Hilario Bravo. Barcelona. 2005.en
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Hilario Bravo. Barcelona. 2005.en

Catálogo exposición “Limbos de Fénix”Galería Bach Quatre Arte Contemporani, Barcelona. Octubre 2005


Hilario Bravo




“It is always easier and more aseptic when we write about the oeuvre of an artist we do not know than when there are personal involvements, or the artist in question is a friend. How difficult the hermeneutist’s job is! When it comes to describe some work, his own ideas, the artist’s suggestions about the work in question, and affection intermingle. Hilario and I are friends, yes we are, and there is an enormous compatibility between us. We are friends since we met in Rome, that forever eternal Rome we were lucky to share during the spring and summer of 1996.”


Thus, with exactly these words, José Manuel Ciria began a text I had requested him to write for my exhibition in Lisbon, in the gallery of our dear friend António Prates, a text which he so kindly, quickly and appropriately gave to me after just a few hours.


One who is slower, shier, more sparing with, and much less given to written analysis wants to repay him at least with the same unswerving friendship, because apart from what this means within the human sphere, it must be said that we belong to the same school of thought and that we see things in a similar way. In the end one has always defended that painting is an instrument of thought and its practice.


We already tackled these and other matters in that Garden of Eden that was our first stay in Rome. Our theories about art still must echo today on the garden walls adjacent to the brethren. There, for the first time, my dear friend, during our extravagant chats and while drinking some cold Peroni (beer) that had been stolen from some absent-minded guy, I realized how privileged we were being able to do what we liked, but I also realized the dissatisfaction with what we did not paint. In the beautiful storms that stimulated the imagination of those who called themselves tenants of Rome’s ceiling –our studios were on the top floor of the Academy– and that time, by the warmth of some uncorked bottle of wine, we discussed the magnificence and the purity of Giotto’s paintings, which he then used as a model and turned into a splendid series of paintings. Subjects also came up while cooking a fanciful but delicious paella of rice and carrots, or when avidly finishing off a fabada (bean stew), the ingredients of which came by courier from that far Spain –the components of the other meals were characterized by a quite unmentionable origin–. Those subjects stimulated our minds and our burning desire to create an art which moves further and further away from unpleasant junks and boring videos… We wanted to paint!


Other times –most of them– at improvised parties under the pleasant influence of grappa (a kind of brandy), we considered taking our works to the Coliseum in order to see, perhaps, how our paintings survived the weight of history and fit in the picture of time, because we were moved by an appetite for lasting works and we wanted to penetrate the mystery of real art.

I think that, in a way, our conversations, our revelations, our improvisations, our confessions, all our wishes and dreams still live on in the streets, and on Rome’s walls and domes. They still live on in a Rome we left waiting for an impracticable photography which, if it were developed, would give us the size, colour, and intensity of our collusion and would bring to light, in the shape of a picture, that parenthesis of the past that was the origin of our affection, that space of the past, that imagery of time.


Because I have always felt, having a special concern for it, the passing of that entelechy we call time. And, although it sounds silly or pretentious, there is no way to stop it, at least according to its dynamic concept, because one way or other we always seem to give way to its linear definition. And this happens even though we know that we could be talking at least about a three-dimensional concept. These are the reminiscences of our Classical culture in which destiny, life and time are wound like thread on the spool in Ariadna’s hands. A thread that we could always make into a plait with schemes and intrigues and even tie into knots to weave a three-dimensional tapestry… Anyway it is always a line with two ends: one beginning and one end, our time.




José Manuel Ciria has offered me this same concern over the problem of time through what we could childishly call stains. These are the stains, chips and clouds that appealed to Leonardo da Vinci so much, and also, we must not forget it, to Piero di Cosimo, in that exciting past. Unintelligible stains which could and knew how to transport dreamers to the highest levels of plastic and poetical thought, but also philosophical and psychological.


Perhaps the first thought, while sizing up this situation and in view of Ciria’s work, could take us to the immediacy of the stain itself And it is just that we, quickly but wrongly, imagine the artist —the same way as if Pollock were risen from the dead— wearing coveralls and holding a painting can in his hands while waiting for chance and commending himself to the Muses to inspire him so that the clouds of imperfection would be spilled, together with the paint, in the best possible way.


Maybe. But we know, and those who are more ignorant of this subject sense it, that José Manuel Ciria’s painting comes from meditation. And, naturally, that meditation, that approach to the work, comes before the stain, so, in a certain and lucky way, that stain is destined to appear within the order the artist has planned.


And even if it were not like that, the stains, once devoid of immediacy, keep on exerting that same fascination over our minds and that same concern over our spirit, awakening assimilation by mimesis. That is, they can be identified by means of equivalent processes of definitions by conceiving artificial figures which derive from the world we know, perhaps from the world we designate real. Here we have one of the reasons of this disquiet, the formulation of order against chaos.


