I watch a stork fly calmly over my head from the terrace of my house. I wonder if maybe it is travelling towards Alcalá de Henares, gliding across the clear summer sky, the white cloth of the world, as Henri Michaux, the poet-ornithologist would say. … This year, since the IV Pilar Citoler International Prize for Contemporary Photography was awarded, I have looked at the sky more than usual. Remembering the photographs of birds, of memories and journeys, of strange worlds, of beings lost in no-man’s land, all creations of Juan del Junco.
They are things of art, Robert Motherwell would say; we have spent our lives looking at the world of creation in such a way that we now understand reality, or withstand it somewhat more, through the eyes of art. Birds have crossed my path these last months, reading again ‘Journey to the End of the Night’ by Louis.Ferdinand Celine, in which one of the characters collects images of birds. What a pastime. And I return to Michaux, who I have found in Del Junco’s beloved lands, visiting, in 1979, the painter Jorge Camacho, in the house next to Coto de Doñana, where they shared their passion for ornithology, together with many other names in the world of the arts: Cornell, Claude Esteban, Graciela Iturbide, Messiaen, Michaux, Miró or Rivera; and the sad birds, also, dissected by Juan-Eduardo Cirlot in his ‘Dictionary of Symbols’. ‘All flying beings are symbols of spirit,’ writes the critic.
On the occasion of the awarding of the prize we write about the work of Del Junco, through which he shows us an artist who prefers to embrace doubt than praise certitude, someone who understands that maxim of the Portuguese writer in which the poet is pretender, in this case of half-seen stories, of enigmatic characters established as narrators of metaphor. Quietude and hints of Proustian rememberance, he himself has evoked here childhood memories: the plum tree in the garden and the box of photographs. This is a true Pandora’s Box of his family house or ‘the beginning’ as Del Junco writes. He remembers it in this way: ‘before the digital era, houses contained boxes of photographs. Hard, matt paper. The box in my house wasn’t usual. As well as photos of my sisters in flamenco dresses, there were nests, huge stones, plants, landscapes and birds, above all, birds. Year after year, photo after photo makes all this imagery stick inexorably in the memory. That is where the beginning lies.’ Let’s also highlight the frequent praise, in his work, of the observer. In this way it is common that his stories be narrated and placed in a type of no-man’s land, where beings lost in a time, without conversation, without contact, where time seems that of a bygone era, distanced from daily time, grant to space the look of having been swept away by the quietude of a different age.
As Sema d’Acosta and Javier Hontoria express in the texts of this volume, the time of Del Junco is the time of the exploration of interior space and the horizon of the interior, not of an infinite space, a ‘transreal’ journey, as Michaux would say. The unlimited, as Octavio Paz said, is not outside but inside us. The bird creates line and space around it. ‘For the moment, it flies,’ point out Michaux / Bonnefoy. The poet must fly, like a gull, over the land, here or yonder. Silence of air, light and sky, said Paz.
ALFONSO DE LA TORRE
DIRECTOR OF THE “EL OJO QUE VES” COLLECTION