Cristina García Lasuen. Galería Salvador Diaz. Madrid.
Catálogo exposición Galería Salvador Díaz. Septiembre 2000. Madrid
THE ICONOGRAPHIC MAGNET
Cristina García Lasuen
I – LA GIORNATA
Making good use of his prolific creative capacity, Ciria is showing simultaneously two large exhibitions1 which would be diametrically different were it not that the artist’s mark appears in each with the same coherence.
In his next exhibition in Belgium, -Glance Reducer (Compartmentations)- painting on the support is the medium by which he expresses himself. It declaims in sensations. Ciria’s characteristic stains, which look almost biological, share space with the eternal iconographic reference of the orthogonal or geometrical element, sometimes barely sketched, which he incorporates in his canvases. On this occasion, the work simulates treating various events at the same time. Each painting is in turn apparently composed of various different, smaller paintings like pieces in some game of skill, that fit together to conform a multifacial piece.
Far from thinking that the origin is fortuitous or a matter of chance, one can make out an overall compositional intention from which the impeccable artistic result emanates. One perceives immediately that these are not differentiated pieces, but rather that what is being shown to us are connected events that are produced beyond a geometric grid. We see the compositions through a kind of mesh. Hence, the title “Compartimentaciones” (Compartmentations). The painting moves within an organic geometry, that moreover seduces by being deceptively contradictory. Can pictorial geometry have an organic appearance? Of course Ciria convinces us that in fact both can live together in perfect “co-habitation”. Immobility and quadrangular rigidity, along with morbid pre-biological images, rational form and sensual origin.
And that creative development of the apparently contradictory and at the same time complementary, requires venturing a bit of information. Four years ago, Ciria went to Rome with a Fellowship from the Spanish Academy. There he found fondnesses, affinities, but above all, he took pleasure in the Augustan beauty with all the intensity that produces emotion. From the immense windows of his penthouse, measuring nearly five meters high, and articulated, divided into panes, he possessed a privileged view of the city. At all times, the image that Ciria has of ancient Rome is a fragmented vision, as viewed through a gigantic Albertine Veil. The perception of the observed world, full of agitation and vitality, took place between the hard outline of architectural quadrangles. The biological covered the geometric without providing itself with frames, without submitting to their spatial mandate. The geometric “compartmentations” would be the reason for adapting to the frame and the reason for rebelling against the space.
If it is true that he had already defined the concept of “compartmentation” the constant references in Ciria’s painting to the geometrical and the organic, find perfect communion in the solitude of his Italian room. For Ciria, the city of Latium is without a doubt much more than a beautiful city, so that his returns to day dreaming are not infrequent. Countless melancholy remnants of the time lived there are reflected in his work and shown in numerous exhibitions, this latest show is no exception.
This group of works: “Compartmentations”2 is the putting into effect of a logical artistic consequence. The memory of a reticulated Rome remains immune to the passage of time. The transposition of this to an adequate support is what Ciria shows us now. And though the physical supports are canvases, the exquisite technique of execution “al fresco” is what permits him to reproduce his Albertine Roman image. With the same delicacy and devotion with which the fresco painter treats the damp wall, impatiently prepared to define and pigment, so that Ciria compartmentalizes the image in various squares or vital “giornatas” which are full of color and meaning.
It seems that he would like to give each reticule the possibility of being something different and at the same time to form a coherent part of the whole. It is as if it were taken from his Italian diary, each “giornata” is singularized -each day is different- at that same time that it is another page, -an image- of the overall time that transpired. That must be the motive by which the canvases present first a few “jornadas” (sessions), that start off coquettish, hopeful, sensual and full of colorist protagonism and restless apparent happiness only to progressively lose, like nostalgic recollection, chromatic definition, producing mists of sepia nuance.
This exhibition, led by the painting of color dreamily united with the beautiful memories of the Roman “giornatas”, delicately portrays, in short Ciria’s sensitive world.
II – THE ICONOGRAPHIC MAGNET
In the exhibition presented in this catalogue, at the Salvador Díaz Gallery, one notes that painting is no longer the only or the most potent medium that Ciria uses as artistic expression. And nonetheless, there is painting. In some canvases, the color and pigments have been reduced to the “existential minimum”. The world of the senses gives way to the concept. The idea challenges the sense.
At a first, almost furtive, glance, it seems that we recognize that image in something already seen and admired. Some works are a complicit wink to the still lifes of the period of synthetic cubism. In one piece, one observes the fragment of a newspaper which reinforces the idea of Picasso’s or Braque’s “Le journal”. In another, the black silhouette of a Spanish guitar. “-I wish to reduce color, to break down again.’Sueños Construidos’ (Constructed Dreams) in terms of cubist symbolism. To put glued canvases and to return in part to ‘Manifesto’. In this group of works, I am trying to reduce and diminish the expressive. -I am not trying to return to an academic painting, nothing could be further from my intention, and in “collage” and in somber colors I find a way, not in the different elements that make up the compositions. Now the tones are incorporated by means of painted planes or by means of supports of various colors. The totality of the works that make up this exhibition corresponds to a mixture between ‘Sueños Construidos’ (Constructed Dreams) and ‘Manifiesto’ “.
On this occasion, Ciria reveals once again his artistic coherence and his pictorial capacity, which is always changing, evolving, but at the same time, recognizable. Ciria, on his own right, belongs to that select and not very wide number of artists who possess what Bruno Zevi calls the “Catalogue.” That is, the group of forms or styles that distinguish the work of a given author and make it identifiable despite the different visions that it might present over the course of a long artistic career. The force of the created images, the volumes, words, musical notes Š give away the source and origin. Therefore, it does not matter what support is used on which the work or the tonalities that compose it are based, the quantity of material used or any other circumstance, since what is commonly called “the stamp or imprint” clearly reveals the author. It would be useless to hide under a pseudonym, since the work would confess immediately to the first inductive agent.
Many great artists possessing a magnificent “catalogue” have developed it with efficiency and profusion. Some have squandered it on fatal occasions; others have vulgarized it, using it “ad nauseum”. Finally, there are those who, lamentably, have been seen as prisoners, immobilized within their own style, having to accommodate themselves to what they thought was expected of their “catalogue”. Worse fate has come to those who have believed to see in the anecdote, their “catalogue”, since they have reproduced it, without blushing, hoping that the detail in itself would justify the whole.
- Worringer, Giedeon and H Read indicate, among others, how from the most remote times, man’s motivation for creating has been basically, anxiety and fear. If some authors disagree with that assertion, there is in the productions of some painters today a more than suspicious concurrence in their evolutionary changes. It could be that the engine of uniformity is not the fear of “coming in last”, not knowing how to grow with the times, or not to being capable of continuing to create youthfully. Perhaps it even happens that the art galleries do not provoke anxiety, nor do they try to impose styles, fashions, tones, so that the works turn out to be more commercial. But that fertile pictorial telepathy provokes a sense of strangeness. As if it came from a single mind and spirit, collective changes can be observed in unison. It rather seems a beautiful multitudinous choreography, that once incorporated something of figuration in the work, then various “drippings” and next to last, sterilized canvases, the gesture sanitized, the colors “clean”, clear, almost acid and of a decidedly North American spirit.
The polished dark anthems of our most fertile pictorial tradition are denounced, in order to embrace with the fervor and the intransigence of the convert, the foreign writing of another culture. Without a doubt, it comes from an aprioristic disadvantage; it is not easy to make a magnificent American work in our country without falling into a not very good Americanized production or in a Hispanized, histrionic excess that is reached when one tries to emulate what comes from the outside.
It is certain that the artist almost has the obligation of going beyond the narrow limits of tradition, but it is also certain that evolution, if it is not artistically coherent and individually assumed, and is instead forced by unconfessable motives, always costs dear. The work is the first in denouncing falseness. The consequences clearly hurt the author and the public. Only the person who does business in art is benefited, since he acquires undifferentiated works which are therefore replaceable. Once the characteristic that distinguishes the work is eliminated, the “catalogue”, one artist is easily interchangeable with another. Now a childish world of clear colors, without any remains of paint, fill the market. Ciria’s austere gesture of the absence of clean colors is appreciated, the raw stroke of his personal “catalogue” that carries him on a path full of pictorial authenticity and efficiency, instead of copying ape-like3 the aesthetic dictates from overseas.
The strong theoretical weight that Ciria’s work sustains, grants him greater clarity in the pictorial message and also individualize him in the gesture, because it is unusual. His work surprises us with a gradual evolution, without any unnecessary provocative stridences, the result of a growth that arises naturally, as a consequence of a more than demonstrated pictorial capacity and a fertile conceptual coherence. “On infinite occasions, many of my works and the articulation of the series, obey a theoretical pattern”.
The current exhibition reveals a symbolism that is not foreign to the artist, who is always turning between concept and the senses. On this occasions, in a small group of works, he shows us some backgrounds–military canvas–, divided horizontally, by a great flat aluminum bar, that like a gigantic magnet traps behind it a series of objects, that are familiar to our daily lives. It is an iconography of the moment,. Along with the mediating reference to the mass media, clippings of images from magazines, bits from the latest television series, an unavoidable plastic bag from a large shopping center, whose contents are dubious, the complicitous wink at synthetic cubism, and that grimace-smile that the upside-down teddy bear represents. The white rose and its transient beauty, refer to the poetics of “Mnemosyne”.
With this work, Ciria not only makes an iconographic magnet, a sign of our time, revealing what our leisure suggests as important, but rather he materializes it again, more impeccably, true to himself and to his “catalogue”. This show, in short, portrays the artist’s conceptual world. Brilliantly made, he concludes by creating a highly attractive place, full of suggestive motivations and disturbing images, of a dense bitterness and colorist melancholy like An Afternoon at the Circus (Una tarde en el Circo).
1- I am referring to the exhibition held at the Athena Art Gallery in Kortrijk, Belgium, which is simultaneous with that being held at the Salvador Díaz Gallery in Madrid.
2- The group of works entitled under the epigraph “Compartamentaciones” corresponds to a theoretic expansion and deepening initiated in the series “Máscaras de la Mirada” (Masks of the Gaze), begun by José Manuel Ciria in 1995, which has evolved in different directions, depending on the artist’s specific interests.
3- Referring to the experiment that Arnulf Rainer made with his painting.