Miguel Logroño. Las Formas del Silencio.
Libro monográfico “Las Formas del Silencio. Antología crítica (los años noventa). Enero 2005.
WHERE SIGNS AND BORN
If we could harness lightning, it would give us the best possible measure of eternity. What can there be between the two ends of the flash, between the two limits of suddenness? A limit, I say, a fugitive frontier, because there is no end or beginning: but simply a smooth slide towards the abyss. The beginning and end of art, are they limits? They could be, if we adopt them as an “artifice”, as an official term of referring, in the short term, to what is “appearance”, to art, by nature unlimited. If we could stop lightning, then there would be light. In other words, we would be taking the first step towards an image of light merged with the following one, a step not towards another light, but rather towards the idea or notion of total light. Or a notion of fire, as the expression of a red-hot force, burning, driving, creating. From lightning we come, and in the fire we are, when art, that energetic almost nothingness, capable of capturing light and, therefore, of illuminating, and of setting going, foresees the what and the why of living. Life, this burning in the fire, and death, when it has burned us up.
Burning – this is what happens in the unchangeable, dynamic, vital order of firelight that reasons our stay in the vertigo. There is no other magnitude, no other feeling, than the vertigo, the lighting-, where we must try to understand our own (a)temporality, our appropriation of eternity, while suddenness, the combustion of the sudden –the lightning flash-, leaves in the atmosphere of the universe a penetrating and fleeting smell of nothingness. Meanwhile, everything has taken place, everything that had to take place, time and space, and the time and in the space in which it had to happen. And also the form in which it happened, the density, the intensity and the temperature: matter and the colour of the event. Painting, for example, with its germinal elements. Painting, which is all that has to happen, happens originally in the lightning flash.
José Manuel Ciria, an artist of depth, captivates us with his dazzling pictorial proposals. But, as you can see, dear reader, I have made certain precisions regarding the aesthetic nature and the “morphology” of the lightning flash. This is so that you take care, and do not rush –in the vertigo from which nothing can leave- in your confusion. I would not like you to get lost. On the contrary, let yourself be guided by the true light. I found that inexplicable guiding light in the work of Ciria in the shared exhibition held in the Palacio de Velázquez in Madrid, an exhibition built around the subject of Gesture and Order. Still in its wake, still a little bewildered by the slow flash of the lightning- the depth of suddenness, the depth of the art- I have had to give myself over to the conviction of his next proposal: Mnemosyne. This was splendour. So I embraced myself, and I let myself be embraced by suddenness, to hold myself in the consideration of the lastingness of art and, in this capital matter, art and life, which is memory –as you already know, or at least suspect, we only live while we remember or are remembered. Mnemosyne by José Manuel Ciria, is a troubling statement of beauty: does painting conceived by the painter for its own implacable destruction disappear? And now, because the fire does not go out, nor does the light –neither do shadows–, this act of synthesis forms part of the substantial world of masks and looking.
The masks –in plural- of the gaze, I believe is the term José Manuel uses, trying for precision. And, who knows, achieving it, because a unique act can be conjugated in many ways: masking it, masking oneself, masking what is being looked at. We do not always see as we look –seeing, or penetrating is a supreme facility-, appropriating the surface, the topography. To look at art is to appropriate it, and the objects and signs there in the topographic field of action … of the gaze- when art is seen and unravelled, when the looker first begins to be aware of the awareness of the art, and extracts, or risks, one of its many possible meanings. Art is not an amorphous, formless whole, that can be exteriorised only in one possible way. It occurs to me that it does not use a single mask, but that it is more or less is an uncountable project of internalisation. Neither the straight line, nor Mondrian’s work, are what they are, straight or square, because of what the eye sees, but because of what they allow to be seen. The straight line and the square, the colour, truly become matter, which the painter deposits on the surface, and its interaction. I have given Mondrian as an example because he is one of those artists in which the attainable conviction (?) of the doubtful trustworthiness of the gaze happens to be emblematic. I could also give José Manuel Ciria as an example. That is what I am supposed to be doing, and what I am doing. To continue – masks, plural, of the gaze. Is nothing what it is? If the painter allows me, I would say that everything is when it is seen with feeling – the subtle instant: the look of feeling. And reason, and the thoughts of the looker, attempting to get into the vision, the thought, the reason and feelings of the painting. Mask –singular- of the gaze: what disperses or distracts it? What does it hide so that it cannot not use the faculty of seeing. I don’t know, but to take a chance I would say that it is a deformation in the intellective field, its initial force, its intelligence. Not the intelligence of art or the painting, though, but that of the looker. I believe in the intelligence of the painting, of the space painted by José Manuel Ciria. Must I believe equally firmly in the intelligent of the rest, of those who, because of (anti)nature are supposed to have it, starting with myself, with my blindness and imposture?
