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Julio Cesar Abad. Miami.

Julio Cesar Abad. Art Rouge Gallery. Miami.

Catálogo exposición “Box of Mental States” Galería Art Rouge, Miami. Noviembre 2008.

 

ON JOSÉ MANUEL CIRIA’S NEW YORK YEARS

 

Julio César Abad Vidal

 

José Manuel Ciria transferred his studio to New York in the autumn of 2005. Since then, he has returned to Madrid on several occasions. In addition to the great deal of work sent from Manhattan, Madrid has partially remained the base where he makes work for his major solo shows in Europe, in Spain(1) as well as the neighboring countries of France and Portugal(2).

 

In September, 2005 Ciria went to New York directly from the capital of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, which was the first of three stops on the Mexican tour of his retrospective show, Squares from 79 Richmond Grove (3). The show had previously traveled to Poland and Switzerland(4). This retrospective exhibition may be considered the most complete of any of the shows of Ciria’s collected work organized so far.

 

It would be tempting to imagine that the experience of this show would present the artist with an important opportunity for him to be able to reexamine his entire career. In reality, however, the show, which included around fifty large-format paintings made by Ciria between 1993 and 2003, would present that temptation, but it would be mistaken. One of the salient aspects of José Manuel Ciria’s personality is that he is a painter consumed by the need to make a theoretical inquiry into his working process and he has, furthermore, an insatiable anxiety for rethinking the positions he has taken and the formal experiments that have already coalesced in his work.

 

Moreover, New York has not been a detour in the direction his career has taken. Ciria is an artist who travels a great deal, taking advantage of stays in a wide range of countries to embrace new artistic challenges. His stay in New York may perhaps seem exceptional, if only due to its length. Still ongoing, Ciria’s stay in New York has lasted three years, while his previous international stays had only lasted for one year at the most.

 

Residencies the painter has done

 

The idea of moving is crucial in Ciria’s biography. José Manuel Ciria was born in 1960 in Manchester, England to Spanish parents. Ciria would begin living in Madrid when he was eight years old, when his parents returned to Spain after working abroad for several years. That sort of change of country, culture and language indelibly affects anyone who experiences it, and even more so if it happens during childhood. In Ciria’s case, the transformation brought about by that move could hardly explain the feelings of uprootedness, restlessness and even distress that invade a personality such as his, characterized by its torment, and with an indefatigable thirst for excellence.

 

One example that comes to memory is Ciria’s stay in Paris as an intern at the Colegio de España in Paris between April and July of 1994. While there he developed one of his most experimental series, which took its name from the Greek goddess of Memory who was, furthermore, the mother of the muses. As a result of the technical peculiarities of how the pieces in the “Mnemosyne” series were made, especially as a result of the nature of the support he used for them – Panglass medium weight photosensitive plastic – the reasonable conservation of the pieces was made impossible. Those pieces were destined to experience an ephemeral existence, quickly disappearing. This is the case insofar as Ciria’s conviction took on a deceptive tone and became conscious of its remembering, of its memory, during the process of working on this series. The series, which had a temporary public showing at the Rue des Halles and Rue Ponthieu in Paris, has not been exhibited again since then. Ciria, who saves what remains of the pieces of the experiment in his studio in Madrid, has shown himself to be more interested in following through with the execution of the concept he had coined and pursued than in the possibility of showing the paintings again in public, which would only make evident for viewers the changes that have come about in them(5).

 

Likewise, Ciria enjoyed an important grant awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a residency at the Spanish Academy in Rome in 1995 and 1996. While he was there he had the opportunity to develop a body of large-format work titled “Máscaras de la Mirada” (Masks of the Gaze), in which he carried out an exploration of the concept of “El tiempo detenido” (Time detained)(6). Its point of departure was the adoption of an element of randomness as a premise, in consonance with the painter’s commitment to automatism, and also what came out of the experience of seeing directly the work of two renaissance artists he greatly admired: Giotto and Paolo Uccello. Shorter stays have led Ciria, ultimately, to develop studio work that must be shown in situ, more often than not, in order for it to be included in public and private collections of the respective countries where he had been carrying out his activities. Which is what happened in Tel Aviv, where he ran two workshops (in 2001 and 2002), or in Moscow and Lisbon (both in 2004)(7).

