El tambor en el bosque

F2 Galería | Madrid | 14.11.2015 > 09.01.2016

The works presented by Álvaro Negro in his first exhibition at F2 Galería are eclectic and vary in technique and format; however, beyond the first impression, there seems to be something special that links them together: this has to do with a certain “spirit” which, like an echo, takes shape as we view the exhibition as a whole. This tie seems to rest on a tendency that slants towards a conceptual stance and goes beyond topics of figuration-abstraction or a pictorial style and takes place between the two large-sized paintings that are the protagonists of the exhibition: Columna I [Column 1] and Cadro-tumba [Tomb-Painting]. Formally, they seem opposites: an oil on canvas representing a landscape with “impressionistic” reminiscences – to label it for the sake of clarity – and an abstract mirror something like a mezzotint. However – and now talking about affinities – both the main column in the centre of the landscape and the central-vertical partition in the mirror approach each other with a mutual influence, as if the “tomb-painting” were the abstract shadow of the “column painting”. Indeed, these two works are useful as highlights from which to explain this exhibition, but also to unfold a broader vision of Álvaro Negro’s body of work created over these past five years.

Looking back chronologically, we encounter the original project Natureza! estás soa? [Nature, Are You Alone?] (2009-2011) which arose from filming at Monteagudo – a spot in inland rural Galicia – where the sculptor Ülrich Rückriem had located one of his monumental-sculptural sets. During the filming process, which lasted for over two years, a logical sequence that had certain similarities with the constructive sequence of the sculptures by Rückriem took shape – a logical sequence that was a sort of “cut” from the block. The composition of the frame placed the sculptures into a figure-surface relationship with the background-landscape: square or rectangular shapes in the centre of the plane, a frame of three vertical bands whose position alternates between the figure and the background, etc. But beyond these formal aspects, it is important to highlight that the entire experience, its intensity, turned Monteagudo into Álvaro Negro’s particular Sainte-Victoire – into the “motif”, centre and axis from which his work has evolved both formally and conceptually. The main evidence of this is the fact that this landscape was also his path back to painting which he had abandoned for a long time.

 

Columna I (2012-2015) is the most direct and ambitious example. A canvas measuring over 3 metres and based on one of the stills from the film, in other words, a coded element that prevents a prior reading of the painting as a representation of “something natural”. If the still was a portending image, a guide and tool for an analysis of the framing, colour, etc., it was the memory of the physical experience which intervened once the pictorial process had really begun to get going. As the artist said: “The painting, the eye, the body, were synchronised in each brushstroke, in the tempo of the hand, and the atmosphere of the painting expressed itself in the way that a musician no longer needs a score as they have internalised it. And in fact, it is not automatism – instead, it is about when, in the process, the image is already a painting and about how through the painting, the landscape – this landscape – starts to be glimpsed again.”

 

If we observe his most recent work, we also see compositions that owe something to the geometrical frames from Monteagudo; and the same goes for other characteristics, such as an “organic” feel which has been transferred not only visually (influencing the colours – the variety of greens and the gauziness with its muted, atmospheric nuances) but also on less evident levels in which “the stoniness” is reflected by emphasising the surface, either that of the format itself or the texture of paint which is worked in a sculptural way: strong, decisive brushstrokes and moulded patches that lead to the creation of very tactile sensations.

 

Summarising the chronology, we can talk about the experience of a landscape that has been encoded in different stages: the direct film capture, the pictorial translation into landscape-matter-colour, and its abstraction to elemental levels of background-figure, surface-texture combinations. In all this a modus operandi can be made out in which the works have emerged in a synchronised way and influence each other in a long process that started at “degree zero” and eventually ends with the exhibition of the artworks where they are like visual indicators of pictorial, sculptural thought, about what perception is per se. To do so, the prior work of a surveyor was needed: delimitating, measuring, and finding the centre from which to unfold an axis mundi. Álvaro Negro has found it in a place somewhere between the vernacular and the contemporary: woods in which each beat of the drum is expanded until it becomes the next beat. This seems to confirm – as Peter Handke wrote – that the centre of the world is the place of the artist and can be anywhere, either by a column or inside an architectural ruin; the driving force, the search, the perception and what transcends it, can be understood when the (two) eyes, finally, reach home.

A publication is available online at ISSUU or as a PDF file, with texts by the artist himself, the poet Chus Pato and the architect Luis Gil Pita [spanish]

Composiciones sobre la ruina (Vittorio Gregotti), 2014, two-channel video projection on black granite slabs