Javier Mederuelo. Las Formas del Silencio.
Libro monográfico “Las Formas del Silencio. Antología crítica (los años noventa). Enero 2005.
AN AFFIRMATION OF A DIFFERENT COHERENCE IN PAINTING
Contrary to classical art, which had more or less explicit pre-established rules, to which artists and their work had to conform, contemporary art, in whichever of its manifestations, must first define its own particular rules. Obviously, these rules are not jotted down in the margins of the work, and viewers, therefore, have to make an effort to discover and corroborate them in accordance with what they are viewing. Interpreting each work thus becomes a particularly difficult task, especially as contemporary artists, in attempting to distance themselves from superficial pigeonholing, reject the recourse of reference to types and styles.
There is always a series of physical features or conceptual gestures that can guide us regarding how to access the knowledge of what we are trying to judge. I must however confess that when I first became acquainted with the work of José Manuel Ciria and read what had been published about his work, these features and gestures escaped me and I was bewildered. In my first approach to his work, the different elements seemed to configure a feeling of incoherence. This bewilderment led me to try to understand what moved the artist to paint these pictures, with the secret animus of revealing them, but, although I think that I can give here certain possible keys to interpreting his work, I have the impression that José Manuel Ciria is now smiling quietly to see how, once more, he has managed to shake the pigeonholers off his trail.
What probably most distances the attitude of José Manuel Ciria from those of other artists is his anti-stylistic zeal. All artists try to forge a redundancy between the elements which they believe best characterise their work, to mark off a formal ground and configure their own language for their work to be unmistakeably recognised as their own without having to look at the signature, as all artists need to affirm themselves through their work. José Manuel Ciria, on the other hand, is more subtle; his paintings offer a very wide repertory of plastic possibilities which, on a first approach, may bewilder the viewer, but he secretly confides that his works, independently of the different forms and techniques used, emit a type of characteristic aura. The astonishing part is that this is true.
If we look at these pictures, we see how large, informal, contourless blots share space with geometric shapes and figures, that the gestures of the brushstrokes are combined with a collage of papers glued to the canvas, that composition structures based on the rigour of symmetry cohabit with chance procedures, control over which has been minimal, that large fields of colour without references co-exist with other squares in which the background-figure relationship is perfectly clear. In fact, this occurs within a series of works painted over a few months: what has happened is that José Manuel Ciria is not interested in transmitting a feeling of coherence through the most conventional formal elements. On the contrary, the painter consciously flees from any element that, once tried and tested, threatens to become a formal resource. He intuitively knows that the complacency of repetition converts the artist into his own imitator, and chooses to embrace difference.
This is one of the features that situate his works beyond modernity, by showing the deconstructive phenomenon of the “dissemination” of a discourse which, in the mind of the artist, is conceived as monolithically coherent, but which takes on diverse physical aspects in his pictures.
Nevertheless, I am not so interested in speaking about the obvious matter of the different nature of his works as in strengthening the idea of coherence that underlies the disconnected elements of his work. All artistic work is created out of a play of tensions between elements that appear to be antagonistic. We could say that the general theme of the painting of José Manuel Ciria, and specifically that of these paintings, is precisely this “play of tensions”. The antagonistic elements or players in his painting began as the signs and textures that were subjected to an analysis, though neither systematic nor rigorous, in which José Manuel Ciria distinguished between three different pictorial levels and three iconographic registers.
In this game, as in all others, all the players – i.e., the plastic elements- have similar possibilities of winning. Thus, in some pictures the winner is a pictorial level, while in others it is a certain iconographic register. The result of each of these struggles is not decided by the preferences of the painter, so that the series tends to become a disconcerting collection of works, and even more so the more pictures he paints.
At present, experimentation has been limited to a minor number of elements, it seems that José Manuel Ciria has renounced certain iconographic registers, has consolidated a very subtle chromatic range of greys, ochres, coppers and yellows, and has momentarily limited the play of tensions to the antagonism between informality and geometry, as the plastic reflection of other intellectual tensions between order and chance.
In many of these pictures, this dichotomy is established around classical compositional procedure: symmetry, which is used here in different ways as a resource to fake a situation of order to allow the free development of chance techniques, based on automatic painting freed from psychic connotations, which configure the images of the pictures.
And so, a style of painting emerges that does not pursue strong visual impact but which, based on the beauty and subtlety of the resources used, appears to be heaped with smooth nuances. These paintings speak of the art of painting, show how they were painted, cleanly showing the texture of the material, the subtle procedures of application: the brushstrokes, the drops, the glazes, the skimmed surfaces. Thus the determination of the artist to affirm himself as a painter without adjectives, denying any concomitance with the postures of those who justify their pictorial output from the ambiguity of their relationship with sculptural spatiality, installations or conceptual art. This is simply praise for the very procedures of painting.