José Suárez-Inclán
CERCANÍAS
Galería Utopia Parkway Art Gallery, Madrid, 2010
Museo Provincial, Guadalajara, 2011
Catalogue

 

NEARBY OUTSKIRTS

Sight places the object out of the subject, ear places the object inside the subject. Sight isolates, ear endoses.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

 

“All aboard! All aboard!” With this little song we mimicked, when we were children, the big scarlet pennant rolled up and erect in one hand, the other shaking the virtual chain of a bell, the stationmaster’s red and black cap placed on the head, urged passengers to get on the train cars. It was only a game. The fascinating, irresistible mythology and literature par excellence: the foundational journey of the Egyptians, where Isis travels around the world in search of his brother Osiris and refunds it again, the journey that Hebrews make across the desert in pursuit of the promised land, Odysseus’s journey returning to his homeland, that of Eneas, Buda’s through India’s villages and fields, Jesus travelling all over Palestine, Mohammed’s to Mecca… The old allegory of life considered as a journey. Sometimes faraway, others nearby. Depending on the proximity or remoteness of sight, or the reality or the dream that takes us. The isolated life that lies in the poetic distances of dreams, but trapped, wrapped, in the proximity of hearing from the coach seats of reality. Face and landscape. And life, beautiful and desolate, breaking unpredictable in the eyes and mouths of the travellers, registered in Concha Gómez-Acebo’s drawings and notes. Nearness of that which is in the distance. Far-off of from the near. Heaven and earth, city and outskirts, country and waste grounds. Concha, traveller and painter, fixing in colours and drawings, taking notes with words, the near things of existence in the distances of her dreams, in the coloured air, lighted, shaded, of that which takes place. Close sketches, definite, in drawings and notes, paintings in which time flows through men, women and landscapes of this event where there aren’t any characters but real human beings persons, in which we don’t find a novel, only sight. A common journey. Nearness.

 

RETURN TICKET

Guadalajara. The 10:04 empty train flies across the fields, it swiftly swings among the wild oats, uncertain sown fields and scattered poplars, under a horizon of clouds and September silvers and the green that storms leaves along the paths. A whistle and next, industrial areas with ranks of lorries, metallic warehouses, dirty structures that rise upon grease and filthy grounds, that restrain lands and lead them into their irreversible disappearance: the appearance of a waste ground. Great, rectangular industrial plants, false roads, dull beacons in the edges of restaurants and empty hotels, that look mysterious in the night. Every now and then a growing hedge, small black poplars, dark sunflowers, corncobs waiting to be harvested –the corn silks opened in the canes- enclosed by walls that appear and disappear, unlikely country houses that flee in between furtive pine trees and weeds of cables, high voltage towers skeletons and electrical panels. A string of starlings darkness the curve of a steel end.

Paths that takes one to the country, where the railroad tracks are buried; impossible heavens crowning the way over highway bridges and roads, graffiti announce the arrival to the platform. The train stops slowly and the parking, full of cars, gives way to some scarce passengers waiting for the 10:30 train. Behind the yellow towers of a factory, the blue and white road signs of National II road, the jolting of the heart over the railroad ties and stones. Alcalá de Henares scatters in the carriage a jumble of faces, skins and languages. Women. Travellers in this hours, weavers of another map of the world, a thousand trips trapped in the same train that rests it gaze in pallets, plastic bundles, iron girders, steel hanks and a tree that emerges upon a small barley stubble field. “No to Trillo’s nuclear cemetery” –written on a wall, red and black- and next to it, like two stretched diabolos, the black image of Trillo’s cooling towers.

The skirts of the city can be guessed in the chaos of towns, villages that have become into slums, low houses, destroyed buildings beside the commotion of warehouses, hackneyed buildings, centuries ago, emergent blocks that are born old and even, unhinged by their cubic edges, lifeless on top of building sites and construction debris. The puddles in the unpaved suburbs look even larger. Fifteen cypresses take care of a wheelbarrow that advances into a bridge: mute remains from and old graveyard? This nobody’s land where the country resists being turned into city. Frontier between grief and hope, a lost paradise, mystery, early age and literacy.

It grows dark when the train arrives at Atocha Station and the wind leaves the rain in trickles of water running down the car windows. The whole of mankind, homeless and without destiny, crowds into the train. Suddenly the sun comes out and paints the suburbs with orange: a melancholic beauty in the humble brick of the city. The M-30 road, a cross in a chemist’s shop trills in the distance. Nobody looks at Vallecas, dusty Almodovar’s hill bordering Vicálvaro, the church’s tower over an ocean of buildings and little houses, the tangle of factories, the outrage, scandal of warehouses and storehouses that the sun bathes in a golden glow.

Some light rays appear and again the fields reappear announcing autumn, like the passenger’s ancient lives, that keep quiet for a moment, conscious that something is dying and nevertheless resists death. What useless hope the stubborn white poplars as the train passes San Fernando and Coslada, the sky’s glows red on the still derricks, the mauve night that approaches to Meco and treads on the red, iron staircase that crosses above the railroad tracks. The shadow of night moves forward and falls over the detached houses in Azuqueca, over the olive’s obstinacy, over the train, over men and women that are dozing, smelling, hearing the shameless chats on the mobile phones, coming down, exhausted, from the train to the dark platform, leaving a short warmth in the grey fabric on the empty seat, they penetrate an ocean of uncertainties.

Car lights. Next station: Guadalajara. You can hardly make out the shadows of the orchards. There’s a dark stain with flashes that cuts, mercilessly, the train; the worn newspapers are stranded on the seats and in the station, under the electric lamplights and the circular clock, passengers walk rapidly, as if they were running away –may be terrified- towards another world treading on the greenish tiles of the platforms. The moon rises shyly in the black, blue sky above the station.

