DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Ismael Lagares: like the fire of gunpowder. Madrid-Gijón: Aurora Vigil Escalera Gallery, 2019.
ISMAEL LAGARES: LIKE THE FIRE OF GUNPOWDER
Alfonso de la Torre
And he enjoys immoderately
Pierre Michon, “Los Once” (2009) .
Comme un tapis de prière pour un culte inconnu
Jean Clair, “La part de l’ange. Journal 2012-2015” (2016) .
Viewing the recent paintings of the artist I thought that Ismael Lagares, confronted with his pictures, would endorse the words of John Cheever: I feel myself to be full of light and I give off a strange radiation like the fire of gunpowder . Paintings of instants as infinite variations on the fertility of chaos, contemplating the work of Lagares as a whole I have always had the impression that the artist is located in a territory beyond the known world. Like unpredictable extensions created by an artist as if subjected to the titanic struggle and joyful condemnation of creating a new world as a never-ending labour, he offers us an effusive space filled with events of shapes and colours in the form of instants subjected to the agitation of the explosion or the hole between the stars of a god in withdrawal. Colours of the utmost vibration like a sky restored to the sky, for its splinters then to appear in another new world like a cosmic trail, a mythology of signs built based on brief accounts. A virtual battle between truth and fiction, flight in constant development as if the proposal had been to bring back to the world the lost embers of what might be created through the comforting energy of painting.
I also remembered the phrase “your gift inflames us and takes us to the highest. As we burn so do we walk” , since his images burn as a flow of conscience as if like a Big Bang of painting these masses of crackling colour which evoke mirages, instants which still burn in the memory, appear to spring up and succeed each other, reflect each other, or distort each other until they become genuine optical illusions which have arisen from a permanent mutation of the mixes until the painting comes to life, or according to Pollock : “the painting has a life of its own”.
Once we have mentioned Jackson it is as well to add that I consider the work of Lagares to be closer to that of artists such as Van Gogh, or more recently to Joan Mitchell or Willem de Kooning; he likes to add to this list the carnal work of Philip Guston. In the manner of these painters Lagares establishes a startled pictorial space rather than returning to the world indelible images, which were perhaps part of a landscape at times, memories of what he has seen and what moved him, since as an end-of-the-world visionary the painter presents us with instants of the ineffable beauty which surrounded his being to subsequently be rescued from the recesses of his awareness. It is as if his vision could not rest on a single sign or stroke, on a single one of the shapes he creates, but rather that from the initial ones he pursues the subsequent ones in such a way that the result is art but above all energy, a kind of tireless process of continual explosion and implosion which requires of vision the sense of synthesis, a coming and going in his compositions in such a way that this energy suggests the displacement of the matter to a new kingdom. And so it occurs; as parties related to the canvas we are invited to make another journey: after the experience which we will now call an abstract one for clarity there is always a strong emotional component, inner vibrations, paintings like hunches which travel from an unknown place to reality where the contemplator becomes relevant. Perhaps this matter has a great deal to do with the procedural aspect of his painting which is well known; large masses of mix are deposited on the canvas on a prior base or colour sketch, with annotations sometimes surviving (some will remain in the cloth) which operate not so much as a sketch but as an initial fabric, a network on the vacui where the masses of colour will be installed. These are deposited profusely, sometimes with the appearance of a spread stain but generally raised by using the fingers to produce almost sculptural forms. These forms may be monochrome but on many occasions they consist of a fertile encounter of colours which arises from this controlled fate of the oil clusters.
In his Fine Arts studies in Altea and Seville, Lagares was trained in the classical disciplines and was affected by the influences of a certain Seville school of greys, the spread, liquid, and blurred landscape painting of which appears to be common to most of the Sevillian contemporary landscape. In a way his exaltation of colour seems to be a reaction against that world, fertile yet frequently concentrating on the tremble of the grisaille. Lagares thus seemed to answer restraint with exaltation and to permanently require contemplation to continue his own formal research beyond the space of the painting: the other must take part in it, willing to share the speculation and the journey as a result of the events occurring to the shapes. It is as if in order to give sense to his work the latter were divided into multiple senses converted into flashes of that initial sense. And perhaps because any pictorial action attracts its opposite, Lagares can move from works that are denser, more crackling, joyously full of matter, almost carnal, to paintings in which a certain withdrawal can be observed.
