Feu Vert

Wifredo Lam's Le Feu Vert, created in 1974, is a series of six lithographs that capture the artist's distinctive blend of surrealism and Afro-Cuban symbolism. This series continues Lam's exploration of mystical and syncretic themes, featuring his signature hybrid figures and ethereal landscapes.

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Meaning & Analysis

Wifredo Lam's Le Feu Vert series is a profound exploration of the artist's cultural and spiritual heritage. Born in Cuba of Chinese, African, and Spanish descent, Lam's work is deeply influenced by his diverse background and his connections to both Modernism and Afro-Cuban culture. This series of lithographs, created in 1974, is emblematic of his style, which merges Surrealism with elements of Afro-Cuban mythology.

The title Le Feu Vert translating to 'The Green Light', evokes a mystical, almost alchemical image. The green light could be interpreted as a symbol of transformation, regeneration, and the merging of different cultural elements. This aligns with Lam's broader artistic practise which depicts the synthesis of various spiritual and cultural traditions.

Visually, the series is characterised by Lam's signature hybrid figures, which are part human, part animal, and part vegetal. These figures often appear in dynamic, almost dance-like poses, creating a sense of movement and ritualistic energy. The lithographs employ a palette that combines muted tones with vibrant accents, enhancing the otherworldly quality of the imagery.

For instance, Untitled IV features a central figure that seems to merge with its surroundings, its body outlined in sharp, angular lines while enveloped in a smoky, ethereal haze. The use of warm hues, such as the reddish-orange background, contrasts with the stark black and white lines, creating a visually striking composition. This interplay of colours and forms draws the viewer into a dreamlike world where the boundaries between the physical and spiritual realms are blurred.

It is this ethereal quality that outlines Lam's engagement with Surrealism in this series. Influenced by his interactions with artists such as Pablo Picasso and André Breton, Lam incorporates surrealist techniques to explore themes of identity, transformation, and the subconscious.

Lam's work in this series also reflects his interest in the syncretic religions of the Caribbean, particularly Santería and Voodoo. The figures in Le Feu Vert can be seen as representations of deities or spirits, their elongated limbs and abstracted forms echoing traditional African masks and sculptures. This connection to African art is a manifestation of Lam's celebration of his African heritage through his work.

In summary, Le Feu Vert is a testament to Lam's ability to fuse diverse cultural influences into a cohesive and deeply personal artistic vision. Through this series, Lam invites viewers to enter a mystical realm where different traditions and identities converge, creating a rich tapestry of meaning and symbolism.