Cuban-born artist Julio Cesar sheds some light on his ‘Divine Shadows’

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AN INTERVIEW BY ELI KEEL FOR INSIDER LOUISVILLE.

One of Louisville’s most arresting and skilled artists, Julio Cesar, returns to NuLu this weekend with “Divine Shadows,” his fourth show at Revelry Gallery Boutique.

The Cuban-born painter works mostly with oils, creating surrealist images that recall Dali in the malleability of Cesar’s subjects and the scope of the settings in which he places a mixture of self-portraits, animals and architecture. Cesar’s brushwork imbues these images with an almost Impressionistic quality.  

Insider interviewed Cesar in advance of the exhibit’s opening on Saturday, April 7.

(Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Insider Louisville: When did you start working on these paintings? 

Julio Cesar: I started working on the paintings for this show around March 2017.

IL: How many shows have you had in Louisville?

JC: “Divine Shadows” is the fourth in Louisville and the 25th in my career.

IL: Are there specific themes for this show? Ideas you explored in these paintings? Recurring images?

JC: When I start my show, I have a general idea of what I want to project, but while I’m in the process, I begin to add new expressive elements that create new scenarios, new paintings. In this show, I freed myself from past creations and just let my mind and soul fly so I could find new elements to feed myself with.

I always believe that the daily life is an eternal scenario where we have to deal with our happiness, sadness, pain and changes. And all that is inside my way to create. 

IL: Has your art changed since you came to Louisville?

JC: Being an island artist, I’ve always been a dreamer in another land. Louisville and his people became that magical place where I tell my histories through my canvas. Since I met Mo (gallery owner Mo McKnight Howe), Revelry Boutique Gallery welcomed me with open arms to reveal my art. And every year I’ve had a new challenge to create.

Every year I have the opportunity to have a solo exposition with Revelry, I can show the people my desire to grow in this city 

IL: How do you choose titles for your paintings?

JC: I confess it is really difficult for me to find the perfect title for every piece, because the title is a necessary resource to transmit the message to the people. It is magic when I can find the right title.

IL: You work in a range of sizes, but some of the most immediately arresting works are these big canvasses that take up most of a wall. How big is the largest canvas in this show?

JC: “The Saved Essence of My Soul” — 48 by 36.

IL: How do you decide how big a painting should be?

JC: Most of the time I have the main idea in my head, and it tells me the size I need, because the size is an expressive resource. It is part of the artist’s language.

IL: Do you make drawings or plans before you start working on a painting? 

IL: Was there a particular inspiration for this show? JC: When I am creating, I open my secret diary where I draw my dreams and magic visions that come to my mind. They are my private revelations in my studio.

JC: Freedom. I started this exhibition in winter, where is not natural light that I normally like to paint. So I decided to do something colorful and different from the past.

I am a visionary artist — everything that happens in my daily life I will put in my canvas with magic.

IL: How do you turn an initial idea into a large work?

JC: What I most enjoy when I give birth to my painting is the profound process when I create. My studio becomes the perfect place to reveal stories, because it’s there where I live with my scenarios, colors, arguments, music, characters — it’s like eternal conversation. And from there my ideas gain life. My legacy will be the open book of my life through my paintings.

“Divine Shadows” opens with a reception on Saturday, April 7, from 7-10 p.m., at Revelry, 742 E. Market St. The exhibit hangs through May 8.  

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