Goodbye to the plain of Mister Boogie Woogie Man, as it can be said of his vision that it holds in check the glance itself, the ideas inherited about the images, and even the evidence of what is real. His proposals are displaced towards a new relaunched territory which is not exempt from truth and is its breathing and its rest, as Lagares agrees that the contemplator is not a passive being but that such weakness may lead him to tempt the truth, he must come and go around the images created, on the profusion of the colour which often provides the title to the works which he now presents in 2019: “Blue VI and XX”; “Blue and Yellow II”; “Cadmium red I and II”; “Green”; “Orange II”; “Purple II”; “Red (I) and VI”; “Royal blue II and V”; and “Yellow (I), II, and X” (2019).
Even in darkness Lagares proposes to rescue stories, as his paintings entitled “Black” are particularly moving; they look back to that line of dreamers of black, on the blackness of which will burst forth the glory of the images. A black which has been a part of the history of Spanish art; we should not forget either Goya, Ribera, Sánchez Cotán, or Zurbarán or the bituminous paintings of Darío Villalba, examples of powerful calm distilled from black. Or the “beyond black” works of Soulages, the “Blind spots” (1951-1953) of Pollock of which the poet Frank O’Hara said that “they are disturbing, tragic works. They cry out” . With the “Black Series” (1958-1960) of Frank Stella there can be no room for confusion: what you see is what you see, he would affirm, which brings us back to evoking Kazimir-square-black-square-black. The “Black Paintings” (1953-1967) of Ad Reinhardt. Contemplating recently a fine black diptych at Lagares’ studio in Bollullos del Condado, which also seems to deny his deep colouristic soul or represents a new route on his agenda, I wondered whether he was investigating hidden truths as Lagares aims to elevate his black paintings by exchanging colour for light, using the latter as a pictorial material, a revelation in the darkness, witnessing a combat between dreaming shapes and the shadows. A deep shaft which will contain stories, a black diptych conceived by a night owl who subjects canvases to the iridescences of the sheens of the pigment; I thought of those African stories narrated by the diamonds which remain in the sand and which present their iridescences among the silica, like drops of dew on days of full moon. As if he redraws the path of his eyes our painter presents the matt aspect of some other pigments, I also thought that in this manner he remained incarnate in the brotherhood of monochromes; on laying a unique colour on the shapes and extension, it appears to tempt silence. “That” was chosen and “the other” was dispensed with in such a way that monochrome also refers to the creative possibilities of denial, including the isolation of the artist to one side of the route of the world. The mysterious silence of painting, the domain of the invisible, a world of secrets that will end up reminding me of the luminous epiphany of the works of Mark Rothko, that cosmic pathos, an unknown persecuted God (without end until the end), the symbol of the onslaught with the light, naturally faced with this diptych I stressed the progress of Lagares in the half-light in multiple directions . A storm of monochrome blackness, the joy of the immemorial school of artists who have reflected on visual forms of monochrome compactness; I am thinking of Latin American artists such as Sérgio de Camargo and Nedo or so many others: Malevich, Nevelson, Newman, Noël, Klein, Reinhardt and Still, deriving from variation and emptiness. As they activate spaces they appear to put forward their paintings thus subjected to the black, which leads me to evoke a mention of Clyfford Still: let’s turn off the lights, “paintings have their own fire” . The silence is lasting. An evocative darkness of “Black and Greys”, of a black Rothkian light, but not so much as an “emptiness” or an extinct space but rather carrying a vigorous silence, with the artist being displaced as he listens attentively, as if wishing to collaborate in the act of the appearance of the shapes. Tempting genuine vision between the black, that door open to the abyss.
