José María Parreño
ABSENCE AND PRESENCE
Utopia Parkway Art Gallery, Madrid, 2007
Text for the catalogue
I ask myself why I do not question myself, facing the work of an abstract painter, why he paints what he paints. And why do I do it in front of one from a figurative painter. But the thing is that an abstract picture seems more natural to me, inevitable necessary in its randomness.
A pear-tree gives pears, nothing to say to this. But why did the gardener choose that fruit tree? That I can ask myself. What makes a figurative painter choose what he chooses? The first question is if it represents what exists and is visible, or what does not exist but is invisible.
(The painted invisible, for example: cold wind: by means of a naked, colourless, crooked tree. Experience: by means of a mouth that tenses a smile on one side and a grimace on the other side. There are still things that I’m not able to express but that exist, that you cannot see and are registered in painting).
And faced with the endless possibilities of reality, why choose certain ones? Is the painter talking through them or is it an excuse to let painting talk? If the question is pertinent, can we pass it on to literature. And then: who or what is talking through a text the author or writing? In the case of poetry it is always writing.
When you begin to write maybe you know what you want to say, but little by little the act of writing decides the text. For example: St John of Cross did not start to write “Something special that lingers stammering”. Words took him there, writing made the verse.
Going back to painting: a long stroke of the brush makes the gauze bow its colour, its transparency, its plausible form, its proportionate flight (in Velázquez). From a short scribble of the pencil a profile appears, expression, age, a young girl’s condition -besides she has a cold- (in Rembrandt). They are done with a single stroke, without retouching or corrections. They where begun with one intention, but you can’t control everything (a very long brush in the first case, a 8 by 10 centimetres paper on the second). In that margin of liberty is where he creates on his own an artistic language.
I’m not sure up to what point is Concha Gómez-Acebo conscious of having organized this exhibition over two main ideas so exact and at the same time opposite -or if language has decided in her place-. She has painted two only things: absence and presence. On one hand, landscapes drastically deserted, on the other hand, close-up views of faces. Between both, a paradox: Some young readers, that are an example of “present bodies and absent souls”.
Whereas a snapshot puts us before a place, as if fixed with a tack in our imagination of the visible, a painting get us back an experience. The experience of the place. It may be that the time that took to paint it has been left in tight layers over it and afterwards, when we look at it, it dissolves in us like a dry seaweed in water -that multiplies by ten its size, and spreads out on the surface-. There is a “there” in the painting but also what we felt or thought there. And if that “there” were unknown it still could connect as with our memory of the visible, but also with our emotional memory.
Concha Gómez-Acebo’s landscapes, whether they are from the country or the city, are lonesome. Fallow lands and paths that we know that we saw far away as we passed or where we hardly have been -only like the person who puts his foot into the water and takes it out because it is very cold-. Without having anything magnificent or anecdotal, they remain in our memory when we get back home. There are also some landscapes from rooftop terraces. A Madrid of roofs, more or less rationalism and modern, empty of human beings. As this circumstance and others disappear of street life, what we see takes on a certain timeless air. Lonely places, inhospitable and open, the precise antithesis of daily seclusion. Although we long for it, yet, we find relief knowing that the alone, the inhospitable and the open are still there.
I have said that painted pictures are “places with time inside them”. Which is the time of the ones we see here? The most deserted. I imagine that twilight in the country and noon in the city. And her own hour, full of solitude, that have railway stations: time of a broken clock.
Something more: sometimes something inside you perceives something in a place. In this way it is vague. After a while you stop and go back to capture it. It is still there, beating in the outline, encouraging in the light, dancing in the scent. It is there yet, faded. When you creep up on it, it looses consistency and when you try to hold it, it trickles down your fingers (if that with which you perceive has fingers). While it lasts, it goes vertically through your life, joining together its pieces. Moments impossible of describing, unless alluding its intense reality. Trivial reality, not even magic nor extraordinary.
However, it is to those moments, more than any other more important or happier, ones, that I owe the pursuit of wanting to carry on being alive.
I do not think that the face (of the portrayed) is the mirror of his soul. Whereas I believe that landscape is the mirror of the painter´s soul.
Painting from nature is really not very natural. It has only been practised in the first four centuries of our era and then sporadically since the Renaissance. This is what lasted the compromise of art with truth. The rest of time it looked into imaginations.
A woman paints thirty four portraits of near men. thirty four noses, thirty four mouths, sixty eight eyes… not a gaze nor a smile alike. Art is unyielding to statistics. And it reminds me that human things as well.
Contrary to ideal canon and proportion, imperfection in human beings. Those who argue with us, who kiss us. Those we must convince and take care of. The ones that are indispensable.
Instead of ideal proportion and canon, portraying those who are important to us. The tools needed to model the best possibility of yourself.