A SPECK OF FEAR
Nowadays appearances are volatile, like a toy, therefore the fact that the painter undertakes the task of recovering the thickness of matter upon his shoulders, infinitely more subtle than all the design complexity we are offered by technique must not be considered strange. Following this diagnosis Soto Mesa has carefully scanned reality and has devised the quick outline of a drawing, pouring this sketch later on to the canvas. The fact that some time later the result may not be easily recognizable or does not fulfil our expectations does nothing but confirm the fact that art has fulfilled its strange fate once more. All in all, by twisting the language, the painter has endeavoured to root out senses from opinion, which is exactly what his trade is. What's more, who could have guaranteed that the real thing, after the atomic bomb and television, can have an easy criterion?.
In correspondence with the labyrinth nature of what is immediate, the painter tests a plating of intimacy and externality, of closeness and withdrawal. The architecture of planes, the regime of colour. In order to merely touch the primitive salt marshes of life it is necessary to begin once and again, starting from scratch, building a minimum when faced with a vacuum. Any sensation is composed with the desert, a coloured void, and a colouring one. No matter how full a canvas is, it keeps the vacuum, so vast a plain that (as the Chinese painter says) allows the horses to romp(1).
In no case has anything been taken as a literal referent. On the contrary, now for Soto Mesa it is about, after more ingenuous or dubitative periods, assuming the authorship, the recognition of painting's autonomous universe. This would be a language first, the manifestation of painting which is the world itself, a work of art which is born out of itself. In its intricate articulation painting must preserve the inarticulate, the central chaos which threatens it and where it must recognize a shape. Unlike the discursive language the pictorial one does not come apart from the initial cry, from the geographical spirit and their mysterious inhabitants. Maybe it is because of this that it can accomplish a weird community. Plastic art is a language, that is why it has pedagogical faculties, which keeps on talking to the deaf and dumb, to the crippled and to children, to any illiterate human being. It is about an algebra of sensations, such as the delirium of the sunflowers in Van Gogh's head. It is not surprising that the erudite feels less at ease here than the uncultured.
Francisco Soto Mesa undertakes the risk of what is not narrative. By capturing a compound of sensations which does not need anybody anymore he frees the energy of a narrative stream which has no subject and remakes the painter's identity. We assume that he as well has experienced, at the peak of his effort, the miraculous experience of being a mediator of hardly spotted pure forces and apart from the will of all plans. Spontaneity, like instinct, is a very demanding goal(2) . And this circle is only completed by art: to destroy by means of thought that obstacle which is thought itself.
All that in order to be able not to think and to flow with the mute order of things. In other words, to be able to make the hand think more than the brain, forging that sensorial syntax which makes common language stammer.
To become a Seer, somebody who becomes and makes the others become, obliges to accept that thought is an "illness" which can only be overcome by annulating it from inside. The history of art is that of trying to defeat reason with thought, using the plastic matter of senses as a return path, in order to step back day by day the tendency of separation which is inlayed in all that we call culture(3). May I be allowed to say that it is this wild urge of cure, and not any other piece of work intelligible in itself, which explains the sheer effort of an art which is frequently despised by the established society.
The fact that Soto Mesa has had to revive without masters the whole history of painting until he was able to return to the present with his thought is not unlikely, a spectral presence, which shivers without mediation. The prints of abstraction remain in this expressionist recovery of nature. After the painter's voyage through what is geometrical the quantic pulsation of what is real came, this tortuous reconstruction. It suggests a suffering nature, a nature which cannot rest in the mechanical order and does not stop inventing, shrouded in vapours of change.
An immanence plane which is held by a merely sensitive transcendence, eternity which co-exists with a brief lapse. Sometimes the squares of a country estate are insinuated, the chequered pattern of a farming horizon. As well as the recurrence of black, shade of those walls which mark, injure, cleave the land of painting. Lightless colours are predominant, as those of dry farming. The yellow of the land burnt by summer, the pinkish of flesh and the ochre of impossible estates. Amongst them the injuries of black appear, spotting, building a mesh which harmonizes the other colours. Above all, the meeting of colours redefine them constantly in a new insinuation. We can see how yellow brings white to life, black to purple, to orange, to transitional red… As Rilke says: "Painting happens in colours; how they are to be left alone so they can explain one another. Its mutual relation: this is what painting is all about"(4).
Soto Mesa would like to get into the crevices of what is fixed, into the nodules of superficial sinews. From those delicate oil paintings from 1973, the passion for the secret of reality is the same, even if he has come across very different stages. The mystery of incarnation always persists, a mixture of sensuality and religion. There is a liturgy of what is latent, what is not manifest yet. We could say this is visceral painting, with an atavistic allusion to the bowels of surface. Soto Mesa gets involved in meanders; he is in for a higher possibility than any reality. He brings the underground mutation which undermines any pretensions of objectivity to stage, of any latest history. Hence that constant connivance of what is ambiguous and what is explicit.
