Artist and The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student Dennis Cardelús Jones from Palm Beach, Florida, is a remarkable character with an energy that matches his lively, colorful, and fluidly crafted paintings. Dennis’s mediums range from 10-foot wall murals to sculptures, even breaking frames to paint over, putting them back together, and stretching his own canvases. I had the pleasure of visiting Dennis at his vivid art studio in Boynton Beach. Walking into any artist’s studio resembles sifting through the individual’s mind, but nothing prepares for overwhelming creativity unlike anything else.
I was immediately struck by the explosion of colors that greeted me. The walls were adorned with vibrant paintings of all shapes and sizes, each one more colorful than the last. The room was bathed in natural light that streamed in through the opened garage door as the hot Florida sun illuminated the space and brought the paintings to life. The floor was covered in a rainbow of paint splatters, evidence of the creative energy unleashed here. Canvases were scattered throughout the studio in various stages of completion, others waiting to be transformed into something beautiful. The artist's tools, brushes, paints, and palettes were scattered on the floors and atop tables, providing a glimpse into the artistic process. This was a space where creativity ran wild and imagination knew no bounds, a place where colors blended and harmonized to create a symphony of beauty.
An abstract portrait painting is a unique and intriguing representation of a person that explores the inner essence rather than what meets the eye. Dennis’s works are not categorized as that of “portraiture” exactly, at least in most cases, but instead, they are visual representations of an unspecified figure. Dennis's artistic technique demonstrates an overarching range from bold and expressive brushstrokes to gentle, fluid lines that create impressions of the character in his imagination. He uses various methods to distort and fragment his compositions, making them utterly complete rather than broken. While his paintings are amalgamations of abstract forms and shapes, they represent an ambiguity that we experienced as we tried to give a name to the Egyptian yet bird-like standing figure Dennis drew in multiplicity, each different. The beauty of his work lies in his ability to convey his inner world as subjects by using a unique visual language that transcends conventional representation. It's a mysterious and thought-provoking body of work that invites the viewer to interpret and experience it individualistically.
Dennis works in what a viewer may view as a quick and seamless manner, but what one doesn’t see is the sketching and development process of each shape, color, and figure per piece. Not only are there those elements that make up each composition, but it is imperative for the reader to remember the thoughts and philosophies of the artist that drive the artwork. For Dennis, his existential ruminations are prevalent in his work spray painted across his paintings. While his body of work reads as cohesive, to Dennis, each work is its own entity and being.
Much of Dennis’s custom oil paint is highly textured, walking the line of low relief in consistency and theoretically galactic. The young artist has two methods that aid his texture-building. At first, he used his fingers, but after a professor told him it was “muddy,” Dennis then transitioned to using a palette knife, his favorite tool, which optimizes your wrist motion and grip to better manage the heaviness of the stroke and amount of paint applied to the canvas. His range of texture—from relieved dots to thinner strokes on canvas—directly resembles his studio, for thoughts and walls of layered dried spray paint is tough yet soft, movable yet solitaire, and an array of questions and statements that can only be deciphered by an unknowing question mark “?” That being said, upon observation one may inquire whether he is asking the audience a question through his use of color and form in each piece.
Now, before I begin to tell the stories behind Cardelús Jones’s work, I want to bring us back to when we vaguely knew each other in boarding school in Connecticut. Dennis attended Avon Old Farms while I was close by at Miss Porter’s School for Girls. Not only did we have a plethora of mutual friends, but we also both lived in Palm Beach. After college, when we finally reunited, it was as if no time had passed at all. We picked up right where we left off and reminisced about our time at boarding school with fondness and nostalgia. It is enlightening to see how far Dennis has come as an artist, and it is a blessing to be in the presence of his fantastic creations.
Dennis’s legacy, and where he intends to go, is crucial to his character and artwork. Three weeks prior to visiting Dennis's studio, I reconnected with him at an artist exhibit during Art Basel in Miami Beach, where he and other artists represented themselves with the self-founded Vex Gallery. I walked into the exhibit with a mix of excitement and curiosity. The bright colors and bold strokes of his paintings on display immediately caught my eye and drew me in. Some were inspired by Basquiat while others resembled techniques used by the Impressionists. Each piece seemed to tell a story, inviting me to immerse myself in Dennis’ world. As I moved from one painting to the next, I felt a sense of wonder and awe as I watched visitors crowd by a framed canvas. Dark purples and bright yellows carefully create a form that appears to be Jesus, but upon closer inspection, was actually his grandmother. In fact, the portrait was a second rendition of an original portrait of his grandmother.
Portraiture is usually categorized in the art world as something seen as traditionally perfect. But the “perfect portrait” is challenging to Dennis, who sees representation in energy through colors as the true being. Dennis told me, “I feel like it's almost good that I don't like that. I can almost do that. And yeah, it makes me want to get like, almost wanting to try to chase that the thing that I can't do, but I can do other stuff almost improperly.”
Dennis shocked his friends and family when he made the bold decision to paint over his original portrait of his beloved grandmother. As someone deeply connected to his family and heritage, this decision was not taken lightly. Dennis realized that the original portrait, painted by another artist and handed down through generations, didn't fully capture his grandmother's spirit—the strength and resilience that she embodied. In a burst of inspiration, he painted over the canvas, layering new colors and textures to bring his grandmother's true essence to life. The result was a breathtaking new portrait that captured the depth and complexity of his grandmother's character in a way that the original painting could not. Dennis' bold act of painting over his original portrait of his grandmother became a powerful symbol of his artistic growth and his unwavering commitment to capturing the true essence of his subjects in his art. It also served as a reminder to all artists to be true to their own vision and to not be afraid to take risks in their creative journey. Painting over the original portrait has become a story that is shared among art circles, showcasing the profound and emotional journey that artists often embark on to create truly authentic and meaningful works of art, despite the risks they must take to do so. Whether it's a message about artistic integrity, the complexity of human emotions, or the power of transformation, Dennis Cardelús Jones' decision to paint over his original portrait of his grandmother has become a story that resonates with artists and art enthusiasts alike, and a legacy that will be remembered for years to come.
From his custom colors to the thickness of layers and stroke widths, Dennis combines his own vision with his studies at SCAD. It is a blessing to know Dennis and to be in the presence of his work, especially while he is in action. As mentioned earlier, Dennis represents his own entity titled Vex Gallery, which we can expect to see more from in the future.
Follow along on Instagram @vex.gallery
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