Leonardo Cuervo is a fantastic realism painter interested in exploring the human figure and bringing out its unsettling side. His work is infused with all things fantastical and esoteric, making us wander away from the reality of society to explore the unreal world in our imagination, and then, subtly, bringing us back. In the words of Artillery Magazine, “unusual and provocative in style, Cuervo’s technical skill in realism is also exquisite.”
Cuervo started as an engraving student at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, in Havana, Cuba but was immediately drawn to traditional oil painting techniques. During his artistic career in Havana, he presented solo shows in prestigious local institutions and constantly engaged in collective exhibitions. His early work was influenced by the XVI and XVII century European culture and artists. The enigmatic world of Brueghel, Jan Van Eyck's elaborate execution, Rembrandt's engravings, the strange tranquility of Vermeer's interiors; Cuervo's early pieces strove to make all these essences come together in a contemporary language but still indebted to the past. The image obtained was a direct reference of the old masters but within a system of fragmented images, full of the quotes, audiovisual images and chaotic information that is the contemporary world in which we live. Not surprisingly, that stage of Cuervo's work naturally resonated with the Belgian audience during his first international solo shows in Brussels, in 2005.
Restless in his exploration to transcend beyond the traditional representation to a more precise, meticulous form, Cuervo encountered hyper-realism and the way in which this school treats the pictorial image. His origins as engraver motivated him to also embrace pencil drawing as a complete form of photo-realistic expression. Still, Cuervo's new direction does not renounce to his fantasy but brings it together with the elements of the real world. For Cuervo, it is not just about the inspiration alluded by a beggar painted by Goya or Rembrandt: it is now about the real homeless, trapped with a camera on a street in San Francisco, faithfully reproduced in a canvas or paper, and embedded in the poetic discourse that only fantasy can afford.
Upon arriving to the U.S. in 2012, Cuervo immediately inserted himself in the American art scene with his fisrt U.S. solo show at Beverly Hills, and has been invited to present his work in the vibrant New York and San Francisco art scenes. He has been awarded second place in the “Realism-Human Figure” category of the 2016 American Art Awards.
"I am susceptible to everything that determines human consciousness and history. Though living in the digital era, I reserve great admiration for the world created by mankind from its beginnings: I am equally impressed by a bison painted in the depth of a cave, a cathedral, an opera, or a couture suit. My interest in topics of universal history, poetry and ancient music is essential to the selection of the characters that define my work...
Oil painting is and will always be my greatest ambition. I usually start a new piece from an intricate drawing, gradually covering the canvas with successive layers of translucent paint and employing various oils and varnishes until accomplishing high degree of realism. One of my goals is the per-durability of my work over time. During my years as a student, I closely worked with and learned from specialists on conservation and restoration of easel paintings, and that acquired knowledge has become an intrinsic requirement in the creation of my paintings...
I particularly admire Jan van Eyck and Johannes Vermeer, but I am also attracted to the work of twentieth century artists like Kent Bellows and Chuck Close. Choosing the portrait and figurative representation as my forms of expression is my attempt to approach such masters of art history. On the other hand, the subject of fashion and commercial photograph lends my work immediate modernity, making my artistic discourse a personal testimony of this era of high resolution images, while at the same time attempting to convey the timelessness and contemporaneity of universal themes and myths of human consciousness. Though employing a number of diverse photographic images, my subjectivity saves me from the mere photographic imitation when I distort those images to offer the illusion of a model directly extracted from a nonexistent reality and turn our immediate and well-known world into a strange and new semblance, a kind of alter ego of those landscapes, things, and persons that comprise it."