 

Ciria’s first residence in Tel Aviv, which resulted in the work he made there being shown at the Givatayim Museum Theater in late 2001 saw the development of a short series consisting of five paintings in oil, one on military tarpaulin and one on linen (uniformly sized 200 x 200 cm.), and all given the title “Víctimas” (Victims). In those paintings, Ciria returned to a figurative approach marked by the presence of the male figure, specifically the torso, and created some monumental compositions with deep dramatism (an expressionist vein of figuration characterized the beginnings of Ciria’s artistic career in the eighties). It could be said that these paintings are a turning point in the abundant concurrence of the work Ciria has made since the arrival of the new millennium of human heads as spaces of pictorial friction, in an incisive translation of the desolation of the human condition in the contemporary world as articulated by the artist. In the early months of 2002, during his second residence in Tel Aviv, Ciria created one of the largest pieces he has made so far. Not without success, it was a site- specific installation project that he titled Eyes & Tears. The piece extends itself over a large- scale photographic support reproducing a collage of highly-enlarged close-ups of eyes in black and white. Three two-by-two meter paintings, one of which extends beyond the photograph by one meter on the left, are placed on top of the photograph which measures three meters long and two meters wide. Three very synthetically represented eyes placed vertically completely fill the surface of a sheet of Plexiglas (320 x 400 cm) which was placed on the floor in front of the enormous painted and photographic frieze.

 

In Moscow, Ciria undertook a very fertile analysis of Suprematism and Constructivism that led him to make some of the most important pieces of his career up to that time. Ciria could now directly examine the work of Kasimir Malevich, one of the Modern artists which has been most influential for Ciria since his youth. He took advantage of the opportunity with enthusiasm(8). And lastly, in Lisbon Ciria became engaged in employing pictorial appropriation, in a way unseen until then in his career to such a degree of intensity and with an almost monographic nature. It was, however, a practice which had been present in his work since the beginning of his career. In Lisbon, Ciria made a group of graphite transfers of several works of twentieth century art of diverse formal languages, executed by the participants of a workshop for young people which he directed (9).

 

Ciria’s move to New York

 

The work Ciria has been making since his arrival in New York at once shares in and differentiates itself from the characteristics that have defined a kind of painting that, the since the beginnings of the nineties, has constituted an essential contribution to automatism in contemporary European painting.

 

During the years of his mature production, Ciria has placed great importance on the strategy of using a format that reconciles itself first and foremost with his own nomadic condition, but which also constitutes a highly-appropriate vehicle for the advancement of a formal investigation marked by an approach in which consciousness of the passage of time has a central position. This format, which has been the principal one he has used since moving to New York, is a plastic tarpaulin of the kind that covers the loads on military and commercial trucks. In this way, the tools for the format have previously served to enclose and protect goods transported by vehicles. The erosion present on the plastic surface visibly manifests the effects of the elements (both temporal as well as meteorological); as Ciria never completely covers the plastic with paint, leaving the vestiges showing their material nature or their original use, and in particular the geometric grids that show the original placement of the clasps with which they had been fastened so they wouldn’t come loose. For Ciria, the presence of this sullied material has been such essential territory that, currently, even when he doesn’t employ the reused plastic tarpaulins, he dirties the canvas as if it had already been used. Ciria has denominated Jardín perverso (Perverse Garden) a dirtiness common to his work. An epigraph more than a series; he uses it in reference (along with a title that individualizes each piece) to the use of textile elements as a formats for painting, which are placed on the floor of his studio to keep them from getting dirty, and which are then collected when he determines that the moment has come to make a conscious response to them in a pre-meditated pictorial application that, is not lacking, likewise, in a significant degree of chance, a constant in his production.

