JESÚS MATHEUS. THE DRIVE OF SEEING [AN ODE TO PAINTING]

JESÚS MATHEUS. THE DRIVE OF SEEING [AN ODE TO PAINTING]

Text published in the catalog
JESÚS MATHEUS. PIEDRAS CANTADAS. OPEN ABSTRACTION (ABSTRACCIÓN ABIERTA)
Madrid-Caracas, 2021: Galería Odalys
Translation: Adrián Flores
 

JESÚS MATHEUS. THE DRIVE OF SEEING [AN ODE TO PAINTING]
Alfonso de la Torre

 

Voir. Ne plus
voir.
Trouver la trace.
L’oublier.
Faire. Défaire. Disparaître.
Finir la phrase

commencée.
Claude Esteban[1]

An ode to painting, ritual of human existence
Jesús Matheus[2]

It is the glory of deep adventure and selfless achievement; the glory of this earth and its unequal paradise; the glory of personal value, the glory of a radiant martyr.
Vladimir Nabokov[3]

 

 

[AS AN INTRODUCTION

THE INTERROGATION OF SPACE]

Going over the intensity of Jesús Matheus’ (Caracas, 1957) career, I reflected on how it represents an extraordinary proposal for the interrogation of space, as this restless artist[4] has made it possible to bring together that which is stable with that which seems fragile, leaks and motifs—that which is dim with that which imposes its presence, something finished next to what resembles a fragment of the path of thought; in the end, shards of evidence here or there, like restful embers.  Exercising this permanent thinking about painting from the titles of his exhibitions, this one that concerns us today, but also the previous ones that function as Manifestos, a term he has frequently used and one which, in his words, is fundamental[5]: painting—he would say—is still a manifesto[6] (you can hear the hope of that “still” in his voice).

Moreover, he has actively practiced the use of words, like the creative verb of all things, a proper noun, a glimpse, a divine speech if we think of the ineffable verse of St. John, as a celestial verb[7].  In the end, the term “manifest”, manifestus, is the evidencing of an action that exposes that which is hidden and that, with the avant-garde, became a literary genre, manu-festus: that which is literally taken from the hand and the facts, the revelation of that which is close to a crime, serious or venial[8].This functioning of Matheus, often through manifestos, allows us to find headline terms in his exhibitions that work in declarative way: “construction”, “restlessness”, “magic”, “target”, “ideogram”, “totem” or “place”, among others[9], to which we can now add his tribute to “open abstraction”.

Growing up in the fertile, abstract Venezuela of the sixties, as many authors have mentioned,[10] Matheus’ work must be placed in that context, where the abstract language was omnipresent, almost a celebration of the abstract utopia, and he frequently mentions in interviews or texts his admiration for the encounter with the works of artists such as Jesus Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez or Alejandro Otero[11], as he explains: “Matheus grew up in the environment, where the inexhaustible language of abstraction was omnipresent, and I believe it spoiled him to any other possible stylistic expression”[12].  Knowing about Matheus’ love for Torres García’s minimal and igneous work allow us to expand his area of admiration—which seem to be mentioned in his “Relieve constructivo” (2012)—because of his indispensable low voice. After all, this visionary artist established proposals that blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, objects versus paintings (paintings versus objects), in order to make the value of form prevail; the Uruguayan, defender of the elimination of the barriers of the frame, also making tribute to a free artistic world, without boundaries, that would finally blur the opposition of opposites.   Thus him inexorably converges towards another topic, also examined in this very gallery: the unextinguished MADÍ Group (We call it “Universo MADÍ”[13]), and from there to the immediate occupation of visual space of Parisian art in the sixties, symbolized in the activity of galleries and artists linked to Denise René, and then, the north American journey of the shaped canvas[14].

