Antonio Carreño


Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. - Thomas Merton

The first time I saw one of Antonio Carreño’s paintings, I was instantly drawn to it. The colours were the first to attract me, but then I became lost in the other worldliness of the painting. A duality existed upon the canvas. It was a painting, yet had sculptural elements. There were constructed dimensions, reliefs, and crevices. These grabbed my attention and then transported me into another sphere. The painting was mystical and, at the same time, completely familiar.

Since my first introduction, Carreño’s style has changed, but the essence of his work remains. It is always dynamic and engaging. Inspired by the universe, many of his early works are texturally complex. He frequently used natural and man-made materials such as sand, sawdust, and ground paper as a foundation for the paintings’ tactility.  

In a universal way, we sometimes talk about the air as separate from the universe, but for me I look at the earth as part of the universe and most of the things in the universe are related to the earth. If we want to know the answers to the universe, we can look to the earth - its right in front of us.

Holy Night  (2012), oil on canvas

Carreño has mastered the technique of creating atmosphere. He works in layers and manipulates geometric patterns and colours to construct planes of existence. One quickly becomes captivated by the paintings’ visual dialogue. His paintings take the viewer on an expedition where one discovers more the longer one views the painting. The vivacity of the paintings results in the viewer’s inter-action with the art. Unable to focus one’s eyes on a particular area, the energy, movement, progression, and harmony within the work hold the viewer’s attention. He paints without constraints or limits. As such, painting becomes a spontaneous and experimental journey yet, seemingly contradictory, it is also controlled and deeply profound.  

I mix my colours and I start to work. I have a general understanding as to how I want to structure the different density of the colours. Most of the time I try to use more heavy colours on the bottom as it grounds the painting and then as I move up I use lighter colours. It’s just a psychological way of how we are ourselves. Your thoughts are coming through your head and you are grounded by the floor. The quality of things is much lighter on the top and heavier on the ground. In most of my latest work, I might have a different spectrum, where the finalities are harmonious around the paintings themselves. I always use a touch of primary colours, red and yellow. Yellow is light to me, it’s an important colour and I use it as light. If I’m using secondary colours there would always be the appearance of the primary colours, to reflect the energy of the painting itself.

Carreño's use of colour is influenced by his cultural background.

Light ... comes very naturally. I think growing up in the Caribbean, the main thing that hits you every day is the sun. No one in the Caribbean is separated from interaction with the sun. In painting, there’s energy between the art and artists in general. The energy of a painting has the energy of the artists.
Carreño’s interest in humanity and the “driving forces” of our lives contribute to his body of work, Gravitation. This series continues his attention to the universe and humanity’s place within it.

Blue Ensemble (2008), oil on canvas

Scientists acknowledge that the universe is expanding, yet, they are unaware of exactly how this is occurring. The driving forces of the universe, in many respects, remain unknown as do the driving forces among individuals. It is this mystery Antonio seeks to explore.  

He states, “gravitation creates everything”. Gravitation is an unseen fundamental aspect of our daily existence in both a physical and social way. Just as our bodies are attracted to the earth through gravitation, there is also the magnetism which exists between individuals. This applies to strangers whom we physically gravitate towards for some unknown reason as well as mental gravitation, thinking of a person at a certain time and having an unexplained, yet urgent need to make contact.

Sequence of Thoughts #2 (2011), oil on canvas

Carreño’s art, like the universe, expands with no end in sight. He continuously pushes himself and his art to express the holistic nature of the universe and the universal elements that connect us all.

A lot of the information in the color is presented within the soul of a thing. Sometimes a painting as a whole will reflect feelings and emotions that can’t be captured. Colors can capture the emotion. It can be the end of the afternoon (or) the space of the ocean.

Phase Ascending (2012), oil on canvas