We at Brit Es have been following the progress of Ernesto Cánovas for some time, in fact we consider him like our amulet-artist. He was one of the first people we interviewed and so we’ve had a strong connection with him from the very beginning. His extensive body of work spans the figurative and the abstract in a career that began in London in 2009. He studied Fine Art at the Slade School of Art, and took some postgraduate courses in Edinburgh.
His exhibitions in London’s prestigious Halcyon Gallery were successful both in the media and in terms of sales, making him one of the foremost Spanish creators in the United Kingdom.
Ernesto has a very distinctive style; he reaches out from the present to recreate the realities of the past. His technique is highly meticulous, it dilutes the image and gives it a halo of nostalgia; he makes it contemplative and reflexive.
His latest project in London was particularly special, for a number of reasons. First of all, because it was a collaborative exhibition with the artist Gracjana Rejmer-Cánovas – his wife. Second, because it took place in a venue that is unusual on the artistic circuit: the Paul Smith shop in upmarket Mayfair.
Gracjana Rejmer-Cánovas, also a graduate of the Slade School of Art, reflects on her surroundings and gives them a highly subjective, colourful treatment. She is captivated by urban landscapes, which are the main focus of her work.
In this collaborative exhibition, entitled “From Cocoanut Grove to Soho nights”, Gracjana and Ernesto present a nostalgic Californian universe. Cocoanut Grove, one of the most emblematic nightclubs of the US West Coast, is the starting point for a collection of scenes spanning various years of history. The ink drawings are by Ernesto. These are pieces that he has worked on over the years and which he has now returned to, then passed the baton to Gracjana who turned them into striking collages by skilfully adding her colourful foam.
Whilst he creates context and tells you a story, her contribution reinvents and distorts it. As such, they are a perfect pair to make the viewer think and reflect.
All of the works have a title. At the private viewing at Paul Smith, Ernesto explained to us that each work, despite having a very specific backstory, leaves open a wide range of possibilities, and the titles help the imagination of the viewer to run wild. They contain subtle allusions that complement the work perfectly. Thus we find an “Arrested Development” where a worried figure is making a telephone call, a “Facing Africa” with two faces covered by some of Gracjana’s yellow sponge, and the abstract “Night Movement” in dark tones, with two constellations of colour.
We enjoyed twenty-five pieces by this perfect duo, and the surroundings were completely in tune with the exhibition. Paul Smith, who has always supported artists of every kind, hosts a wide-range of exhibitions in his shops. In this way, they create a real link between design and contemporary art, which is particularly evident in the work of Cánovas, who was a graphic designer before he became an artist. For “From Cocoanut Grove to Soho Nights”, there could be no better venue than this. Paul Smith’s vintage designer furniture scattered around the room enveloped us in the perfect atmosphere; perfect for Ernesto and Gracjana’s nostalgic paintings, which evoke a once happy California that is now lost in the mists of time.