Horacio Esteban flies solo at National Gallery

From left, Kerry Esteban (Horacio's son and creative assistant), Kerri-Anne Chisholm (curator), Horacio Esteban, Natalie Urquhart (director of the National Gallery and curator), and William Helfrecht (curator).

There are some art exhibitions that can be viewed virtually, and others that can only be truly experienced in person.

Luckily, Cayman is one of the few places where people can move freely about, so taking a tour of Horacio Esteban’s works presently on display at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands is highly recommended.

The new exhibition opened this week and explores the artistic career of Esteban, a key figure in the Native Sons collective. Esteban is especially renowned for his use of locally-sourced or reclaimed materials, including cedar, driftwood and Caymanite. His work has featured in numerous exhibitions over the years and has received widespread critical and public acclaim.

‘Dragonfly’ has been created from found cedar and gorgonian sea fans with Caymanite.

Entitled ‘Alchemy’, in reference to the artist’s remarkable ability to transform natural materials into wondrous objects, this is Esteban’s first full-scale solo show and it presents an illuminating portrait of his 25-year career.

Supported by Davenport Development, Ogier, and the Ministry of Culture, it includes pieces from his private collection, as well as those residing at the National Gallery, the Office of the Premier, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, and several private collectors.

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A statement from the gallery’s curatorial team of Kerri-Anne Chisholm, William Helfrecht and Natalie Urquhart, said, “A sculptor, painter, jeweller, and craftsman, Horacio Esteban has a prolific and diverse creative process that is driven by an inherent sense of discovery, akin to that of a Renaissance man.

“Through his remarkable imagination and skill, he converts natural materials, found across the Cayman Islands, into strange and marvellous animals and artefacts, creating a new world for us to encounter.”

‘Higher Ground’ is fashioned from a whelk shell, resin, mahogany and iron.

In order to fashion a connecting thread for this diverse collection of artwork, the curators have created an immersive experience where the viewer becomes an explorer – travelling into the magical world of Esteban in search of new wonders and curiosities.

Starting in The Explorer’s Study, with its diverse collection of objects, the explorer then steps out into the marine and terrestrial environment where fantastical creatures – such as a bygone ‘Caiman’ (marine crocodile), for example – are brought to life in a primordial forest of fallen cedar and unearthed Caymanite.

“The artist transports us – through his remarkable talent and the power of our own imagination – to a place of wonder. It is a truly uplifting experience for children and adults alike,” stated the curators.

Opening night reception of the ‘Alchemy’ exhibition, with Esteban’s ‘Egresaurus’ sculpture in the background.

About Horacio Esteban
Born in Cuba and raised in Cayman Brac, Esteban is a sculptor and jeweller known for his use of the local semi-precious stone, Caymanite. A core member of the Native Sons artists collective, he was recognised by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation for Artistic Excellence in Sculpture (2002), and in 2017 received the Artistic Director’s Visionary Award. In 2004 Esteban was awarded the National Gallery’s Artist Away Grant. In 2015, he was selected for residency in the inter-island artist lock-in project in Jersey, Channel Islands, produced by the Jersey Arts Trust in partnership with Jersey Heritage and Wild Works Theatre Company. He has participated in many gallery exhibitions over the years and his pieces are much sought-after by local and international collectors.

The ‘Alchemy’ exhibition runs until 24 March 2021, and is open from 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. Admission to the gallery is free. School tours, which will focus on the artwork as well as the geology and natural history of the Cayman Islands, can be booked by emailing [email protected]. A supporting programme of events, late-night openings, lectures and workshops will be available shortly via www.nationalgallery.org.ky/whats-on.

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