 

In many ways, the extensive reference to Malevich after the development of Suprematism was the point of departure for Ciria’s formal strategies since 2005. Later, the late Malevich would become key to the graphic practice of a representative part of his most recent work. At this point we are interested in getting back the exploration of the human figure that Ciria is engaged in. Certainly, between 2005 and 2006 Ciria found inspiration in the late work of Malevich, characterized by being his most synthetic figurative painting, in which the action is located in a landscape more often than not having hardly any accentuation except a horizontal line, over which a figure is placed in the foreground. The figure is usually feminine and solitary and frequently incomplete, displaying Malevich’s particular interest in the treatment of the torso and the head. The figure lacks any gestural identification when it’s represented in that way. The entirety of the skin, which is extremely flat, is configured through the use of tightly- defined fields of color that cut through each other diagonally without one affecting the other.

 

The lessons learned from Malevich were applied to a body of work with one theme which Ciria had been working on during the previous years. Certainly, since the year 2000 Ciria has developed a significant body of work with a diversity of techniques and having widely different dimensions. In that body of work, as opposed to the abstraction of his subject matter during the nineties, he made a shift to the representation of recognizable figurative elements, human heads. These paintings are characterized by the presence of the silhouette of a man drawn with insistent, rapid charcoal lines. The drawing is always reduced to the bust: the head, the neck and the shoulders. As a result, determining the identity or occupation of the subjects of the portraits is difficult. The drawing is limited to the exterior configuration of the head, and there is not usually any explicit appearance in any drawing of features such as a mouth, nose or eyes. This process sensitively renders abstraction to the characters. Additionally, Ciria charges his faces with his particular pictorial texturization in which the use of color is also reduced to black, white and red. It is painting that violates the rigid limits of the silhouette of the faces, endowing them with an exuberant, expressive charge. Perhaps due to the absence of any element pertaining to the portrait genre that would permit differentiating one face from another, Ciria has titled these pieces on tarpaulins and paper “Cabezas de Rorschach” (Rorschach Heads), as if they were elements in which the interpretation of the portrait subject could provide an intimation into the personality of the viewer(10).

 

No longer just masks, but entire anthropomorphic elements predominate Ciria’s recent large- format work. In every case, this anthropomorphic practice leads his subjects to a pronounced introspection(11).It is rare to find two elements of that type in the same painting. When they are present, the lack of interaction between the two can be felt, resounding in their solitudes. The titles of the paintings themselves are what make it possible to understand the scene. At times, there is an extraordinarily similarity between two actions which the artist titles in very different ways. Just one pose, which Ciria visually translates with the expression of two triangles extending towards the sides of the canvas as if they were wings, alludes, in virtue of the respective titles of each painting, to a childlike practice which intends to translate something incommensurable into the physical (“I love you this much” or “this big” say children to their parents, extending their arms as far as they will go to confess an infinite love), and possibly to a Crucifixion (a martyrdom, which consequently despite its extremity is, likewise, an act of love)(12).

 

One of the most novel characteristics of Ciria’s recent work rests on its pronounced embrace of chromatic enrichment. After years in which Ciria’s chromatic reduction had become extreme, as evidenced by the heightened use of black, white, gray and red, which had exclusively predominated a large series began in 2000, titled “Glosa líquida” (Liquid Gloss). The years he has spent in New York have caused the painter to return to the use of an enriched spectrum. He has not gone back to using the pallet of ochres, yellows or even indigo of his most major work of the nineties, but rather has chosen particularly acidic colors, employed in a consciously unharmonious and agitated way. Fields of color that may be red, orange or green are used for orthogonal surfaces in the ground, or also in inventive arrangements at times still indebted to a certain orthogonality, but at times completely opposed to it, having a horizontal, oblique or vertical blur effect.

