Aurora García

By getting rid of its opacity, the Universe, certainly, attacks man. By getting rid of its opacity, the Universe is prone to be amalgamated with man.

Max Ernst, Natural History.


During Soto Mesa's exhibition which took place in Madrid in the year 1999, we could see how the artist placed himself in an ambiguous formal universe which brought to the forefront partially captured images with an organic aim, with a pictorial focus which conceptually broke the limits of the canvass. In those pictures, all of which were painted in 1998, the oil from a mixed austere palette would flow to the cadence of the sinuosity and indetermination of shapes, reeling off, in its wavy and varied rhythms, details of skin and flesh which belong to a microcosm which was abrupt and disturbing in its enlargement, an imaginary microcosm which might as well render us to the vegetal medium as well as to the anatomical crevices, either human or animal, which usually escape at first glance. We were given the impression that the artist wanted to focus on the dynamics of the process which establishes the existence of phenomena, either material or psychological, without making a distinction between that which has its roots in the human being and that which is outside, because, according to the words of Max Ernst quoted at the beginning, "The Universe is prone to be amalgamated with man", and man is built out of the same substances and of the same twists as the Universe.

Swathed in a subjective light where in some comer of the picture the sheer darkness of the background stood out -a space of darkness around the object of the picture-, there were the images of unitary tendency showing its folds and crevices which were interrupted at the limits of the canvas. Soto Mesa made his choice: to show just a part of the imaginary figure, thus allowing the mind of the spectator to wander towards the possibility of the re-composition of a whole from the fragmented presence. But, what whole, if the clues that we had before us did not respond to conventional signs, but stepped into the vagueness of a common memory where many things of a different origin end flowing?.

Up to now we have been talking in the past recalling an exhibition which took place more than two years ago. Nevertheless, we think that nearly all our comments could be applied to the latest pieces of work which make up the new exhibition which we have in front of us. The most outstanding differences would lay in the fact that the oil has flamed into a varied polychromy, sometimes next to a certain symbolism, and the brushstrokes are sometimes shorter, cut off by the surrounding colours, in the same way as the image is cut off by the limits of the canvas. The combined lights give rise to singular ambiences that accentuate the strangeness of the artist's way of showing these palpitating open images, which are extraordinarily close. We are witnesses of how colour can be the protagonist of painting, of how the variation of the chromatic scale is decisive in a fundamental way when the time comes to feel a picture, to perceive it.

Kandinsky wrote: "colour is a means to exert a direct influence on the soul. Colour is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is a piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that, by means of this or that key, makes the human soul vibrate adequately "(l). Well, the polychromy used by Francisco Soto Mesa in his pieces of work from 2000 and 2001 implies a deep expressiveness which can even be heard. Far from having the deeper tone -though nonetheless less disturbing-which characterised the previous exhibition, the paintings which we can see at present sound from their warmth or from their acid tendency, and they are rarely condescending with the spectator. They are appearances full of electricity which are born from a relation between the spectator and the material, to which he transmits the freedoms of his pulse from formal framing where the drawing is barely relevant but where the direct motion of the brush is. AII this constitutes a transgression from the conventional glance to reality, knowing that the world is much more that we can see, or it does not coincide with what we can see.

Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to place these pieces of work inside what we know as pure action painting. We must take into account that, beyond the pictorial impulse, lays an idea which articulates the space of the piece of work, the expanded composition, the ambiguous patterns which are born out of the same project. The energy that it produces clashes against the frozen distance in so much artistic production nowadays, and what happens is, that in this case, the artist gets involved himself, he translates to the picture the perturbation that the enigma of things produces in him, choosing the challenging labour of building upon that which he does not know about, upon a land full of uncertainty. That is, on the other hand, the only way to advance in the research of reality.

"Follow your internal voice and accept what it tells you, and leave for others what they consider fair, or do not consider any of these things, for not everything is for everybody!" (2), this what Friedich deeply recommended in a text in 1830. Not only have these thoughts not lost any validity today with respect to creative matters, but their echoes have increased steadily as the artists turned to the inexhaustible source of their own subjectivity, and at the same time the conscience of the extraordinary plurality of the universe and the endless ways of feeling and representing it have become accepted by them.

To work in a creative manner with these premises implies great effort. It also means the need to preserve that inner voice from the weakness which can be caused by the noise around it, by the hustle bustle of daily life, which fights for the triumph of the image in all spheres, from the mass media, to publicity and even the art world, provoking the hurried creation of so many icons of contemporary life that they die nearly at the same speed as they are created. The artist's immersion inside himself does not mean that he remains impassible to that which surrounds him, but that he is able to build, since he has magnificence, a language that belongs just to himself even though he has been nurtured from many sources.

Soto Mesa has been painting for many years from a silence where the echoes of landscape sound, in the widest sense of their meaning. His interest to deciphering the prints of nature through the objects from all times which he has found in her is linked to the search for an internal landscape, which is more and more present as a metaphor, with the exploration of an invisible and extremely near media, always full of incognitas. The shapes he builds in his paintings are more and more ambiguous, more amazing in their partial and powerful boundaries. The images captured so close up, through those hues of colour which have put aside the hazy marks from previous moments to burst in the freedom of their autonomy sometimes acquire phantasmagorical aspects whose concrete origin is unknown to us. Once on the canvases, they are a kind of ardent organic sediment which talks to us of a great deal about existing things, including the psychological territory. Organic sediments which, following Kokoschka, "penetrate, even in periods of drought, the infertile soil" (3).

The deeply expressive strong polychromy of these pieces of work vibrates in our sight as much as the spasmodic rhythm of the shapes. We have already suggested that colour speaks out without us knowing what the profiles of the effigy which contain them are like. On the other hand, the rhythms of the brush and the dynamics of contours, besides the spatial treatment, point to the idea of metamorphosis, of a continuous mutation. We can see something which appears in this moment, but that immediately looks destined to transformation, to be further folded or unfolded, to move and show other gestures, other shades and other lights to perhaps, vanish and become amalgamated with other living matters in the universe.

What we can see in these pieces of work by Soto Mesa can be linked to what we are: something variable and difficult to grasp, a growing landscape, in bloom, or roughed down, always vulnerable to the endless phenomena.

'What you are depends on the activity which links together the unnumbered elements which you are composed of, on the intense communication between them. They are energy communication, of movement, of heat or transfers of elements which constitute inside your organic being life. Life is never situated at a certain point: it moves swiftly from one point to the other (or from multiple points to other points), like a kind of electrical fluid." (4), stated Bataille with magnificent poetic lucidity. And something similar happens with external nature, a mirror to our own condition, enlarged to all possible angles, or maybe we are a minute silvered crystal which reflects the iIIusion from outside.


september 2001


(1) Wassily Kandinsky,”De lo espiritual en el arte”, Barcelona, 1978, p. 59.

(2) Caspar David Friedrich, ""La voz interior”, en Fragmentos para una teoría romántica del arte, Madrid, 1987, p. 53.

(3) Oskar Kokoschka, “Mi vida”, Barcelona, 1988, p. 292.

(4) Georges Bataille, “La experiencia interior”, Madrid, 1973, p. 103.