Mask –singular– of the gaze. I will take one of the acceptations of this term: disguise. Not just what the gaze puts on or covers itself with when looking at art, what veils or is interposed in the space between the gaze and the art, but the disguise of the art. The mask as disguise, as concealment. Does the painting hide? It (dis)simulates, it betrays, when it is not able or does not have enough courage to look, in its turn. The problem is not simply whether the painting is secret, whether its discourse is hermetic, turning in on itself; the problem is whether the painting closes itself off or rejects the faculty of looking and, therefore, the expansiveness of seeing. If the painting does not look, if it does not see; it does not incite us to see, pushing us towards the “invisible” vertigo that lurks in the background of the mystery.
José Manuel Ciria summons us to the underlying geography of the gaze and the mask – or disguise-, the territory where art debates its dialectical origin. Particularly for its author, the artist, the painter, its active and passive subject. Who first of all reclaims the need for recognition, for a non-vertigo in the exploration of vertigo –not just in its fall- that the inspiration –of what inspires, of what confers soul, strength, of what creates and of who creates–, that the illumination demands. In the astonishment of my personal gaze I still retain the serene burst, the explosion of calm of the universe of the pictures, if we can call them “pictures” of José Manuel. After seeing them, I still see the flash of the look, the luminary of colour, the red all enveloping growth of the signs, the atmosphere in which what happens, happens and floats, in the serene memory of what comes after the act of seeing. Although, I would not attempting to surpass Wols –that would be madness- when he said that to see is to close the eyes, I do think – and say- that seeing is opening the eyes to what is, to what is there after having closed them.
Mnemosyne. As I recently asked regarding the work of this great painter, Ciria, what remains of the painting when it has been materially destroyed? Memory, I tried to answer. What is the support, the legitimate (im)material plane on which is really painted? The plane of time, making both magnitudes, time and memory, synonymous.
This is truly an ambitious project, to explore between the masks, (plural) and the gaze of the art. Ciria emerges not only unharmed, but illuminated. As we submerge into what seems to hide itself, up to the remote domains of darkness, and to surge, or dawn, in the crackling idea of what after the distant –far or near- is the light. Art is not just a power, an aptitude, a function –whatever. Art, has something, I think, if not of an itinerary, then of the possible trace of an (im)probable journey, a journey to seek and find all the variables of fire. “All fire, fire”, to use Julio Cortázar’s brilliant, more than literary expression. To encompass all the aptitudes of painting and art, even those which are not fire.
We need to know how to define the real matter of painting. In the case of Ciria, is the oil paint the matter? Oil paint on plastic, cloth or linen canvas, on a differentiated support? Is this what makes the painting visible and, previously, what makes it exteriorisable, capable of being looked at. Matter concentrates and dilutes, or diversifies, at the same time, all the arguments that make and unmake the being and the seeming of art, its unequivocal and multiple nature, even the supposed contradictions of its formalising elements. One of the most lucid minds in the research and discernment of the being and the space of the phenomenon of the work of art; on this zig-zag route that leads us to its understanding and acceptance.
Blanchot says, “… a work of art is eminently what it is made of, what makes it visible and shows its nature and its matter, the glorification of its reality. The verbal rhythm of a poem, the sound of music, light made colour in painting, space converted into the stone of a house. This is why we still seek to signal what distinguishes it from the objective and from the work in general. Because we know that in usual objects, the matter itself is not of interest; and that matter, the more suitable it is for its use, the more appropriate it is, the more it becomes almost nothing, until every object becomes immaterial, volatile power in the rapid circuit of exchange, disappeared support for the action which itself is pure becoming”.
And he considers shortly afterwards, “A work of art makes what disappears in the object appear. The statue glorifies marble, the picture is not made of canvas and material ingredients, it is the presence of the matter which would otherwise remain hidden. And the poem is not made of ideas and words, but is where words become their appearance and the elemental depth on which this appearance is open and, nevertheless, closes”.
The enchantment which causes in us intelligent thinking, intelligence as a motor faculty – it would be redundant to say of whom: of Blanchot: makes me pause– should I ask for pardon? In it: the reader is the winner, on finding a space for clarity in a space of restlessness, mine. “Thus, the work,” M.B. continues, “guides us towards the background of darkness that we did not think to have assigned the name of elemental, because it is not nature, as nature always affirms what has already been born and formed, as René Char doubtless means when he says “mobile, horrible, exquisite earth”, which Hölderlin calls Mother Earth, the earth closed over its silence, subterranean and withdrawn into its shadow, and whom Rilke addresses, “Earth, are you not what in us wants to be reborn invisible”. Van Gogh stated it more clearly, “I am bound to the earth”. But these mythical names, powerful in themselves, are strangers to what they name.
