Dominique Nahas.
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Dominique Nahas.

Dominique Nahas. Las Formas del Silencio.

Libro monográfico “Las Formas del Silencio. Antología crítica (los años noventa). Enero 2005.


Dominique Nahas

The power of Ciria’s images remind me of the words used by Horatio in Hamlet to refer to the comet as one of the feared events portending the death of Julius Caesar: «…trains of fire and dews of blood». Ciria’s work illuminates the corners of the mind with a wide range of associations, the undoubted result of the extreme facility with which the artist provokes a feeling of profound and tragic presage that impregnates the personality of his pictures. This impulse attracts us with its movement, the pictorial authority with which the artist breaks up and extends his own apocalyptic intimacies and those of society. This intimacy with the hidden transgressing lines observed within himself and in the community are articulated by Ciria through oversized, at times theatrical, imprecise blots, the clear pictorial power of which contradicts the intimate references to the body and its fluids.

The feared events suggested optically in Ciria’s work are the result of using paint organically, viscerally, at times with a brutal intensity, applying it in suspended layers of lacerating planes. In my opinion, one of the main reasons that we are overwhelmed by the immensity of Ciria’s work is his virtuosity, incorporating crossed emotional, psychological and formal references in the construction of his own presence through several models of mind/body relations. Although, at a certain level, his paintings constantly appear to be mutually complimentary, there is also profound variation between his works. Ciria’s double intention is, firstly, to give a visual relation of psychical separation, of flow and connection with the notion of bodily containment, limits and fissures and, secondly, to eroticise and spiritualise this encounter in his work. The visual force of his work comes precisely from the successful manner in which it embraces a mystic level of realisation, while appearing to sensitise his bodily presence (or contain references to it). Reinforcing these aspects is Ciria’s obvious superposition of microcosmic statements onto a macrocosmic field, endowing it with a crude, vital and questioning presence.

In The Body in the Mind, the semanticist Mark Johnson, reminds us «…Our encounter with containment and limitations is one of the most persuasive factors of our bodily experience. We are intimately conscious of our bodies as three-dimensional containers, into which we put certain things (food, water, air), and from where certain other things emerge (remains of food and water, air, blood, etc..)». There are, of course, different notions of how the being sees itself through different systems of conceptualisation, beyond the domain of cognitive semantics (cf. Johnson). These include a Nietzchean vision of the being seen through the body which contains itself, not like a limited container (exposed to external forces or subject to internal forces of expansion), but obeying changeable laws of flow and reflux, the force of the ego responding to the different uncontrolled sources of energy. For Merleau-Ponty, the construction of being is predicated on the observation of the body, highlighting its strength, flow and potential rather than containment or stasis. Ciria appears to have all this in mind when he constructs his paintings, which emphasise the feeling of being seen through the body, both as a container (stasis) and an organic entity, a tube for the flow of psychical energies and impulses. Let us begin by confronting the surface-level space where Ciria imitates what is organic: it may remind us of the accidental or intentional spilling or staining of bodily fluids: pus, blood or semen, onto a controlled and neutralised background, which remains resolutely majestic and balanced. The result is a visually anti-aesthetic shape, the very existence of which resides in the promulgation of a disharmonic disunion between internal and external. What we experience is a terrain (or condition) ambiguously suspended between a negative subjectivity and the world it confronts. Ciria’s use of a reticulate, geometric and incipient frame, existing in the background of his work, is a galvanic proposal for the ideal scenario for the representation of the scheme of the «body as a container «.

Ciria’s repertory of colours, earth colours and sienna, earthy oranges, blues, dark violet, transmit a wide range of multiple associations; the sheen of wear and the ragged age of the objects (patching) and places (noxious landscapes, the shine of dawn) and persons (several surfaces and cavities of the human body). His backgrounds test our eyes, offering a silent place for our gaze, allowing rest and peace. And, while this surface maintains a relative distance from the visual explosions, the alarming haemorrhages of visceral energy which deliberately “disfigure” the contents of the inner strata do not totally shelter us from the torrent of laceration marks inflicted on them. The eyes of the viewer may situate Ciria’s elegant and violent creation of blots within a fatal inevitability, interpreting them as “interference” in the borders and shapes that keep us captive. How could it be otherwise? In Ciria’s work the suggestion of cataclysmic interludes appears destined to obstruct the relaxed pictorial field with orgiastic explosions of a colourful nature, creating a spatial game which is absolutely singular in this artist. His sensual and organic sensitivity infer a fusion of contained or denied freedom and spilled freedom.

As Michel Foucault has suggested in The History of Sexuality, after the classical epoch, new power procedures were designed and used in the nineteenth century. These superseded caused the foregoing symbolism of blood, in which power spoke through blood (on the side of authority, standing for death, transgression and sovereignty), by an analysis of sexuality, in which the procedures of power shifted to a carefully constructed standard which defined knowledge, life, meaning, discipline and regulations. The obvious reference to blood in Ciria’s work has a powerful emotional impact on the spectator for several reasons. In some measure the artist’s work formulates this change of epistemes while it reflects contemporary anxieties regarding the fragility of being and of the social system.

The artist’s paintings are scenes of displaced disruptions, pollutions, lacerations, and psychical or bodily ruptures, which undoubtedly play an important role in how we register his work. We perceive interminable series of elaborations by the artist, obtained from his meditations –on the dichotomies between fragility and strength, internal and external (of the body, of the social system), transgression (of said frontiers)- and between his formal strategies which seek the need to violate geometric order with the scattered appearance of the paint, allowing Ciria to reach spiritual heights by means of suggestions achieved through sacrifice, such as that of carnality. What the artist’s work encompasses and what, in fact, gives it its meaning, is its aesthetic compromise, the task of extending the parameters of the creation of language and the deepening of the emotional timbre of contemporary painting. There are primordial or even primary pictorial events, which we follow in Ciria’s work, although we my appear not to know exactly where we are going. We quickly recognise, nevertheless, that there is a prevailing intention between his colouristic game and his creation of frameworks by means of brutal blasts of paint and momentary tactile and colourful spasms, which sound as loudly as visceral blows of energy in his erogenised and eroticised pictorial fields. He wants us to react physically to the organic rhythms of our instincts (self-preservation) and cycles (after pleasure and pain). These impulses are seen as resources within the body, always swinging between ecstasy and fragmentation.

In the same work, the intervals in the broken creation of the blots insinuate a regularised rupture from open schemes towards the fragmented and wounded strata of colour, the contours of which, with their blisters and lumps, seem to canonise the surfaces of his work. His visual references to bodily excretions open way intentionally through the borders of his geometric lattices; they are imposed over the continuity and connection of the zones, transgressing any pre-established idea of anchorage or continuity, in a feeling of profound inevitability, like a profound moment of sadness, anxiety or loss. The time-space configurations created by Ciria in his paintings are evocations of elegiac, tragic and emotionally turbulent worlds. Shaped by open resistance, we understand that the feared events that we witness in ourselves as we participate in the task of apprehending the spaces of the artist within his paintings are precisely those feelings to which we are being witness, – unforeseen and unclassifiable schemes of recognition of what is not known. In short, the strangely majestic work of José Manuel Ciria encompasses (and then transfigures) the concept of Jacques Derrida of event as «…a name for the aspects of the situation, which we can never manage, either to eliminate or to negate (or simply can never avoid). It is another name for experience, which is always the experience of the other. The event cannot be subsumed under any other concept, not even that of existence».