Cubanow’s interview with a young Cuban artist takes the pulse of journalistic and humorous graphics in the country, Ramiro Zardoya...
Graphics, in the history of art, anticipated plastic arts in the vanguard trends in the early 20th century. Within the journalistic sphere, graphic humor plays a very important role. It permits visual perception of information with a rapid, synthetic and dynamic discernment. News immediacy is the basis of a form that nourishes itself on daily life and the reflexive rigor of the cartoonists.
Ramiro Zardoya is one of the current young practitioners of graphic humor. His personal history makes his work more attractive and interesting. Part of his most recent work was exhibited collaterally with the recently concluded 11th Havana Biennial; the show was entitled Dándole cabeza (Thinking Hard).
Cubanow: Ramiro Zardoya is known as a professional designer, oil painter, audiovisual filmmaker and graphic artist. Where does this last discipline rank in your artistic career?
Ramiro Zardoya: I think cataloguing me as a graphic artist is the best definition for my profession. Despite being a graduate in design, I’m a born experimenter and enjoy many different media and techniques; I must admit that I feel more comfortable with graphics, it’s like the most visceral expression. It reflects exactly what I want to tell, that’s why I almost always start from graphics when approaching other forms of expression.
CN: How, then, did you arrive at graphic art?
RZ: Ever since I was a child I read everything that was published in Cuba concerning graphics, that is humor, comics, sketches. My true discovery of this form, in a more conscious way, occurred one day when I was a student of design and a friend showed me the work of a Cuban artist named Tonel – Antonio Eligio Fernández Tonel (La Habana, 1958). That changed my idea of what humor could be and marked my future. It led me to investigate more on the topic and become familiar with figures of international renown in the medium, like Chago, Ajubel, Posada, Steinberg, Sine, Topor, Moebius. Learning about the work of all these cartoonists, who are world references, made me fall in love with the genre and stripped it of so many stigmas that for many turn it into just “something funny” or a “minor” art.
CN: Do you think your design studies have granted a special quality to your graphic work? Is there any interrelation?
RZ: Yes, there’s a total interrelation. I think my work is the result of a mixture between a designer and a humorist, with references and influences also from contemporary art.
CN: How would you define your works? Are these qualities also part of your personality?
RZ: Like any artist, my work is a complete reflection of my personality. My work is characterized by wanting to say a lot with a minimum of graphic elements, with predominance of the line, presenting ideas through symbols and signs with great poetic content. I don’t like to suggest beyond the image; I want those who see a work of mine to be able to make their own interpretation, complete what I want to say with their own ideas, their imagination and all their subjectivity. That’s why I only use texts very exceptionally and normally don’t put titles on my works.
CN: What do you prefer, to make people laugh or make them think?
RZ: Half and half, but tipping the balance in favor of thinking. If my work makes people laugh, I prefer a cynical, discreet, inner laugh. A conspiratorial laugh.
CN: What would be the first adjective you’d like to hear from someone who saw your drawings?
CN: How do you see the health of graphic humor at present in Cuba? Why?
RZ: A few years ago, in the decade of the nineties, one could have thought that graphic humor in Cuba was about to disappear. For example, some publications were abolished, and others had obsolete staffs with artists who were not the best example or who were brilliant sometime in the past. In addition there were those who decided to emigrate to other countries or towards a more profitable art form like painting. However, today we can see a new generation with more contemporary and fresh concepts, perhaps still somewhat immature but with a firm step. Something that supports the work of the younger ones is the new technologies; using them and mastering them provides new concepts and ideas. The present time is a favorable framework for graphic creators, whatever their profile may be – humorists, social communicators, journalists.
CN: You’re a very young creator who has already obtained several international prizes. What would you like to achieve within this discipline?
RZ: I’d like to keep working to bring my work to other media beyond serial publications. To give it more value and representation.
Translated by Olimpia Esperanza Sigarroa Santamarina
Revised by CF Ray