 

Ciria is now embracing in his painting what seems to be a greater demand for freedom. He has begun giving his color the atmospheric values associated with watercolor. This can be seen, for example, in his paintings from the “Máscaras Schandenmaske” series, begun in 2008, made with identical techniques and formats (polyvinyl paint on insulation panel, 200 x 200 cm), titled Máscara del milagro (Mask of the Miracle), Máscara de encuentros (Mask of Encounters), Máscara de niebla (Fog Mask), and the especially promising, Máscara del relámpago (Lightning Mask)(13).

 

In the paintings from the series “Desocupaciones” (De-occupations), which he has just recently begun, the chromatic arrangements appearing in the paintings respond to two possibilities. One of them is characterized by the presence of vertical fields of color, as occurs in Desocupación náutica (Nautical De-occupation) (series “Desocupaciones” (De-occupations), 2008, oil on plastic tarpaulin, 150 x 150 cm). In the second, by establishing fields of color he creates remarkable atmospheric tones, as in Desocupación de la máscara (De-occupation of the Mask, “Desocupaciones” [De-occupations] series, 2008, oil on plastic tarpaulin, 200 x 200 cm).

 

In some of Ciria’s new paintings the particular flatness of the components may be clearly perceived, similar to what can be seen in those paintings in which there are forms profiled on the ground through the use of various shadings. Nevertheless, the forms that appear in the foreground are represented with hardly any intention of creating an illusion of three dimensions. On the contrary, they appear especially flat due to the fact that they are outlined on the ground. This occurs, in a particularly decisive manner in Busca las siete diferencias (Find the Seven Differences) (“La Guardia Place” series, 2007, Oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm.) in which there are three planes: a deeper one, an intermediate one, and a more immediate one. They are, respectively; the lower horizontal edge (a clear plane), the horizontal upper register (consisting of a red plane that it rises above), and lastly, two very similar structures, each one occupying the two vertical registers of the composition almost in their entirety.

 

In relation to this phenomenon, it is particularly interesting to note the highly personal ultra-flat perspective which has begun to appear in Ciria’s recent work, as can be seen in, Habitación de juegos (Game Room) (“La Guardia Place” series, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), a particularly interesting and promising piece. There is a clear horizontal division in the ground of that composition. On the lower edge there is a field of a pure greenish color. And on the upper edge there is a black grid-like structure on a light ground, which is flat as well. The whole obviates the creation of any illusion in perspective, and as a result a pristine flatness has been conferred upon the scene. As can also be found in a pictorial tradition thoroughly indebted to and grounded in fauvism, in particular to Henri Matisse (14).The stains spattered over the entirety of the scene in Habitación de juegos (Game Room) contribute, as a result of their omnipresence and arbitrariness, to amplify the flatness of a scenario in which an ethereal figurative element seems to balance, as solidly constructed as it is lacking any characterization to individualize it.

 

Furthermore, Ciria’s recent work continues making use of the phenomenon of phosphenes, which could also be found in paintings he had been making previously. Phosphenes are the spots that remain visible in the eyes when they are closed after having been assaulted by a bright light while open(15).Through phosphenes, Ciria makes figurative recognition problematic. When recognizable elements do appear, it is never with very much clarity. They are inhabited by a formal construction that makes them enigmatic and at the same time they seem to evade any affinity with three dimensional illusion. They remain solitary, trapped between the hope of a verisimilitude in their perspective and at the same time making an overt contribution to the assertion that before anything else, they are pictorial elements. Nevertheless, it is significant that Ciria applies this thematic entanglement to the representation of bodies or faces, having applied it previously only to landscape motifs. If, in these paintings Ciria’s intention is a visual dissolution that interiorizes the landscape(16) with a similar treatment now applied to the human figure. The pieces now constitute an operation whose result is an intensely-felt social expression, similar to that found in series that precede it, in which he employs the manipulation of advertising posters or visual news reports, and which can be described as a condemnation of dehumanization.

