Mercedes Replinger.
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Mercedes Replinger.

Mercedes Replinger. Las Formas del Silencio.

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




Mercedes Replinger


Modern art is the art of dreaming.
The poet of dreaming is generally visual,
an aesthetic visual. Dreams are generally of sight.
And the “picture” or “landscape” is essentially a
dream because it is static,
denying the dynamic continuity of the outside world.


Fernando Pessoa. On Literature and Art.


The unrepeatable instant of the creative act, unique in its total integrity, and the repetition of tradition are the warp and weft of the paintings of José Manuel Ciria. The unique instant and infinite repetition, like the two sides of a work which wheels back on itself and spills over into multiple tensions, where languages and words, things and objects, the living and the dead, may last eternally, in the work of this artist, the dream which denies the dynamic continuity of the waking world. Ciria’s paintings are the projection of the dream of a place where there is no beginning or end, where there are limits, but no start or finish. In the frozen surface of the painting, time stands still. Painting as a creative dream is always an awakening in another time, an awareness of another time that completely fills space, leaving no cracks for the continuous passing of events. In this painting, images play the same role as gravityless floating bodies do in dreams.


As a matter of fact, this is quite logical, as authentic painting is always a dream, “a successful dream, in other words, a dream that has entered reality… a design: a harbinger, fulfilling or seeking to fulfil a destiny”(1). The enigma of painting that crystallises the ever-renewed desire of achieving its own original and substantial unity. In the silence of Ciria’s paintings, we find this loyalty to an obsession that can only be perfectly fulfilled in the creative dream.


The Dream of the Poem (1997). Tradition, reflecting itself mortally, like Narcissus, in a sole and final instant, not on the burnished surface of a mirror but in the tenebrous waters of the painting, broken and wrinkled, showing the folds of the instant that fatally conceals its own meaning. It could not be otherwise: the strange madness of Narcissus has always attracted the attention of José Manuel Ciria, an artist deeply linked to water as the matter of his pictorial imagination. Water, the redoubt of the poetic dream, is constantly present here.


He has even found the perfect expression, “Waterskin”(2), to name the suite covering his production for 1993. Waterskin becomes the image of the Narcissus-artist, who, in the reflection of the spring, finds his real body made of “moon-flesh and dew”(3). On the “waterskin”, Narcissus finds tattooed the reflection of his own gaze, shown in that double game of clarity and opacity involved in the classical myth(4). Narcissus looks at himself in the water, says Bachelard, rather than a mirror, which is an excessively intellectualised and civilised instrument and, in any case, offers a stable reflection. “In order to dream deeply, we must dream of matter”(5). Only living water can capture the mute presence of a questioning gaze seeking its own limit in the absolute silence of the pure act of contemplation.


Illumination of the word by the image, so that writing is reduced to a furrow: a vacuum where painting expands to recover the act that engenders the original memory. Ciria’s painting constantly underlines the wound of the word: the incapacity of language to own the world, objects, the visible, without imagining and dreaming another territory. For this reason, the word is transformed into vision. Ciria, because of this awareness of the primacy of the seen over the said, is fascinated by a myth, which, among other things, narrates how the word without images is condemned to death. Echo, disdained by Narcissus, becomes a rock and a cry in the depth of a valley, she is the word and the verb, but “this word can only live if it happily manages to satisfy its epicurean tension towards Narcissus. If the creative, liberating, erotic impulse is missing, she becomes mere stone. Narcissus, on the other hand, is the primitive image, the root of all figure and of all reflection” (6). Obscure root of its substance, the word dies without the primitive reflection of the image.


Memory of the Dream (1994). A portrait of time, the paint on the canvas signals the trajectory of the temporality of matter. Ciria, like an archaeologist, digs up the past of a memory that shows the different planes of sedimentation of the image. This painting, therefore, situates us before the problem of memory and the place from which it springs. Not all places have the same effect, the same efficacy in awakening memory, thus the necessary signals shown by Ciria in his work, paradoxically, to remember forgetting.


The artist, it has already been said, annuls time and instead situates the origin of the world in the place where things simply happen. But to carry out this operation he must renounce memory. He had to forget, and merge with the nothing into Narcissus jumps. The etymology of Narcissus is Narke, the narcotic, inebriating perfume with which death aromatises the world. “The actor could understand reality, what was immune to the time beyond (the origin), if he could only free himself from the bonds… Therefore, before interrogating the goddess of Memory, the prophet and the poet drank from the fountain of Oblivion”(7). What is it that Ciria ignores in order to persevere with painting as an authentic survival exercise? What path has he necessarily had to walk back to find the vivifying origin of Memory? Without a doubt, the time that corresponds to History, the lineal time that measures and classifies events; the successive time that marks the passage of the present with a deafening rhythm. Ciria paints outside the narration of the “current” and eliminates the “now” that boxes time into a perfectly drawn map.