In this exhibition it seems that the scheme of something already seen would have to be accomplished, following the details of an invisible map. Bird and lizard points of view feed the zoom (the macro and micro at the same time) which breaks the easiness of recognizable magnitudes. Reality is re-composed once and again by desire, by a thirst for truth which outlines the slow brood of what is to come, the fulfilment of a prophecy felt at the beginning. In a nutshell, we are talking about faith in appearances, in the infinite rebellion of the wandering material which populates the Universe. And all this inside a style which could at present be in debt with a certain expressionist inheritance, colouring the thousand lanes which still occupy the centre of our obsessions. What is compatible with a relentless connexion with tradition and its unexplored possibilities, from Titian to Tintoretto or Franz Halls.
Everything in this painting folds and unfolds, it can be felt in folds. The whole world is willed in every corner, with these fragments of land, which unfold this or that of their regions(5). Baroque, says Deleuze, brings the fold to the infinitum, as we can see in the paintings by El Greco. It is the paradoxical situation to which real singularity leads us, as in a baroque chapel "without doors or windows", in which everything is interior. A proposition in accordance with this exposition could be this one: each reality monad is completely closed, without either doors or windows, because it holds the whole world sprouting from a dark end (maybe those arteries of black?) which clarifies just a part of this world, variable for each one. The whole world is therefore folded in each picture, in each piece of drawing or colour.
Without disappearance, as Berger reminds us, the urge to paint would not exist, for then security would be held beforehand, the permanence that painting strives to find. Painting is more directly than any other form of art, the statement of what exists of the physical world to which humanity has been thrown(6). Painting celebrates the enigma of visibility, as an infinitely varied finitude. Hence the pertinence to give evidence from the dark lines which strengthen the composition, this hesitating mobility of a shattered matrix. It happens as if the artist tried at all times to find the thread of a given uncertainty, a threshold of indetermination to which we must return. Paradoxically, that central region, stubborn in its ambiguity, must be preserved as a perpetual nomadism, betraying the triumphalism of all already reached stadiums(7). Due to this profane freedom which must recover the shivering of our land, the artist (not the civil character, but the tormented creator of his stealthy times) is rather afar from our so called free world, from a work which would not accomplish the infinite game of need, the rule of random(8).
Does anybody at all get stranded from his origin, does he overcome his foundational myth or prejudice? Taking into account the relentless rancour in which we are shrouded that seems to be rather unlikely. But our culture with its traditional hypocrisy and its wild ideal to improve lives by lying at this key point. Westerns hate what is given, the "principle of indetermination" which makes us alike(9). We want to live the nihilism of a free world… free, in the end, from any absolute departing point which might oblige us to return, to accept that we do not go anywhere, that progress is a chimera and life a circle which spins around a unique experience. Further away from any grief art is the strange form of thought which completes this circle. The strenuous effort of any worthy painter guarantees this history of attachment to the land, to a problematic primitive scene which cannot be left behind. It reminds us of the fact that the only possible destiny of man is to turn his curse into a vineyard.
1. Cfr. Gilles Deleuze y Félix Guattari, ¿Qué es la filosofía?, Anagrama, Barcelona, 1993, pp. 166 ff.
2. "For everything nevertheless a lot, a lot of time is required (...) until, suddenly, you have the exact vision (...) All resources have been erased, dissolved in the consecution: it is so much like this that they seem not to exist (...) But this miracle, without exceptions, is valid just for one, for the saint who undergoes it". Rainer M. Rilke, Cartas sobre Cézanne, Paidós, Barcelona, 1985, p. 38.
3. "The blind spot of singularity can only be tackled in a singular way. This is antithetic to the system of culture, which is a system in transit, transitional, transparent. And culture is something for which I do not care. I agree with anything bad which may happen to culture". Jean Baudrillard, "La comedia del arte", magazine Lápiz, nº 128-129, Madrid, February 1997, p. 56.
4. Rainer M. Rilke, Cartas sobre Cézanne, op. cit., p. 56.
5. There is more truth, in necessary brotherhood with death, in lonely, unobserved corners, than in the noisy show where our contemporary world is reflected. This is why our society seeks all possible ways to crush the silence of time. The message is the means: The whole attractiveness of communication is based upon a series of impacts which may free us from "death time", from an undefined existence which threatens to speak. Aren't people afraid of the silence of leisure (or that of the dole) just because of that
6. John Berger, Algunos pasos hacia una pequeña teoría de lo visible, Árdora, Madrid, 1997, p. 36.
7. "Up to a certain point, Pasolini's experience reminds of Sisyphus's Works, for every freedom which is reached engenders on the other hand its own slavery, from which we have to free ourselves again. This eternal exhaustion, without witnesses, crosses the poet's face". Ignacio Castro, "Lodo y teología", magazine Sileno, nº 7, Madrid, December 1999, p. 62.
8. This places us light years away from some picturesque statements from one of the fashionable critics: "Ours is a world of deep pluralism and complete tolerance, at least (and only maybe) in art. There are no rules". Arthur C. Danto, Después del fin del arte, Paidós, Barcelona, 1999, p. 20.
9. "The modern illusion in relation to art (an illusion that Postmodernism has done nothing to amend) is that the artist is a creator. He is rather a receptor. What looks like a creation is nothing but the act of giving shape to what he has received". John Berger, Algunos pasos hacia una pequeña teoría de lo visible, op. cit., p. 44.