 

In a very recent series of work Ciria has returned to a prolonged practice of making graphic work. It would seem as if the highly-determined presence of line in the most recent pictorial strategies he has employed have, once again, had their origin in the examination of post- Suprematist Malevich and have awakened in him the need to turn to the exclusive use of a lead holder. The pieces making up the “Box of Mental States” series were produced between 2006 and 2008 using a surface identical in size and format (35.4 x 26.4 cm), which is always oriented vertically. There are two categories into which this work may be grouped. In the first, the forms lack a unifying configuration and appear as a disturbing visual knot that could appropriately be related to automatist processes, like some kind of organicist mechanism, for example, similar to what might be found in the paintings of Marcel Duchamp around the year 1910. This body of drawings has found its pictorial translation in the works comprising an interesting series recently begun by Ciria entitled “Desocupaciones” (De-occupations). Ciria’s recent graphic work in graphite on paper can be placed in the second category. In it, the artist proceeds with the creation of an oval portrait, incomplete only in its upper part. The oval is highly stylized, at times implying an African mask or even a coat of arms(17).

 

The drawings, made with graphite on paper, may be seen as part of a large series the artist has been engaged in over the last eight years. Certainly, the particularity of these pieces, made with graphite on paper, hinges on their use of faces as a support in which some of Ciria’s pictorial strategies may be recognized. Some of these strategies have been employed by Ciria previously, while some of them are put forth as pictorial solutions which will be later translated to painting. Thus, in Espejo de miradas (Mirror of Gazes) (series “Box of Mental States”, 2007, graphite on paper, 35.4 x 26.4 cm.) one finds the three vertically-placed eyes that had previously been present in one of the elements of the piece he created during his second stay in Israel, referred to above. In Máscara recordando La Guardia (Mask Remembering La Guardia) (“Box of Mental States” series, 2008, graphite on paper, 35.4 x 26.4 cm) one of the two elements which extend to the viewer an invitation can be seen, Busca las siete diferencias (Find the Seven Differences) (“La Guardia Place” series, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm) in a recent pictorial work(18). On the other hand, this body of work on paper seems to constitute an extraordinarily direct and straightforward confession of the concerns present in Ciria’s approach, which have been encoded in a much more cryptic way in his pictorial work. Perhaps, Cara reloj (Watch face) (“Box of Mental States” series, 2008, graphite on paper, 35.4 x 26.4 cm) represents the culminating example of those concerns. In this work on paper the face becomes the face of a watch with the numbers arranged backwards, embracing in this way some of the premises of Ciria’s aesthetics: destabilization, chaos and the opposition of automatism and intentionality.

 

José Manuel Ciria is a painter as extremely talented as he is marked by critical and self-critical anxiety. An anxiety that exemplifies one of the most uncompromising manifestations we have met with thus far in terms of a will for emulation, notoriety, excellence and surpassing the preceding models of its own tradition. Ciria finds himself blessed with the infrequent gift of attaining an exuberant formal solidity in each new undertaking. Nevertheless, the passage through such an extensive artistic background as his, through the recognition of the materials that he has made use of, (a high percentage of which are re-used), as well as through the strategies he has engaged with in the past, takes on a complexity akin to the twists and turns in his artistic endeavors – marked by a tireless dissatisfaction, an impulse to turn away from paths he has already gone down and in which he has already achieved excellence, and an investigation of the means to transcend the new paths upon which he embarks.

1.The exhibition, Pinturas construidas y figuras en construcción, organized by the Dirección General de la Consejería de Educación y Cultura de la Región de Murcia, was presented at the Iglesia de San Esteban (Murcia) in January and February of 2007. Additionally, in Madrid the exhibition Ciria. Rare Paintings was held at the Fundación Carlos de Amberes in April and May of 2008.

 

2.Respectively, the exhibition was titled Ciria. La Guardia Place, it was held in the Ballroom of the City Hall of Paris (France), and at the Alfândega Museum in Oporto (Porto, Portugal), in January of 2008.

