In 2018, I find out that I have been accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Havana. I already knew the prestigious Cuban school from a stay the year before during a workshop led by Andrea Zaumseil, artist and professor at the School of Fine Arts in Halle where I was doing my postgra- duate studies. The country seduces me and I wonder more particularly about my way of working and the materials I use. I must point out that the material means found there are not the same as those in Europe, for example. Paper and paint are expensive and rare. For those who wish to do photography, or engraving, the problem is always the same. Then you have to find other ways to express yourself. So I am interested in my primary medium, at least in my drawing practice: paper. When I was in Cuba, there was very little access to the internet. So I had to do my research on papermaking while I was still in Europe. Once there, I encountered many difficulties, due to the little knowledge I had. Which plants to choose, which trees, barks and fibres were the most suitable? After three weeks of research, I had no convincing results and I lost my motivation.
That’s how my apprenticeship starts. They show me and explain to me that they have found a tree whose bark fibre has a very good density. They offered to take me out the next day to collect this bark. The tree in question is of the ficus family and it is more precisely at its roots which leave its branches to plunge into the ground that we will be interested. The exercise is not without effort. Indeed, we are equipped with a sword and a knife in order to extract the bark. Once the work is finished, we go home and plunge our harvest into boiling water so that the fibres can soften. The fibre is reddish-orange and soaks up the coloured water. After several hours of cooking, the mass is ready to be beaten. With wooden sticks we beat the tangled fibres for long minutes so that they become finer and separate. Once our task is completed, we can finally move on to the most delicate operation: the making of the paper sheet. To do this, we need a basin with water, a sieve to filter the water, and then a bucket for its round shape. The most complex part is to gather the right amount of fibre on the screen and gently place this thin layer on the bucket. Once done, the sheet needs a whole day to dry, and it is finally usable. To give you an idea, two working days are the equivalent of about twenty sheets. A leaf has a very high value and becomes, in my opinion, a unique object.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Academy of Fine Arts in Havana, I advise you to go and see this magnificent place: