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Two distinct artists converge at Mutual Life Gallery

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Eugenio D'Melon - Just you 'n' me, Xerograph, 2.10

Claudia Hucke, Contributor

D & D Distillers, for the first time, brings together the works by two very distinct artists, Israel Delmonte and Eugenio D'Melon, in a two-man exhibition at the Mutual Gallery. One, a painter and draughtsman, the other, a
printmaker; their styles and thematic range vary widely.

Their main link
is their common Cuban heritage and their diaspora experience in
Jamaica. Both are graduates of the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana,
moved to Jamaica 15 years ago, and lectured at the Edna Manley

Eugenio D'Melon, in his often humorous,
absurd or ironic prints, includes subtle but powerful social and
political commentary. Born in Havana in 1954, his works in this
exhibition go beyond traditional printmaking techniques; they are based
on montaged matrixes from images in magazines, which he cuts carefully
and pastes on to acid-free paper: "I recycle things,"

D'Melon explains
his postmodernist approach that also includes references to famous works
in art history. "I change the context, recontextualise images, combine
one image with another and create a new context." If he cannot find a
certain image that he needs for a composition, he makes it himself by
drawing, painting or cutting: "What I cannot find, I do," he

Working in montage

started working in montage in 1997. In keeping with the traditional
approach to printmaking, which requires a matrix, a proof, and a BAT
('good to print'), he insists on creating real, not digital, matrixes.
These he then prints using the xerography technique. D'Melon enjoys
teasing his viewers with visual puns, metaphors and, at times, surreal
imagery. Titles are very important and form a part of the game with the
image. Sometimes they help to read the image, other times there is no
obvious connection.

Similarly, some of Israel
Delmonte's works also display surreal and dream-like imagery - even
though his approach is very different. Delmonte, who only changed from
drawing to painting in 2005, paints from his imagination and sees
himself "more as a representationalist than a realist"; citations of
Magritte and Miró are evident. Most, if not all, of his works relate to
his own life story, referencing his exile from Cuba. In this way, they
are very personal, yet not all are autobiographical, but take on broader
meaning, for example, by questioning the motivations behind the mass
migration from Cuba.

The sea as a recurring motif in
Delmonte's paintings is delineated as a mysterious and transitional
place of hope, danger and disappointment. Inhabited by fantastic
sculptures of material waste, the paintings also comment on the side
effects of Western consumerism and false hopes of Cubans wishing to
leave their country. Many of the works are divided into halves or
quarters, thus also formally alluding to the experiences of immigrants
who are often torn between, and yet connected to, more than one place.
"If you leave your country," Delmonte believes, "you have to pay a price
for it, emotionally or socially."

& D Distillers will be on view at Mutual Gallery, 2 Oxford Road
until May 12 , Monday to Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays 10.30
a.m.-3 p.m.

Claudia Hucke is the senior
lecturer, art history, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing