Guillermo Solana. Epiphanies. Las Formas del Silencio.
Libro monográfico “Las Formas del Silencio. Antología crítica (los años noventa). Enero 2005.
At a time like this, an unfavourable time for painting and abounding in trivial paintings, a strange case occurs: a painter returns from a long immersion in the depths and brings a selection not of essays, but of splendid findings.
Ciria’s here exhibits, among other things, two large pieces, similar in format and conforming a sort of diptych. Both canvasses is covered, impregnated, by a deep, impure, sumptuous darkness, pocked with marks. Under his layer there was first and there remains a penetrating yellow, which has been preserved in the vertical band down the centre. This yellow band already dominates some of the best of Ciria’s recent work; but it is more effective here on the larger pictorial field. This perpendicular axis, symmetrically dividing the painting, collides with a lower horizontal band, making up a static composition. This is not a simple and passive nothing happening, but an active arrest, an incision into the instant. The vertical yellow slashes like lightning through the dense darkness, tears the veil, cuts through the bloody clouds: primordial separation between light and shadow.
Light is the overwhelming presence in these pieces. Not, however, the clarity that diffuses in an illusory space, but rather a shining that emanates from the surface itself and is inseparable from it. Ciria has gone back before Masaccio, back even before Giotto, seeking the prodigious sheen of the golden tablets. The opposition between light and darkness is no longer a sculptural chiaroscuro, but an almost alchemic contrast between two types of matter: the yellow band would be gold; the dark background, as Ciria explains, is grease and ash. Ash: symbol of the transitoriness of existence and the mortification of the senses.
In the first painting, The Rupture of Silence (Annunciation), the vertical yellow meets scarcely any obstacle on its path; the smudges are arranged to the sides. The ray clearly bisects the surface. Rather than the contour of a body, the drawing is essentially the decisive partition of the pictorial surface. This division has its symbolic echoes. The iconography of the Annunciation imposes a separation between Gabriel and Mary, often incarnate in a little column, a delicate membrane cleanly traversed by the ray of the Spirit.
In Ciria’s Annunciation, the hymen and the lance, the column and the ray of light, are confused in this vertical yellow. An apocryphal gospel that inspired many painters, the Liber de Nativitate Mariae, tells how Gabriel inundated the Virgin’s room with a great light; but Mary was not afraid, because she was used to seeing angelic faces and to being enfolded by celestial light. This piece of theatre by Gabriel did not impress Mary. We, on the other hand, less familiar with celestial events, see ourselves as Dante in Paradise, when he says that his mind fu percossa dal fulgore.
Even more dazzling is the second painting, entitled Anabasis (Ascension). It is dominated not by separation but by vertical movement. Through smudges like heavy clouds, rises a current that drags the viewer in a kind of upwards fall, towards the abyss above. The stairs are like terraces, the steps of a ladder. One night, lying with a stone for a pillow, Jacob dreamt of a ladder set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The name of the city where he had his dream was Luz (Genesis, 28:19). Ciria’s title clearly evokes the Ascension. Scripture tells how Jesus was lifted up while his disciples looked on. A cloud received him from their eyes; they were amazed and then beheld two men in white clothing who asked them, why do you look into the sky? The apostles are not present here, but their place is taken by the viewer, who could also be asked, why do you look into the painting? The incredible splendour which unfolds and persists before our eyes is simply the trace of an absence, the trail of a god who has withdrawn, maybe forever, to his domains, to his winter quarters.
The vertical yellow on the wide pictorial field harkens remotely to Barnett Newman’s zips, which were also bands protected by masking tape. However, Newman belongs, like Rothko or Clyfford Still, to what the critic Harold Rosenberg, with certain irony, called the technological sector of Abstract Expressionism. Newman believed that the first manual human creation had been not ceramic, but the image of God, and that modern pictorial language should seek the vision or illumination, the sublimity of the numinous. Art should shed all fiction except one, the supreme fiction of an absolute being. In Ciria, as in Newman, this absolute being refers more to the creative artistic process than to any religious transcendence. In any case, the theological titles did not foreshadow the paintings; they were attached afterwards. There was no previous deliberate intentioln to create an icon: the painting surges and later receives an aura and a name for the dazzling of the onlooker, for his eklampsis.
The cosmic cycle that Ciria offers us here has another side, the counterpoint to the diptych. The solitary painting called Poison is only a sample of a series of igneous and earthy canvasses. Through earth and fire, Poison evokes the composition of humanity, the clay of the original potter and the oven in which it was fired. It is the world of mortality, with its own solemn splendour: between unhealthy vapours, a burning flowering of flesh. Matter marked by the root and the serpent, the compulsions of the body, and the low flight of a suspicious angel: a certain sympathy for the devil. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a story, Rapaccini´s Daughter (retold by Octavio Paz), that is a new version of the story of the Garden of Eden. A synthesis of the eternal Father and Evil, the owner of this garden is Doctor Rapaccini, a sinister mad scientist who cultivates beautiful but poisonous flowers, which contaminate and annihilate whoever, tempted by their beauty, should touch them. Among these flowers, as another innocent but dangerous seduction, he has raised his daughter Beatrice, feeding her with poisons that have become part of her and do not harm her, but would kill any lover. But Beatrice finds her Adam, her young Giovanni…
Ciria’s work confirms that the gift of painting is not just illumination, but also a phármakon, a drug running through the veins. In this exhibition, Ciria, who knows this by experience but survives nevertheless, culminates the growth of his rising star, establishing himself as one of our few necessary artists.