Thus, Matheus undertakes a permanent investigation on painting, sculpture and, in general, the agitated life of forms, which is observable in his “Proyecto para escultura” (2010) or his “Madera-Estela” (2020), but he also drifts from thought towards absence or emptiness, the possibilities of creation, which Matheus constitutes in the elevation of a territory of exercises with a strong self-referential stamp,[15] for it must be said that, rather than axioms, our artist has established the poetry unveiled in the course of the titanic task of construction as the motto of his work, a construction as a continuous reality[16], not in vain he expresses without hesitation that his task is that beautiful saying “an ode to painting, ritual of human existence”[17].  Or he would quote Chillida’s when he points out that creation must be forced “to present two components that cannot be missing: poetry —it is necessary that some poetry exists— and a dose of construction: if not, there is no art”[18].    To this we can add another one by René Char, who also frequently remembered Chillida, “les vraies victoires ne se remportent qu’à long terme et le front contre la nuit”[19].

The forehead against the night, in this art of complexities beneath an atmosphere; I also see naked simplicity, like the establishment of that sublime violence of that which is true; salutations to Benjamin, a geometry ideally conceived that furthers the transfer to another dimension, a proposal of a sort of perceptive trip that Matheus undertakes towards an undiscovered place, for the formal investigation is always changing, in evolution and difficult to grasp; so the result is a creation possessed by a restlessness in which there remains the proclamation that art is not only mere contemplation; perhaps that is the reason he often undertakes the journey to the inner need proclaimed by Kandinsky[20].

Glory to this earth and its unequal paradise, to the personal value of this silent, yet resonant painting; artist of interior displacements, for to paint is to think —Matheus would once write—[21], but also to construct, adding that to think is to construct: to draw, to paint or to sculpt; to position his work within the space investigating around the finding of the artistic object.   Like Pablo Palazuelo, an admired artist with whom he shares searches, Matheus advances in the penumbra in multiple directions[22], and then, his work is a reflection of the incessant craft of the creator, from where there emerges, after multiple attempts, the final version: there were comings and goings around forms, tirelessly moved in different directions, nervously until reaching a final point, one of his possible endings.   It’s the beginning.

 

 

OPEN ABSTRACTION

La imagen, la idea que nos vuelve locos de dolor[23].

Paul Valéry.

Et vidit, et credidit

Juan, XX-8

 

Residing in the United States —since 2005 in the calmed Boston that saw the first abstract attempts of the Boston School, which also served as an apprenticeship for Fernando Zóbel[24]—, Matheus is a defender of the reflective and poetic possibilities undertaken by artists[25], considering “painting as a fundamental exercise in time, coupled with an unprecedented interest in the interdisciplinary relationship of media (sculpture, subtle media such as drawing and graphics as capacities / qualities of place and scene), and signs, understood as the multiplicity of the idea / form[26]. It seems as this reflective, restless, and writerly artist were trying to overcome the caesura between vision and belief by writing. This is why his words often accompany his publications and, as a hyper-wordist, he has insisted, often reproducing it in his catalogues, on a mention by Pierre Francastel: “every object, as well as every sign, is a collective creation, a meeting place for men”[27]. Painting as a collective fantasy, an act of faith —another frequent quote— the work of art would be a testimony endowed with “chance, intelligence and vital understanding (…) an adventure permanently revising the same signs and inventions of the original form. On the other hand, the sacred and cult sense (…) the geometry is discovered in its visible structures ‘a priori’, and in the fullness of the structure; the line and the color, that which is concrete emerges again. In its development, form is synthesized in reduced signs of ornament, associated with the number and pure proportions, serial repetition, variation, or finite sequence of visually displayed ideas. The latter signs are primary structures such as squares, (…) staggered rectangles, dual geometric shapes alluding to the totem, the lightning bolt, or the wake. Starting from two forms or monochromes (…) infinite discourses can be developed. The miracle of visuality allows me to talk about personal and world relations, about possible dialogues and tensions, and about general ideas that are connected to philosophical thought. Other considerations of time and space are incorporated into notions of measurement, harmony, scales, and visual silences, sparking the imagination and the refinement of the spirit of the times to come”[28].

