By Carol Damian
Catalogue text Elite Fine Art Gallery, October 1997


Great waves of rolling surf crash upon the pure white sands of an Island paradise, threatening its very existence with their awesome power and frightening sounds. The beauty of nature’s unbridled force is echoed in the brilliant turquoise of sea and sky. The imas itsage is so vividly real, one can taste the spray of salt as the pounding drums on relentlessly. The fury of the sea is beating home the might of nature, and a message of loss. When the sea subsides and the trees are again visible, only dreams and nostalgic visions will remain.

For Luis Vega, the visions and sounds of nature’s force and beauty have inspired meticulously painted I and and seascapes. However, It is his own imagination that takes them above and beyond the truly above representational into the poetic realm of romantic fantasy. While the emotions that inspired them may have been the result of real experiences in real places (the Island of Cuba and the experience of exile in particular), and the actual structure of moving water, sky and clouds was observed and recorded by him, he has changed their intention. Now, Luis Vega is recording not only their physical formations, he is recording his deepest intuitions and memories. In confronting the very personal loss of his beautiful tropical homeland, he turns to universal and romantic ideas about nature. He expresses not merely the ageless theme of nature before man has tamed her, but the forces of nature rising in revolt against man with his absurd pretense to ignore them or use them for ignoble purposes. Nature on the Island of Cuba, lost it not literally destroyed, takes on a metaphorical purpose that transcends the necessity for any social or political narration.

Luis Vega’s vision is pantheistic. Everything in nature is given life, and revered, with the stroke of a brush. If only in his dreams, each magnificent panorama is captured with extraordinary veracity. Idyllic views of a tropical world, surrounded by water and ringed by mountains, expand into far-reaching vistas lit by the glow of a setting sun. With exceptional patience, Luis Vega paints every leaf, every palm frond and every tiny ripple of water with an obsessive attention to detail and insatiable curiosity about their very original and place in nature’s scheme, all the while questioning man’s place as well. Classical composition all arrangements use trees to frame the foreground with convincing accuracy, fuse the central motifs into the water-laden middle ground and dissolve the distance into the mist of the horizon. Nature has been put in order by the artist, perhaps as a final effort to salvage what is becoming more and more remote. Is he capturing in tangible form what can only now be just a dream? Is his search for the extraordinary in nature a way to quell his fears that the island will disappear forever if he does not record its every details? If nature is given new life with imaginative and fantastic depictions, will she remain at list in his memory?

Through the interplay of the conscious and unconscious, the real and the imagined, Luis Vega paints luminous skies, sunlit clouds and fantastic tree forms that are mesmerizing recreations inspired by the wondrous vegetation of his lost world. Exotic trees are especially awesome as they writhe and surge like monsters rising out of a primeval jungle. They twist in the wind and emerge out of monumental cloud formations like creatures of fierce anthropomorphic supremacy dominating the land and sea below. They may be drifting and rootless, no longer attached to the earth below but now part of the sky above  Perhaps metaphors for his own voyage into exile and feeling of detachment, the trees do not appear to be distressed by their new position. Finding a new environment, their gnarled trunks move on to the next level of existence.

In the mangroves of tropical swamps, other strange tree forms dance in the water, their naturally distorted shapes posed eerily against the radiant blue-greens of the water and sky. Like elegant ballerinas, they poise to welcome the torrential rush of a waterfall out of the quiet. Each windswept branch and searching root seems to have a life of its own. In the never-ending cycle of life, trees perform as magical accompaniments to the rhythms of nature. Their human like mannerisms are in marked contrast to the gray sheen of the stones piled on the shore. Vestiges of the passage of time surging tides, the bleak polish of the stones may be prophetic of a desolate future for the island, without life and its once lush vegetation. The profusion of the tropical landscape, organic and inorganic, reflects Luis Vega’s own need to lose himself through painting, as one could hope lo escape the vicissitudes of life in the impenetrable depths of the forest.

With optically persuasive attention to surfaces and textures, Luis Vega lures the viewer into his tropical scenery while provoking numerous questions about the art of painting, as well as the meaning of the subjects portrayed. His paintings exceed the merely pictorial depictions of the real world. They are not facsimile reproductions of alluring scenery. Although he appears to record with photographic accuracy the minutiae of the landscape, his skills with composition and his ability to make decisions regarding nature’s re-creation and rearrangement, allow him to achieve a higher sense of perceptual reality. Drenched in nostalgia, each meticulously painted, light-suffused scene invokes a sense of the meditative pastoral beauty that has long been purged from modernist aesthetics. Eager to reveal the radiance present in nature on a universal as well as a personal level, Luis Vega is able to elevate his images above the ordinary and into the realm of dreams and emotional expression.