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Ángel Antonio Herrera. Barcelona.

Ángel Antonio Herrera. Bach Quatre Gallery. Barcelona.

Catálogo exposición “Limbos del Fénix” Galería Bach Quatre Arte Contemporani, Barcelona Octubre 2005.

THE MASTER OF THE VOLCANO, or THE FIRE’S FAVOURITE, or SAVAGE IS HE WHO SAVES HIMSELF.

Ángel Antonio Herrera

José Manuel Ciria has the limited and supreme key of the great creator, which turns out to be a double key: his own words and his own universe. Ciria is always a different language. Ciria is just Ciria. The best reputation an artist can hope to achieve, above or below historical schools and after sifting through generations, is to be no one else but himself within a huge excited and exciting challenge, in which the whole life is contained. Joan Miró explained it in a different way when, during one of his exhibitions, someone reproached him sweetly for displaying paintings which were, “just a line.”–Not just a line, sir. A line that is a whole life.

So, Ciria has managed to find the rare but decisive, “single voice,” the “unquestionable self,” his own language which is, after all, the fingerprint of the true creator, now and always. He does not draw lines, or he does not draw many at least, but he puts his whole life in each painting. There is no higher triumph than never to be mistaken for somebody else. We could say, in an urgent way, that Ciria does not need to sign his paintings; it is proved that his mark is even there, altough it is not visible.

Naturally, all this has nothing to do with self-imitation or, perhaps, self-complacency, which means the death for many alive artists, but with peculiarity and exceptionality, and even more with exploration: an exploration, naturally exhausting, of both things, fearless of being “brilliantly monotomous”as Pavese advised (in other terms, but also useful for us). According to an old but still relevant maxim, genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.

Time ago, I dared to define Ciria as “the lighting’s soloist” because a control of the vastness, an accuracy of the spontaneity, or a harmony of the wild, or all together, reign in his work, and always under André Breton’s prediction, which promoted the idea that modern beauty will be convulsive ,or will not be. Ciria refines the best abstraction, but an abstraction that reflects a cartographer’s skills and a geometrist’s meticulous work, and leads to an immense, invading, and almost terminal euphoria, that finishes off impressively the miracle “Between order and chaos.”—the title of one of his exhibitions—but also between magnificence and residue, or between majesty and nothingness, in order to give other opposite duets to play on words. Something that I am sure our artist likes.

There is always some –visible or hidden– moved and moving mathematic in his series. And there is always –a little or a lot of– surprised and surprising gigantism that is born or dies, too. Everything is covered by that up to a point at which canvasses become really inexplicable, because mystery is the greatest essence of art. Thus, each contemplation is new and even inaugural. Here is one of the keys for a lasting work, which, of course, tends to be also embellished with other skills. Ciria thinks in order to save later thinking, an overflowing double wisdom that brimes over and enriches boldness with calculation and viceversa. Within Ciria’s work we do find an almost impossible (natural) balance between emotion and idea, between premeditation and fury that illuminates canvasses where storms hold the magic of geometry and memory appears clad in the colours of thunder; where chaos turns out to be order, perhaps the best one. It does not matter if he uses canvas, sackcloth or any other alternative material, or if he devotes himself to collage or photography, as he has been wont to do at times.

It seems as if suddenly all of that had been perpetrated by a volcano. But a volcano subjected to a large and intimate obedience: the artist’s intuition or inspiration which begins or ends either by deciding in favour of the lava or emphasizing the ashes. Rimbaud was bold enough to say that the poet is nothing but the thief of fire. Ciria is the master of the volcano. The fire’s favourite. One has had long unforgettable sleepless nights, isolated from everything and everyone while examining Ciria´s –far off or not– work. This experience leads to a rare astonishing, even hypnotic, pleasure. One can live in one of Ciria’s paintings. I mean that his work contemplates us, not the opposite. It is like being in a trance where all the immensity of mystery merges, where the savagery that lies in waiting, and all the dignities of the unknown come together. To contemplate is to travel around or, in other words, to contemplate is not to know. Everything remote can be found in Ciria. I have often remembered Leonardo’s aphorism “Savage is he who saves himself” in front of Ciria’s work.

“Savage is he who saves himself,” that was written for Ciria, I dare to say. That is exactly what we are trying to point out here, by considering his work as a crossroads between investigation and disaster, as a fight between boldness and meditation, as a sacred and difficult neighbourhood of patience and excess. It involves catching the silence when it screams. It involves turning memory into a form of imagination. Ciria lets memory sail like a stain that branches and spreads on the water, allowing the silence to breathe around, or at least the echo, nothingness, while consecutive intimate inner windows, apparently changeable but always finished, appear. In those windows things are not the same, they are what we remember about them. Therefore, truth is the invention of truth. Ciria knows, like the profound poets that there is nothing better than an unexpexted, unusual, surprising metaphor full of antonyms to represent an emotion, or the memory of it. That is why he forces himself to talk to us from imposible alloys, or even from adverse alchemies, which are the metaphors of those who do not use them but go directly to the struggle between colours or geometry’s bacchanal.

Fernando Castro Flórez has pointed out that Ciria’s aesthetics has a lot to do with monumentality, although it causes in the observer a sense of unease. Fernando Huici admits that, during the early 90s, Ciria’s pieces filled him with a strange and impossible certainty of being crystaline. Juan Manuel Bonet feels that in Ciria’s work, depending on the period of time, lyricism and construction are balanced. Marcos Ricardo Barnatán celebrates in Ciria the emergence of imagination. None of these theories appear to us mutually exclusive, and there are a lot more, and more that may come, signed by other distinguished knowledgeable people. But when talking about art, all reflection remains an approach, because if mystery were not an abyss, it would not be mystery, and there does not exist an abyss that fits in an article. Not in a book. Not even in all the books. Then, what one would wish for Juan Manuel Ciria, apart from a critical gloss, is an ardent poem or any other rare talent worthy of the depths or the fevers. Something achieved from semidarkness that resembles the perfection of his catastrophes.

Every great work is always waiting to be contemplated. Savage is he who saves himself. Here we can find the case.