“Nevertheless, here, where we seek only to recognise the main features of the work, we retain that it is oriented towards the elemental background, towards that element that would be the depth and the shadow of the element and to which we know that objects do not allude, but that all arts, in the appearance of being which they give to the matter pof which later it is said that they are made, raise in us the unique event of art”. In addition to this proposal, clear to I don’t know what degree, to enter inside the painting, there where its expansive being is hidden, the great force that will make it visible to the outside, what was transported here by the masks and the gaze also has an intention for the painter, to ratify himself in the reason of its iconography. As if José Manuel Ciria had come to draw up an inventory of signs, confirm them and widen their meaning and their situation in the painting outside of the painting, in the painting on this side –landscape, panorama–, through the deforming, or should I say conforming, space of the mask. The mask, for the painter, is the mirror which returns him to reality, and with prolongs it, multiplies it and widens it to a new reality – the reality of the sign, shape, colour – which is the same, but on the other side of the mask, the other side of the mirror. This encounter that the painter seeks by gazing through the disguise, or with the disguise made gaze, seeks and finds the consequence of the revelation, the vision. And the iconographic balance –as if his entire pictorial biography, his artistic life, became sudden or eternal in a moment, in the flash- will grant him the credit, in my view, contemplating, positive- that his trajectory and his being in art have prepared for him.
The mask allows Ciria to see his first measurement in the mask, his concealing or revealing nature, and through it, the structure, which arms, tenses and loosens his language. From this position it is valid to obtain the legitimate possibility of this language. At this point of the intelligent precaution, not to say strategy, of wondering by “seeing” though the progressive reason of a thought, I understand the reason of this fertile, eternally travelling moment. When could there appear to be a halt or how could it be changed, if this was the real function of a pictorial trajectory. I understand the discourse of a true artist, José Manuel Ciria, for example, like an uninterrupted reflection, driven by a continuous argument and attitude.
I do not know when the artist begins his discourse – I am not very sure of this term-, but what I do know is that it never ends. Denotations or as slight accents of a uninterrupted discourse – of a transcourse– of José Manuel Ciria: thus he contemplates the continuation of which work, which one day escapes from his hands –not from thought – and is erected in this imperious formalism, nothing free or casual about it, which is an exhibition. The painting needs to be looked at, so that you and I, and others like us, may see it, and understand that the spectator is also an uninterrupted discourse. The spectator is an active player in the painting, in symphony with the active role of the painter. In better words: it is not, it should be an active role, so that we can then overcome the acritical habit of looking at painting by the compromise of seeing it. Or trying to see it.
I have been saying, and I have even sought help from my master, Maurice Blanchot, that a constant proposal of José Manuel Ciria, particularly in the actual crossing between the gaze and the mask, is that of walking towards the interior of the painting, to its most intimate spaces, to reveal it picked clean of added elements, extra artifices, in its original purity. We understand this journey as a voyage of initiation to that remote or near place where signs are born, the vertigo where colours are gestated and float and thunder in their calm and silent clamour; a voyage to the field where what the world insensitive to urgency calls large formats, which are the smallest ones, are compressed and expanded. Small formats where vertigo nests and signs are born, and grow, and ascend from that to this reality (José Manuel: the road to reality leads upwards, doesn’t it? Or not always and not in every case? I live and write installed in vertigo, something unsurpassable, and sometimes I say things and I am not in charge … I would like your opinion on this matter.)
One voyage to the probable space where signs are born, vertigo, and where metaphors are conceptualised and acquire the value of a concept, or even an axiom. A sign is a metaphor. It barely affirms: it points, induces, traces uncertain, evanescent routes. Signs are metaphors which rise up, are constructed upon the meaning apparently contradictory to their first meaning – the fire that burns cools when a certain emphasis is placed on the persistence of fire; the ice that burns. This is true; try it. The unbridgeable distance between this and that imminent point, is it the same? From the universe, the immediate, the infinite, the colour that behaves with an unpredictable tonal outlay: the colour that calms and exalts, that colour which has to denote serenity and restlessness: the calm of the twilight, the storm of the twilight… Signs make metaphors of differing, even opposing meanings, but suddenly, or I mean slowly, they mean. The adjective takes the primordial place, and becomes the noun, like the sign/metaphor of the flash of lighting, a spark, without a measure of light, of space and time, the thousand millionth part of a second, that which has no beginning or end.
They are born there, those incandescent signs, quenched, sparkling, paused, vibrant, that gravitate in Ciria’s universe. The masks do not disfigure the signals to the gaze: it localises them in their adjective/noun, in the punctual meaning. The colours dawn in the restless, convulsive placidity of the aurora of an evening. I feel the peace of this undeniable vertigo. And I foresee the luminous quiet flash of lighting. Serenely, suddenly, José Manuel Ciria, eternally.