Precisely this evocation of the real world is at the root of Ciria’s extensive series about the investigation of Rorschach.


Why this attraction for the abstraction of shapelessness? Can any image undo the horror vacui? Why am I thinking that they can be associated to the passing of time, and to concepts like course and death?


A spilled liquid leaving its mark in order to create some kind of projection on the vacuum or a palimpsest of bounces and falls on a surface. Does it depend on chance or on the force of an explosion or impulse? Is it a course in which force or chance take part as just another agent that accompanies the characteristics of the element’s fluidity?


The course of execution while time develops is too obvious to be the only idea that could give us an assimilation of the concept stain linked to the concept of time. It is not just that execution carried out by the outer force of the executor—the artist in this case—, but the progress of the liquids themselves that flow, grow, expand and intermingle among themselves and within the space in which they develop up to the moment they freeze, the moment they harden for time and acquire their definite form.


Definite! One has that worrisome feeling that stains never achieve a definite form. It seems that, if they do not grow, they have at least an inner life with ability enough for autoregeneration in order to make us perceive it as a new element each time we pay attention to it. They have their own life, their own dynamism of growth and transformation.




Honestly, it is impressive to be able to observe José Manuel Ciria while he is at that such a singular and private moment of the act of painting. From the very moment of creative excitement an overwhelming feeling of uncontrolled energy is perceived. It seems an uncontainable mass of devastating force within which physical exercise is just the visible part of that creative frenzy. Once the space is created –a space, as we will see later, delimited enough to withstand the ordering of that presumed chaos–, it is filled with stains which contain the same renewing power that has a swarming constellation. Immediately after, a charcoal is snatched from the desk. The artist will use it to go around his huge canvases –like a runaway horse or a possessed sorcerer– in order to materialize or connect with that apparent creativity which develops within the unlimited space of his canvases. Those canvases express the formulation of the original chaos, a generating chaos that is, paradoxically, unaware of chaotic things.


Contrary to what we are suppose to discuss, the idea of chaos seems to be always linked to that disquiet turned, par excellence, into a sense of unease, the worry turned into anxiety. A magic word to make all our reason alarms come off, a surprising formula to trigger Euclidean springs.


However, that same chaos is just a breeding ground from which absolutely everything comes up, some kind of wonderful shapeless gelatine which Plato and the Pythagoreans considered that «primary substance» that was the soul What a beautiful thought as bed of concepts for an expression of art!


Blavastky also reminds us “What is the primordial chaos but aether? An aether, with all its mysterious and occult properties, containing in itself the germs of universal creation.”


Thus is José Manuel Ciria’s painting, reflection and avidity. He cannot hang around on the formulation of each one of the numerous small elements that compose the universe, or on giving preference to one of them over the other, despite his huge number of executed works. It is his thirst for showing the whole universe. But a universe in which chaos, as we mentioned before, is neither chaotic, nor incoherent or anarchic. Perhaps, within chaos, as in Ciria’s art, we do not understand that magma that appears to us as an order although it seems impenetrable to us, as an apparently incomprehensible precept, as some rules we thought enigmatic, but which, in the end, are an aesthetic order, a clear precept and an artistic rule.


José Manuel Ciria’s stains are original stains, of course they are. Shapeless, perhaps; but not chaotic. Therefore, they carry within their genes the order of chaos. Because they are stains that remind us the weight of constellations, that great order of spilled semen, the same order that fluids have in contact with other fluids. His paintings have that wild and rough order that urine has on the walls of thought. It is not that his paintings are shapeless stains that breathe in the stench of incoherence, but that the chaos of original things sees itself established in the fantasy of a greatly conceived space with a premeditated organization, if not always obvious.


Ciria’s painting is essential due to the choice of the shapeless stain and wandering strokes as main figures of his paintings. But it is also essential because of the spatial distribution in which these figures live. A space that, without edges or limits, appears to us as basic, but not simple. It alternates a basic and ideal sight of it with its most complex multiplication –as by magic and enigma of mirrors–, where everything doubles itself within its own individuality.


That discipline of reality we call order prevents us from the insecurity that causes uncertainty, chance or doubt because they lead us to unstable situations. Is it, maybe, the real shape of the Science or the Good and the Evil Tree established in ourselves in order to keep us away from knowledge? Tall stories. Cunning arguments of the mind to subdue us to the stipulated system, so as to avoid the slippery world of creation, which is, in the end, a self-management of things by virtue of their own development along time.

There is an order among the poppies of a field, the same way there is one when a handful of lentils scatters over the floor. And the same way there is an order among multiplied spaces, hardened stains, and among the primary colours that Ciria brings up on his canvases. However, none of these examples contain a clear alignment order, because I have never thought that alignment could be a homonym for order, or that the antonym for order could be chaos.