Et Invisible

Created in 1972, Wifredo Lam’s Visible Et Invisible series comprises ten etchings with aquatint in colours. This collection captures Lam's exploration of Afro-Cuban culture and Surrealism, demonstrating his distinctive blend of European modernist techniques and Caribbean symbolism.

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Meaning & Analysis

Wifredo Lam's Visible et Invisible series represents a pinnacle in the artist's fusion of Surrealist aesthetics with Afro-Cuban themes. Each etching in this series is an intricate composition that reflects Lam’s interest in depicting the complexities of Caribbean identity and spirituality.

Lam, whose artistry bridges between European modernism and African diaspora culture, was deeply influenced by his Cuban heritage and the rich spiritual traditions of Afro-Cuban religion. This influence is vividly apparent in Visible Et Invisible, where anthropomorphic figures and fantastical creatures populate the dreamlike landscapes. These figures are symbolic representations of the Orishas—deities from the Yoruba religion, which is a significant component of Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion.

Lam's employs aquatint in this series, a printmaking technique that creates a tonal effect. The delicate gradations of colour and the ethereal quality of the etchings evoke a sense of the otherworldly, aligning with the surrealist notion of exploring the unconscious mind and the unseen forces that shape human existence.

Lam’s work often confronts the viewer with a sense of duality, as suggested by the series title Visible Et Invisible. This duality is a recurring theme in Lam's oeuvre, reflecting his interest in the interplay between the seen and unseen, the known and the mysterious. It also speaks to the complexities of his identity as an artist who navigated multiple cultural influences—African, Caribbean, and European.

Visually, the series is characterised by Lam’s signature style: bold, linear forms that intertwine and overlap, creating a dynamic and fluid composition. The use of organic shapes and abstract forms draws the viewer into a world that is both familiar and fantastical. The etchings are filled with intricate details that reveal Lam's meticulous approach to composition.

In the broader context of Lam's career, Visible Et Invisible can be understood as a culmination of his artistic journey, where he successfully synthesised his diverse influences into a cohesive and contemplative body of work.

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