The Dream of the Gaze (1996). Ciria follows a precise method(8) of unremembering, where he observes himself forgetting: he contemplates the empty space left by oblivion to host something more urgent. Fluid which leads to oblivion and allows the poet, transformed after his shady journey to the dark waters, to become a new man. At this point, the myth of Narcissus merges with the myth of Orpheus. In the animus of this artist, looking is a journey, knowing that it is impossible to rescue Eurydice. Now “each one must obtain and enjoy other experiences during the journey”(9). Against the visual domination of modern art that threatens to neutralise the passionate act of the gaze, Ciria proposes introspection, the gaze that dreams, in other words, the gaze that necessarily does not see and sparkles over the daily space of thought.


In the night of poetry, the dreaming gaze must close its eyes and move in the dark. The sleeping gaze reaches further into the secret writing proposed by the work of art. The dream of the look reveals the world with a calm and deep stillness, aloof from convulsive movement or hurried gestures. John Berger says that painting, all painting, shows the same desire and the same wish: to leave a record, an announcement of “I have seen this” by the artist(10), who once more celebrates the enigma of visibility. Ciria follows this tradition, but his eyes, rather than seeing, darken in order to dream, to contemplate the mystery of things. The artist abandons the darkness of the cave to ascend from the entrails of immobile matter. There, crossing the universe of things that can be expressed, the gaze approaches another form of being and facing reality, showing the secret link that exists between the forms of the invisible and transformed matter.


Dream of Venus (1998). The dream of the gaze that has completely shadowed the surface of the paint. Ciria believes that many will see this intention as “painting with a lantern in the dark”. An electric metaphor that is perfectly natural in any reflection on the act of automatic painting. The night is precisely the ideal state for a collision, from the spark of which “the light of the images” would be born, revealing in the intensity of the shadow all the beauty that “lives in the most beautiful of all nights, in the night crossed by a ray of lightning, the night of the lightning flashes. After such a night, day becomes night”(11). An extraordinary encroachment of the spirit of the images, which in Ciria’s painting show the sparks that he has gathered in his daring rise from the world of shadows into the light. The artist brings to the surface the illumination of a gesture capable of lighting the image that now becomes a petrified icon of profound reality.


Eugenio Trías says that painting is a game of the eyes, as every image is an icon that takes hold of the viewer with its expressive power to paralyse and astound him “as if he had been captured and bewitched by the gaze of Medusa or by the misterium fascinans of the icon watching him, looking at him, detaining and fixing him, in full ex-statico bewilderment, with no option of movement. The watcher stops… arrested by the enchantment of the image. This image has the power, as it is always the image which looks, through eyes which, from the centre of the painting, order and classify what is offered on view”(12). Literally, Ciria constructs paintings that are a programme and a crystalline object of his intentions. The painting looks at us, binds us with its enchantment. From the battered centre of a painting that does not avoid showing its wounds and renounces neither the fragment, nor the desire to see its original unity fulfilled, eyes contemplate us and fold our gaze into its inside. The dream of Venus, of Eros transfiguring the world is, in reality, the dream of Medusa trapping the terrified gaze of those who see the power of the first images.


1.María Zambrano: Sueño y Destino de la pintura, in Algunos lugares de la Pintura. Madrid, Acanto, 1989.


2.José Manuel Ciria. Piel de agua. San Sebastián, Altxerri Gallery, September-October 1993.


3.Paul Valéry: Narcisse Parle (1881) in Oeuvres I. Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1957. Page 82.


4.Franco Rella: Metamorfosis. Imágenes del pensamiento. Madrid, Espasa. 1989. Page 142.


5.Gaston Bachelard: Water and Dreams (1942). Trans. Pub. Mexico, FCE, 1978.


6.Ignacio Gómez de Liaño: Mi tiempo. Madrid, Ediciones Libertarias, 1984. Page 252.


7.Pedro Azara: La imagen y el olvido. El arte como engaño en la filosofía de Platón. Madrid, Siruela, 1995. Page 212.


  1. “Seeking the Forgotten” Paul Valéry: Etudes philosophiques in Oeuvres I. Op.cit. page 933.


9.José Manuel Ciria: Ideas de paso en José Manuel Ciria. Between Memory and Vision. Adriana Schmidt Gallery, Stuttgart, 1994.


10.John Berger: Algunos pasos hacia una pequeña teoría de lo visible. Madrid, Ediciones Ardora, 1997.


11.André Breton: Primer Manifiesto del Surrealismo (1924) en Manifiestos del Surrealismo. Barcelona, ed. Labor, 1992. pág. 58-59.


12.Eugenio Trías: Lógica del límite. Barcelona, Ensayos Destino, 1991. Pág. 138.