Walking blindly in a border fog, in his pursue to bring forms and words together, he rehearses such a pact through a voice that is spoken, but which preserves in him the anxiety of that which is foreboded; and so, the space that opens up, like a fissure in the world, is the elevation of a beautiful interregnum of that which remained to be said; a trembling word that accompanies the work, it is inherent to it, populated by the dispossession that brings him, as a happy porch, closer to the empire of the opera aperta. His creations are built with an abstract language which shows a strong love for certain humble materials in his assemblages, wood is one of most frequent, but many are also erected from a certain meta-pictorial vocation: what seem to be fragments of the workshop, wrecks of invention and life, creation conceived as a nascent matter from the remains, dispossession turned into relics. And, as days go by, it comes as no surprise that much of the story of his work is also accompanied by a mention to a suspended zone, that of his life as an artist that flies over the catalogues of his exhibitions, often populated with images in which, serving as a colophon, his studio, or rather a work zone that seemingly remains in attentive listening, is shown

Listening? I hear Morton Feldman contemplating these pieces of Matheus that we see and that look back at us; that show the passion for the low voice or the quick stroke, the deposit of minimum elements endowed with a rare power, because sometimes he approaches the canvases, and especially in drawings, by using painting zones that work as witnesses of that which once was[29]: marks, reserve zones, signs like resting angles, impressions or stories, even beautiful oxidations and mysterious drips that integrate like a wanted accident —present for example in “Tectónico II” (2010) or “Ollantaytambo (in situ)” (2015)— and that work as a written diary; they seem to make tribute of diffuse edges, minimum appearances that are presence, but also revelations of a loss, the signs of a disappearance, drawings of time. In “D#26” and “D#27” (2017) we see a tribute to that which is light. It is also present in his “studies”, drawings like “Estudio para una estela” (2016) or “Estudio para una pintura” (2017), showing the final result, but also rather alluding to the path taken; that was his thinking when contemplating his essential quintet “Notebook” (2012-2013) or his “Pop painting” (2013). That which is near and that which is far, that which once was and that which remained, apparitions and disappearances; we can also find refutations, cases where the drawings are records with a touch of erasure; like a denial of painting, a hollowing action to disturb the pictorial plane. Space of darkness, as in the blackness of the night of conifers, an attempt to approach another form of painting with the dark, like drawings of absorption—Ultimately, the same matter of that which is light. I am thinking of his shocking “D#18 (in situ)” (2015) or “D#28” (2018), a pair of drawings that demanded the proximity, the comfort of others, in order to be understood; otherwise they would remain in the noble exile of that which was denied—it is, however, a constituent separation, for such deprivation exalts them.

Indeed, facing some of his creations in the “Visual/Manual” exhibition[30] we contemplate a studied and trembling geometry —I thought of certain cubist creations— where the artist’s hand, the cuts or the collage beat, the trembling of the pulse, something that is known to be shared by the constructivist heroes or the mysterious, (almost) neat Mister Boggie-Woggie Man, every Mondrian[31]. Matheus can either select small strips that he assembles using the collage or assemblage technique, or exercise the possibility that some of these minimal sculptures can caress the proximity of the painting, as in one of the assembly possibilities of “Ortogonal(es)” (2020). A tetralogy of his paintings entitled “Estela”, in the form of flat resonances of sculptural objects on canvas, is now on display in the exhibition at Odalys Gallery.

Other pieces are created on planks, like tables of exercise of possibilities, metaphysical bedside tables populated by forms with a mood of frozen elements, ex-votos of motionless figures, studies of angulations, forms repeated like tools, glacial landscapes. His creations are capable of acquiring a certain environment nature, this is to say that the artworks are inexorably related to the space in which they are located, in the proximity of the characteristic paintings of the surroundings. Attention: let us listen to the murmur of the people talking to each other as in a family[32]conversation. Expression of paradox and encounters, but also of tensions and asymmetries, sometimes touching the walls of the room they occupy; a continuum, in his words, in what he also calls a “dynamic installation strategy”[33], he would also say that the form is space[34], as the emergence of shadow-carrying Duchampian elements. This is something he shows in this exhibition, in his trembly drawings with wires “Ornamental Construction I and II” (2019), where the graphite seems solidified in the metallic thread; a fading drawing blended with the shadows, as a central moment of mobility. There is something Duchampian-like in Matheus, now that we mention Marcel. After all, he shares how it is possible “to arrive at the idea of aesthetic consideration approaching it as mental issue instead of relating it to the capacity or intelligence of the hand”[35]. Like Marcel, Matheus is partly anartist, a traveler to the limits of art, almost questioning them and his creation of a mental matter. It was a state of mind, he said in his conversations with Cabanne[36]. He approaches creation as an exaltation of conscience and not so much as a boasting of artistic abilities, and therefore also departures from the creators around him. Many of those constructions that Matheus installs in his exhibitions, in their environment, have something of a “replica of the object or sign”[37], a visible configuration displayed with unerringly and disturbing indifference in vertical or horizontal position. Thus is his art a certain art of assembly, as in a nomadic exercise, derived from a resounding dispossession, a wandering that does not seem to be a dilemma since he seeks a perfection that will always make tribute of that which is unfinished, perhaps that is why certain areas of his work reminded me of a brotherhood of artists who seem to work as if they had nothing to lose, capable of raising an underdog that looks like a dream, praising the minimum in space, perhaps that is why I thought of Blinky Palermo. On the subject of admirations, Matheus has pointed out his veneration for Ellsworth Kelly or Brice Marden, in more recent times, delving into the work of Cy Twombly and Barnett Newman, along with a long list of creators who do not deserve the exile of this footnote[38].

