last exhibition “Overlapping View” displayed and the first thing that attracts my attention is the smoothness and clean finish of the paintings. It’s not that the images he uses to create his multi-layered pieces are transferred keeping the hundred per cent of its details and definition, but it’s perhaps the use of aluminium surfaces that gives the pieces this delicate look.

“From each painting I learn something new that I can then apply to the next one” - the new exhibition of Ernesto Cánovas

I meet the artist Ernesto Cánovas at Halcyon Gallery, where he has his last exhibition “Overlapping View” displayed and the first thing that attracts my attention is the smoothness and clean finish of the paintings. It’s not that the images he uses to create his multi-layered pieces are transferred keeping the hundred per cent of its details and definition, but it’s perhaps the use of aluminium surfaces that gives the pieces this delicate look.

In previous series, like ‘An American Thrilogy’ and ‘Turneresque’ Cánovas used wood panels, but he was ready for a change:  “I’m used to working with wood, which is a material that I’ve mastered. This has been new and experimental, basically because aluminium is a material that repels instead of absorbing. It has been more challenging”, he admits. 

The creative and technical process is of extreme importance in Canovas’ work. He uses his own or collected images, manipulates them digitally and transfers them on aluminium panels. He then applies different drawing or painting techniques, and to finalise the pieces he coats them with resin. 

Although this method requires a precise knowledge of the materials used and what steps to follow, some freedom is essential. Each work is different and demands a different process, so he is keen to use spray or paper, scratch the aluminium and mix the materials with graphite if he feels the result will be better.

The experimental process is, inevitably, full of accidents. Instead of avoiding them, he embraces and integrates them, pushing the boundaries of possible alternative results. “From each painting I learn something new that I can then apply to the next one”, the artist says.

Ernesto Canovas, Alter ego , 2015. From the exhibition ‘Overlapping View’. Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery.

In ‘Overlapping View’ the artist revisits topics already present in previous exhibitions, like the relation between photography, painting and human memory and notion of popular. His references to Pop Art and Romanticism are visible in his pieces, but not defining of Cánovas style, who has its own personal way to show a distorted reality and to arise awareness of social issues increasing the viewer’s attraction to the images. 

In this show he pushes us to challenge our own assumptions of fact and fiction, using a more eclectic combination of images. The pictures that Cánovas collects or appropriates and manipulates take us from exuberant tropical landscapes to glaciers and even to the moon, creating an intimate portrait of enigmatic exoticism that is combined with an obscure interpretation of pop culture. As stated by Halcyon Gallery, his last works recall the words of Susan Sontag, “to collect photographs is to collect the world.”  

Ernesto Canovas, Arbitrary subject of light, 2015. From the exhibition ‘Overlapping View’. Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery.

When asked about this ability to collect images and travel through them, he explains: “I pick images from magazines and postcards. I accumulate the images, I adapt them, modify them and take them out of context. The criteria I follow to collect is, above all, visual. In the first painting I created in London there was some conifers. I saw the image on a book of 1966 and I wondered who would write a book on conifers on 1966. Then I checked what had happen that year, and I found out that there had been a lot of atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, so from the conifers I started to create paintings about bombs”.  While Ernesto tells me the story of some of the paintings and the process of selecting the images that will be integrated in the paintings I realise that the title ‘Overlapping View’ is not only a linked to Canovas’ technical process. It is also related to his ability to combine multiple visual references.  He follows an instinctive creativity, connecting an image to a topic, jumping to a different one and creating apparently random implausible connections that, in its visual result, make total sense. 

In past works, he has used images that instinctively attract him, for example, from 1950s America, and transform them somehow in Hitchcockian images, criticising and demythologized pop culture. In recent works he seems to be presenting a new fictional reality. He has had more freedom to experiment with the technique and with multiple and interconnected subjects.

Ernesto Canovas, From jungle to mumble, 2015. From the exhibition ‘Overlapping View’. Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery.

Going back to Susan Sontag and the idea of collecting the world, the artist states that travelling is essential for him and as important as the hours in the studio. “Someone said to me that fifty per cent of the work is observation, and I took it literally!”, he laughs. 

And this wish to travel was perhaps what leaded him to become an artist. Cánovas was born in Barcelona and moved to Edinburgh after studying design. During a trip to London he saw The Triumph of Painting at Saatchi Gallery, which gave him the impetus to study Fine Arts, specialising in Drawing and Painting, and to do Photography courses. Shortly after his graduation he started gaining recognition, being selected for The New Contemporaries Exhibition in Edinburgh and winning The Stevenson Award for Painting in 2010. He has afterwards exhibited at Saatchi Gallery, Channel 4′s New Sensations and Royal Scottish Academy as part of Generation 14, among other spaces.   

Ernesto Canovas, Limbo encounter, 2015. From the exhibition ‘Overlapping View’. Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery.

Ernesto Cánovas does not only focus in paintings. When he was studying his MA at Slade School of Fine Arts he also used drawing as a creative outlet when he returned home each night. He has continued drawing as a method to create pieces more spontaneously and always with some nostalgic connotations. Cánovas and his wife, the artist Gracjana Rejmer-Cánovas,also work together to create pieces that combine drawing and painting and last year exhibited at Paul Smith their project “From Cocoanut Grove to Soho Nights’. They will present a show together in March 2016 at the Kirk Royal Gallery (Valencia).

‘Overlapping View’ will be open until 20th September at Halcyon Gallery (London), while Ernesto is also showing ‘Alienation Peace’ at Ambacher Gallery (Munich) with which he will be displaying a selection of pieces this autumn at viennacontemporary and YIA Art Fair. 

Ernesto Canovas, Room with a view, 2015. From the exhibition ‘Overlapping View’. Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery.

With regards to other upcoming projects, he also reveals his intention to create new three-dimensional paintings in aluminium. This last exhibition has encouraged him to experiment with the material, which can be easily curved, so it is simple to pull the picture out of the wall. He has also started to use ceramics, which evidences the importance for Ernesto to have new challenges, to reinvent his painting and to continue working.  I’m certain we will soon have the opportunity to see the artist’s work evolving from smooth aluminium pieces to multi-technique sculptural painting. Not only this, I’m sure there’s more to come, more to discover from Ernesto Cánovas’ studio.

"The Plan is not plan"2011/2014,56x76 cm., ink and dyed foam. Courtesy of the artist.

"Facing Africa"2011/2014,100x150 cm.,ink and dyed foam. Courtesy of the artist.

"Double bang" 2012, 140x100 cm.,mixed media and resin on board. Courtesy of the artist.

Elephant and Castle Studio with the Turneresque series 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

"Non-Profit Observation"2011/2014,177x252 cm.,ink and dyed foam.  Ernesto Cánovas and Gracjana Rejmer-Canovas at Paul Smith shop Mayfair. Courtesy of the artist.

Aina Pomar graduated in Sociology and Photography before completing a Master in New Media Art Curatorship. She has collaborated with Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Majorca and with CCCBLab and Fundació Foto Colectania in Barcelona. She moved to London to work at the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain, where she coordinated visual arts and exhibition projects with the aim of promoting Spanish culture and artists across the United Kingdom. She currently collaborates with various galleries and art projects in London.

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Luc Tuymans, Flemish Village 1995.  Collection MuHKA, Antwerp

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