 

3.The show’s name was taken from the home Ciria’s family lived in during his childhood, which he spent in England, specifically in Manchester. The show was organized as part of the initiative Arte Español para el Exterior of the Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural en el Exterior (SEACEX) which is part of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The three venues it went to in Mexico were: the Manuel Felguerez Museum of Abstract Art, Zacatecas, Mexico (Zac.), September 23 – November 30, 2005, Museo Casa Redonda de Chihuahua (Chihuahua, Mexico), December 8, 2005 – January 29, 2006 and the, Yucatan Atheneum Contemporary Art Museum, (MACAY) de Mérida (Yuc.), April 29 – June 26, 2006.

 

4.The first of the five venues the show would travel to was the, Museum Narodowe w Warsawie, Pałacu Królikarnia (National Museum, Warsaw, Krolikarnia Palace, Poland), from May 31 – June 21, 2004. The second was Centre PasquArt (Biel-Bienne, Switzerland), January 15 – March 6, 2005.

 

  1. Almost all of the paintings (fifteen) that make up the Mnemosyne family have been reproduced as they were considered to be in a state of completion at that time in the book, José Manuel Ciria Mnemosyne. Madrid, 1995.
  2. Cfr. José Manuel Ciria. El tiempo detenido. Madrid, 1997.

7.The shows that resulted from those stays outside of Spain are, respectively, José Manuel Ciria. Entre orden y caos ( Givatayim Museum-Theater, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2001), José Manuel Ciria. Eyes & Tears (Herzliya Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2002), José Manuel Ciria. Mancha y construcción. El álbum de Moscú (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia 2004) and Ciria. O sonho de Lisboa (Galería António Prates, Lisbon, Portugal, 2004). Profusely illustrated catalogs of those processes were published on the occasion of the respective exhibitions.

8.In a later series, Ciria was concerned with compositional references to Malevich’s figurative work. Ciria has made use of some of Malevich’s late, most synthetic figurative paintings, made after his Suprematist period.

9.There were six pieces, all of them were made using the same technique and had a similar format (2004, oil and graphite on plastic tarpaulin, 208 x 200 cm), were put together as a series titled after the youngest of the artist’s two daughters, “Dibujos de Yago” (Drawings of Yago): Ciria sueña Lisboa (Ciria Dreams Lisbon), Doble Elvis (Elvis Double), Diana Johns, Bodegón Morandi (Morandi Still life), Desnudo violado (Violated Nude) and, A. Pratt. The pieces contain appropriations of, respectively: lyrics by Allen Jones, Double Elvis a portrait of the singer and actor made extraordinarily popular after a picture was made of him in 1963 by Andy Warhol, Target with Four Faces (1955, assemblage, encaustic, news print and canvas on linen, wood and plaster, 85 x 66 x 7,5 cm, New York, MoMA) by Jasper Johns, one of the still lifes painted by Giorgio Morandi in the fifties and two pieces by Marcel Duchamp: Nude descending a staircase, no. 2 (1912, oil on linen, 146 x 89 cm, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Fountain, a ready-made which consists of an industrially manufactured porcelain urinal signed with the pseudonym R. Mutt that was first shown at the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917.

10.Similar to how the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach (who gave the series its name), in his research, postulated the ability of diagnosing his patients’ disorders through showing them abstract ink blots and having them comment on them. This was how Rorschach, trained in Art, as was his father, established a process of analyzing his patients’ capacity for projection. Likewise, Ciria’s practice entices in the viewer an explicit invitation to excite the imaginative capabilities of its viewers during times of ruthless visual saturation in economically developed societies.