Among other pieces by Matheus, we can highlight the beautiful wooden constructions that accompanied “Boundariees” (2010); “Bolt” (2010) or “Estelita (model for a monument)” (2011), which he showed in his exhibition “Recent Works-Paintings, sculptures, works on paper” (Solar Gallery, New York, 2011). There are others, especially beautiful in their extensity, such as the cycle of angulations of “Madera” (2014). Or the total character of his exhibition “Construcción” (Manuel Ojeda Gallery, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2017), a set taken to the limit, perhaps to the greatest limit of all the exhibition projects he has undertaken; an eye in a wild state. I think the artist remembered his travels through South America, between 1977 and 1982, seemingly feeding on the vestiges of ancestral cultures[39], the signs of everything that was lost. The world close by in order to extend far, Walter friend, the same interest in the primitive ancestral that moved surrealists and cubists. Or, in those days of the fifties, to the members of the School in New York[40] and, in our country, to the young people of Altamira, the Indalians, to Parpalló, to Chirino with his mysterious “Black Queens” and, of course, I am thinking now of Oteiza’s disquisitions on the cromlech. Emulating Paul Auster, that look at the past, that exercise in the universal by reinterpreting the immemorial and thus flying away. That will be his groundwork, the task that will put Matheus on the runway, investigating the roots of the American peoples and other peoples will be the entrance to the light, the radical knowledge is that which goes to the origin.

“Construcción” resembled a landscape after the battle; a record of the factory of his artwork; a tribute to the contradiction of the incandescence of the forms, as if the act of the vision concluded in an experience of possible tactility and in that “seeing” acquired a sense that concerns us, after all “every vision takes place somewhere in the tactile space”, sicum Merleau-Ponty[41]. Geometry conceived ideally, though seemingly endowed with a certain rarefaction in its play on limits, in a dialectic of division and therefore a concern that generated expectations, as the subject of a latency, the remains were here more of a chronicle of a also vital diarism, a certain romanticism inebriated on forms that were supplied not only with elements from painting, but also from nature, allowing fortuitous encounters with a Lautremontese nerve, such as those between mineral and vegetable elements, a beautiful table for dissecting woods meets with fabrics, constituted in true sum that, more than sculptures or assemblages —“Objetual” was the broad title of one of them—, constituted truly strange objects, a proposal of a dialectic nature that constructed the sovereignty of the visible accident on a willingness to open up by extending the boundaries from the visual to the rupture of the very boundaries. In a complex space defined by experimentation and able to demand the transformation of the conditions of reading, the works were transformed into a ciphering procedure, displacing and transforming the experience, rather than resistance of a whole that, conceived as a lyrical machine, was capable of putting the narrative in danger. And, in the same exhibition, a group of paintings in which the air of effacé was fundamental, as if it had crystallized a moment that had vanished in the studio. That look mentioned before about the ancestral —about what once was and that still is useful to us, the memory of others, the dialogue between presence and extinction— continues to be the source of his work. Not in vain does he now show a set of his “Neoglifo” (2020) in this exhibition subtitled “Piedras cantadas”, those stones that he saw in other cultures[42] as reminiscent, silent and secluded presents on the side of the road[43], something that reminded me of those diamonds that transpire certain African deserts at night, glowing

 

 

 

CREATIVE ADVENTURE

Cierra los ojos y mira

James Joyce[44]

 I sat alone for a long time in a quiet place, and I saw the night come up just like that.

