Yonier Powery: Art is my mission

In the few short years that Yonier Powery has been painting his unique style of art in the Cayman Islands, we have come to love his vivid surrealism and clever and extraordinary depictions of ordinary life.  

Following on from successful shows at Full of Beans café and The Gallery at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman earlier this year, Powery is again set to burst onto the art scene with an incredibly powerful display, again at Full of Beans café in Pasadora Place. 

His latest exhibition, “Source of the Invisible,” will run from Nov. 11 through the end of the month.  

A prolific painter, Powery recently went through an unusual dry spell before producing his latest works. 

“I lost someone who was very dear to me earlier this year,” he explains. “She was a very important figure in my life growing up in Cuba, and it was very upsetting for me. She was a big supporter of my art as a child and she encouraged me to pursue art as I got older. As a result, I couldn’t paint for a couple of months while I tried to get over the pain.” 

Originally from Cuba’s Isle of Pines, Powery has been residing in Cayman since 2010. A graduate of the Wilfredo Lam Professional Academy of Visual Arts, Powery went back to teach at his alma mater before he was required to undertake national service in the Cuban army. 

Renewed dynamism 

Following the difficult time earlier this year, he says he has emerged with a new vigor for painting. A series of abstract pieces have followed in quick succession. “Not to think” came first – a powerful blend of strong reds and turquoise, and shapes deeply etched with emotion. 

“I didn’t want to worry about detail, I just wanted to get my feelings out onto the canvas,” he explains.  

A second piece, “Traffic,” while more muted in color, is also abstract and lively in design. “DNA” continues the theme, with the artist’s own thumbprints on the canvas. Perhaps most striking among his recent abstract works is “Lifecycle,” another piece full of passion with paint splats adding to the energy of the piece. This artwork shows an egg, depicting life, while a chicken is heading to its doom by guillotine. An image of corn is also woven into the artistic narrative – a nod, Powery says, to the efforts of the lovely lady who passed away, who helped to feed him when he was a child. 

Message over aesthetics 

Powery is not an artist preoccupied with aesthetics. More important to him, he charges the viewer to understand the thoughts and emotions behind his artwork. 

“It’s not so important to me that I paint a beautiful picture,” he says. “That is easy. But beautiful pictures come and go. I would rather paint something that showcases the history of the island and my surroundings and has a powerful message. That kind of artwork lasts forever.” 

For his “Source of the Invisible” exhibition at Full of Beans, Powery is also showcasing two pieces which he calls “Golden Ground” and “Golden Ground II.” By no means the average person’s view of what’s “beautiful” artistically, the works by Powery vividly capture in incredible detail images of construction on island, with huge mechanical diggers raking up the land. 

“I called them ‘Golden Ground’ because the land in Cayman is so valuable,” he explains. “It is important for me to dig more deeply than aesthetics and find a way to really touch people.” 

Another collection of strikingly colorful and energetic scenes depicting Cayman’s fishermen hard at work is grouped together for the show. “Big Boy,” “Fish 4 Sale,” “The Catch” and “Mahi Man” all highlight historical references of the hard life of Cayman’s fishermen in times gone by. Colors are vivid blues and greens; paint is almost splashed across the canvas with vigor, depicting incredible movement and in some ways, sound as well. 

But his real passion is in the part realistic/part surrealistic artwork that currently hangs at The Gallery at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. He unveils a new piece that he is currently working on, as yet untitled, which, he says, will be part of a series to be exhibited next year.  

“I find with surrealism you can go more deeply into the painting as it starts to work on the mind. I really like that it engages people to think about the message,” he confirms. 

For Powery, art is his way of communicating to people, a way to advise viewers how he feels and that he cares deeply about everything around him. An artist to watch, Powery promises great things at his upcoming Full of Beans exhibition, as well as in new shows next year. 

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‘Mahi Man’

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Yonier Powery at work in his art studio. – Photos: Lindsey Turnbull

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‘Lifecycle’