 

WANDERING FAMILY

Late summer has left some bright puddles under a cloudy sky. Along the paths that run between the fallow land and the waterway, some green chunks appear, grass and weeds that revive, thistles that resist perishing. Greyhounds and horses have ceased to chase the hares this year. Only the shepherd, stuffed in his overalls, keeps walking by with his flock, his donkey and his dog. Soon all will be urbanized. There already are some machines on top of a nearby promontory. And two poster bills announce the construction of new houses. One of them says: “Housing Revolution”. It seems that land will retreat. We will have to climb the slope, tread on the hillocks where the earth breathes to the sound of seasons. In this zone there are moors of light and vast spaces. In Late Summer houses, like childish structures, toys on the earth, cram together, so tiny, under a limitless sky: buried by light. The Autumn will come and solitude will take the recording of life to the edge, a tiny light in the night, the subdued shine, imperceptible from the Club, old like this land, sweet and remote like a dream in a train, it rises one degree the temperature of desolation. From the small Railway Station of a dull country town, contemplation still belongs to two different worlds: a white wall divides them before the train departs. Behind it sight slides the veil and gets rid off the scenery of the small city. Behind the usual: the sky’s air, clouds, light, fields, a house… the cheap hotel floating in the dividing line, between the unreality of those two worlds, in the impossibility of being country or city. Who is over there? Who looks, still, the train passing by from twilight? The painter listens to life of Station Hostel in the pink silence of this time of day, under a kind sky that protects those who had a bed to sleep on. Behind, the nakedness of winter lurks, the cold in the trees. Between the train’s warmth and the nearby hostel –so far away- a dead calm can be perceived, beyond the streetlamps. Like in a brothel. Life resists and struggles to resist.

Life resists in the traveller sleeping with a dog; the head lying on his rucksack, in the slippery metallic bench, he resists to fall from the flat surface, in the empty horizon of the waiting: “Here is a man that moved me in such a way when I saw him near the railway station… Someone whose sole possession is a small rucksack and a dog. He still had something left”. Life. In the platform, another woman traveller is waiting -waiting for what?- floats above the steam engine of nearby outskirts. Or is it a distant steam engine of far-off depths, recollections, what evades her from Guadalajara, Coslada, San Fernando? She looks at dawn. Concrete is earth, sky, mist, sweet dampness. There’s a look of expectance, of melancholic waiting that leaks out of the Moorish veil. Is it a different veil than the one that the Romanian bride wears on her head? She is called Helena and is an heroine like that of Troy (or more, even more). She has travelled, like her, to a strange country with her prince. The one who fights everyday and makes odd jobs. She cleans houses for a while and now lives in her own palace, that both sustain alone, at last, without having to share rooms with those fellow citizens always stinking of alcohol. Living in a small flat in the city. Helena works as salesgirl in “Zara” at a shopping centre. But not even Helena the heroine can get free from the daily labour of women. She is modern, has crossed walls, is strong, intelligent and down to earth. Nevertheless she tries on the bride’s veil, she agrees to do it, thrilled, to the bride’s veil fitting. Like the prince of Troy. Or Rumanian. A shrewd cat gazes her and keeps silent. “Helena –says the painter. That’s what drives us women crazy”.

The train slides towards Madrid by the tracks. The painter heads for her study, placed in a well located District number 4 in the usual legal jargon used by council authorities. When she arrives she will open the shutters and light will enter through the large windows, the same warm urban light that lights up the magistrate’s court courtyard. Light that is gathered in the lime and the windows, filling with placidity the nakedness of the interior world. A benevolent light, like that which varnished afternoons in District number 44, where she used to walk with Quiti at the beginning of her illness. “Still houses in which you perceive vibrations coming from inside. Although the exterior has been repainted many times trying to cover the graffitis. There, still remains in them a sort of balanced geometry in rectangles seeking peace and proportion. An interior harmony that some times you may find in things. Like walking with Quiti.

The carriage is accommodating passengers. Some of them sleep. Weariness has beaten woman traveller asleep. A coloured beauty, dozing, lost in thought. She usually comes across with her when she returns in the evenings. She gets down in Azuqueca. Or is it Alcalá, or Torrejón? Another passenger, who is seating near sleeps shameless. She has the air of self-assurance –even asleep- of those who work at a street market. She is a Gipsy, mature, carnal and handsome. She gets down in San Fernando. Or maybe in Vallecas. Nevertheless, a third passenger is awake. She is beautiful, has a clean face, with her innocent look she awakens the city. She comes from Meco. In her face there is a mild trace of yearning, an imperceptible, hidden pain.

“One morning I was in the train with José and it was then that I saw the wandering family. The baby weeps, the mother is thoughtful, the father dreams. It is the image of life that moves on advancing unshakable, loaded with dignity. It is the ancient beauty of earth, dressed for the city, travelling in a light train carriage. The distant world that comes along with the head held high, life that goes on an on, the journey of living. Where are they going, where will they scatter all their courage? I remembered Calixte in the museum. She lives in Paris, she is a watchwoman in a second rate museum, that is almost empty today. Its walls are covered with beautiful paintings. But only life, seated on a stool, with her feet on the ground and her sight far away, coming from her, fills the museum.

It is already dark in railway station clock. You can hardly catch sight of the clock because time does not run by it. Time stops. Or it has passed. It’s getting dark. Night is falling over the railway-station. The views and skies will come back with the new day. “The evening light does not permit us to look at the stormy sky that clings to the countryside. Only some bright gusts may be seen in the darkness. Silent village has only a few weak everyday lights. The town’s fair has ended”.