Watching painting live, as to return to colour the masses of paint of Lagares burst forth here and there, sometimes flesh-coloured, appearing unattainable in their reverberation, in comings and goings, questions or answers raised on the pigment. Evoking flowers of painting from a contemporary Arellano or Seghers, Lagares is not an abstract expressionist but rather makes his way by means of a canvas, activating it with his devices of stains as bunches, stains which are more like amber and its contained stories than the vibrational purity of the mass of colour. In this sense he is closer to the questions of the cubists on how to create images than to the automatic proposals of the surrealists. He is a reflective painter and his work has a metapictorial aspect as it also speaks of painting, of the fact of painting, and on occasion of the introduction on the canvasses of the palettes he uses in the action, this character of dissolution refers to pictorial matter in the very magma which makes up the picture. Lagares is a bold painter who does not avoid elegy; he defends the materiality and organicity of the pigment, displaced towards an emotional kingdom or energy and freedom, a pigment of vivid coagulation generating shapes which end up carving out a new kingdom in space. We are invited to investigate the whirlpools and reflections of this layer of images, with air from both fluid and fresh ones, or from there a new impulse, rising to the land, oh transfigured land and its pure sky.
Art with a persistent force, it sometimes appears to be on the verge of collapse; Lagares is ultratactile and ultrapictorical in his flight to the void, carrying a tragic tension which is nevertheless no less beautiful as it places us in the centre of the matter as to what is real, space, and its possible plenitude. He is a painter of extensions which go well beyond the limits and is capable of putting forward that pictorial feeling together with gatherings or interruptions that can create a new world which has arisen from the margins of vision, like pronouncing what I now remember of Jabès, “on the margin we become untouchable” .
His ceramics should also be mentioned. It is well known that great painters have produced ceramics and on occasion as a fruitful sideline to painting in the cases of Barceló, Chillida, Miró, and Tàpies, for whom the fact of working the earth was not a testing ground for their work but rather a genuine cycle of their careers. This perspective was enriched by his awareness as a painter, as for Lagares his unusual and mysterious ceramics, which are now being shown for the first time, complete his being as an artist as can be appreciated in the two protocylindrical items included in the exhibition. The ecstasy of convulse beauty as in “Moss Green” (2019), a mossy trunk with the appearance of surreal ceramics (I recalled the gates of hell of Rodin, the soft sculpture of Medardo Rosso, or certain oriental sculptures) which had been rescued after centenary immersion in the waters which were subsequently raised with adherences like immobile fossils: mosses, plant elements, soft shapes which have been fossilised, such as a tree from the underwater abyss seen by the fish Nemo in his comfortable metallic kingdom, creatures of the deep sustained on the surface. Dream trails in the night which envelop worlds, “Ultramarine blue” (2019) takes the form of a totem with something of an emptied sky or frozen vegetation, such as those inflorescent natural objects of Raoul Ubac or the strange collections of objects found of Breton, as they appear to retain their leaves, sheets of ceramics, and arborescences which are the perches of the night birds of Miró , with “the impetus of the silent tree which faces up to the earth” .
Lagares considers that painting is returning sleep to canvases. A disturbing endless journey (Plastic Tide was the title of one of his latest exhibitions ) of what appear to be extensions gathered in a nucleus, enclosed or recently freed, travellers to what is being unfolded. Creating, our painter maintains, is thinking of creating: it is referring to the enigma of what is visible. The territory of a new foreigner, the apparent physical intensity and perhaps the apparent violence is displaced towards what is beautiful. Lagares defends that space is never a place of rest, a homogeneous point where immortal images rise, but rather an abyss, the new images which he has conceived establish their own independence in such a way that faced with his painting there is only one option: listening, observing.
Transfigured land, as we said, which questions the idea of painting, going beyond the limits within which its history has been played out, the tireless production of Lagares has been the articulating of a strategy of secret signs, a bright burning space, in the manner of a cut through what is visible. Ah, how the world shines in the light .