Cuba is once again under the spotlight worldwide. Since the ’60s, movement to the Caribbean island from the US has been limited, but in March this year, the long-standing travel ban was lifted.
Lumas Gallery’s latest exhibition, Viva Cuba, is therefore a timely one. Dedicated to life in the country, it showcases limited-edition works by international photographers Werner Pawlok, Luigi Visconti and Larry Yust. On display at The Dubai Mall gallery space until Friday May 20, the photography component, Cuba Expired, by German photographer Pawlok, tells the tale of a rapidly changing country and provides an insight into decades of its glory and splendour.
Having dedicated himself to the country since 2004, Pawlok revisited Havana in July 2015 to capture a historic period of change in the Island’s capital. The result is a range of powerful images that leave a bittersweet aftertaste. Former glory and traces of decline sit side by side as Pawlok highlights the charm of the old city in which luxury is felt merely as a relic of the past. He talks us through his show.
Every picture tells a story
In House of Chino, the walls are studded with faded framed portraits and kitsch paintings line the walls. “This is really one of the last countries that has stayed like it has for the past 50 years, and that’s very interesting for people to see,” says Pawlok. “Che Guevara, Castro… all of that made the country change. When Castro came into power, they never took care of the houses and in the end, they didn’t have the money to renovate them,” Pawlok says. The self-taught photographer, who captured the images in Cuba by asking citizens to open up their homes to him, says there is beauty in the ruins. “When I walked into the rooms, it was like a movie, I saw people dancing in my mind and I fell in love.”
A country frozen in time
Much of the beauty in Pawlok’s work emerges from aesthetically pleasing decay. Throughout the series, icons of luxury – chandeliers, bespoke antique furniture and beautiful tiled floors – are framed by damp-streaked walls and crumbling plaster. We see images of formerly magnificent manors, and American classic cars, showcasing the island’s nostalgic charm. “People living in the houses aren’t really the owners. Many of the items you see in the pictures have been left by previous owners – the books, the furniture and the paintings,” Pawlok reveals.
The photographer says he wants people to get a feeling for the place in his pictures and for viewers to make up their own minds on them. “I want people to create their own atmosphere and to step inside my pictures. You have to start dreaming.”
Free. Until May 20. Lumas Gallery, The Dubai Mall (04 299 698804 299 6988).