11.For example, Mujer extraña (Strange Woman) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), Posible figura sobre fondo rojo (Possible Figure on a Red Ground) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), the probable onanistic representation of La insoportable espera (The Unbearable Wait) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), if its configuration is compared to that alluded to in the works from the series “Venus geométrica” (Geometric Venus) made between 2002 and 2003, whose paintings were titled Rozarte (Brush up Against You), Tocarte (Touch you), Abrazarte (Hug You), Besarte (Kiss you), Morderte (Bite You), Lamerte (Lick You), Comerte (Eat You), Devorarte (Devour You), Penetrarte (Penetrate You), Sodomizarte (Sodomize You) and Salpicarte, (Splash You), or if, furthermore, it’s compared with more recent work like Pareja copulando (Copulating Couple) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), Figura barroca (Barroque figure) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm), or the representation in abyss of that same introspection in his Narciso (Narcissus) (series “La Guardia Place”, 2007, oil on linen, 200 x 200 cm).

12.As occurs in respectively: Así de grande -Versión III- (That Big – Version III), “Suite Green Park” (Green Park Suite), 2008, oil on linen, 150 x 150 cm.) and Crucifixión (Crucifixion), “La Guardia Place” series, 2007, oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm.

13.The title of the series comes from the German denomination of those masks that are an offence- for which one is punished by society- for the person who wears it. The exploration of supports and plastic materials that is a constant throughout Ciria’s career has led him to use sheets of insulation worked with polyvinyl paint this year. Ciria has referred to this process applied to a body of work like “a sort of new Mnemosyne”, brutally slowed down. On the insulation panels I could have worked with oil paint (…) which makes the surface reflection more dull, which would have made me have to cover the entire composition with varnish when it was finished, given that the binder doesn’t dry for months a covering layer is made absolutely necessary, which made the surface even more opaque. The perfect solution was polyvinyl, given that that kind of paint has a glossy finish when it’s dry”, (José Manuel Ciria in an e-mail from, September 18, 2008).

14.We shall point out two well known examples: La deserte rouge (The red desert) (1908, oil on linen, 180 x 200 cm, Saint Petersburg, Hermitage) and L’Atelier rouge (The Red Studio) (1911, oil on linen, 191 x 219 cm, New York, MOMA). In the latter, the paintings are hung and are leaning against the three walls represented by the central, or geometric perspective, like that of the Quattrocento. Some of the furniture details (a chest of drawers, a wall clock, a chair, a table and two stools) are cleanly drawn on the field of flat vivid, incarnadine color. If it weren’t for the arrangement of the paintings and the linear indication of the edges of the walls and the floor any employment of perspective would have been destroyed.

15.Ciria has dealt with this phenomenon in writing in a story called “Pesadilla antes de Halloween, Incendiario cuento otoñal” (Nightmare before Halloween, an incendiary autumn story), published in José Manuel Ciria. Intersticios. Madrid, 1999, pp. 11-36. Phosphenes are referred to as, “A large solitary thin cloud as thin as a lance little by little begins to cover the sun, but its surface produces only a thin eclipse and shadow line. All of a sudden, a prodigy, an ocular suicide appears before the blinding brilliance, we squint our eyes but the light is overbearing, we blink first one eye then the other, before our amazement the sun begins to jump from one side to the other of the gaseous mass” (ibid., p. 11).

16.This work had an intense dedication to the recovery of the extraordinary landscape of the National Park of the Sierra de Monfragüe (Cáceres, Spain), a stunning valley of more than eighteen thousand hectares, with the Tajo river and its tributary, the Tiétar river carving through it. The body of work dedicated to re-creating this landscape was present in the exhibition Monfragüe. Emblemas abstractos sobre el paisaje (“Abstract Emblems about the Landscape”), held at the Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, in 2000.

17.Specifically, this reference has appeared in the title of one of these pieces: Máscara africana (African Mask) (series “Box of Mental States”, 2007, graphite on paper, 35.4 x 26.4 cm).

18.A clear-cut example of the concern felt by Ciria, in numerous earlier pieces dealing with the ideas of repetition and difference. In this piece Ciria has used a transfer process in which a tracing of one element at the right side of the composition is made and then the same element is found on the left side, having been previously drawn. This process is visually illustrated in the monograph Ciria. Rare Paintings. Madrid, Fundación Carlos de Amberes, 2008, pp. 138-139.