Tony Smith[45]

 

An adventure of creation[46], like an unsatisfiable thirst, his work must be considered open abstractions, as the subtitle of this exhibition, being an artist sensitive to the mysterious geometry of nature[47], as revealed in his “Terra” (2020), heirs to the legacy of that hermetic song, “Terre noire” (1963), by Palazuelo. These are the possibilities of someone who, attentively, looked at the world around him, generating a deployment of divisions in space, seemingly populated by the palpitation and interrogation of its forms; powerful and strange, from that meta-visual essence that we mentioned, Matheus has ended up raising the cosmos of a mysterious strangeness, a numinous[48]space that has to be related —sometimes through the use of certain forms such as the rectangular space, like a symbol of pure[49] freedom— with the mystical and the eternal, which allows us to qualify his work as a spiritual[50] space. A sacredness he permanently defends; in his words: “in all my creations there is a sense of worship, of sacredness”[51].

Dematerialization of the world of that which is real and that is intensely subjected to the diverse visions of his visual poetry, always pursuing a conceptual deepening where the creative tension plays a fundamental role; his work appears before us carrying an ordered look with the perplexity and the vertigo that distills the apparently simple. An artist in permanent inquiry about space, a creator overwhelmed with a geometric drift that teases with new ways of looking; his work seems authentic drunkenness by frequenting, until exhaustion, the tenacious analysis of forms, in incessant work that frequently is exercised in series or by means of variation, for in words of the artist, “the idea of series, the conscious seriality, the repainting of the same thing, but with a variant, as in the monochromes (…) which are a good example of these ideas. There, an authentic act of creation and a subjective state of the creator meets the essence of the existing limit”[52]. As in a roll of the dice, the origin is renewed each time, like forms in formation; ultimately, variation creates a set that, as can be seen in the paintings on display, generates a scandalous corpus where all temporality seems to have been eliminated, paintings endowed with stability treated as a central issue and that, at the same time, protects the paintings from changes in direction, away from the marks of time. The set is so firm that it offers a Gestalt aspect; they are autonomous, but also immediately perceptible, they offer a maximum resistance to any separate[53] perception.

Paintings or assemblages, collages, drawings and sculptures always imbued with a poetic rumor, where, in the case of certain collages, I see a spirit linked to the rumor of Gerardo Rueda’s handwriting, in some others it is accentuated by the presence of printed papers, as in his beautiful “Estudio para Radiance” (2012); “Ideogram #45” (2014); in the exhibited “Suite pintura” (2017) or the beautiful intervened postcard: the remains of the travelling handwriting remain: “Harvard”, the memory of the printed paper. Or others also shown in this exhibition as “Estela símil” (2013), “Ideogram#6” or “Ideogram” (2014). In a poetic saying that is not exempt from the tensions that occur when forms are installed in the enigmatic space that, however, sometimes seems to immediately move into the void amidst such agitation, a resounding openness of absence, for it is a journey that reveals the dream of the agitated life of forms. Matheus promotes rigor by frequenting a certain anti-solemnity, by means of an expanded endeavor that teases with a reformulation looking at the tempting art of geometry.

He is thus a rigorous and restless artist, submitting his gaze to the mysteries of seeing, investigating around whatever the image is, but also the idea of the image (the one that drives us crazy, as Valéry said), the relations of painting or sculpture with its supports and, often, in its encounter with the space around it. Something paradigmatic of that last reflection is the beautiful montage of “The white studio”[54] in his exhibition “Visual/Manual” (La Casa de la Cultura / Center for Latino Arts Boston, 2008), which made me think of the multisided concerns the aforementioned Jorge Oteiza—to whom Matheus admired—in his limestone “Chalk Laboratory” (1957-1974)[55].

Incessant thinking about the virtues of color and forms[56], about their construction or their existence, and the displacement that the phenomena of the creation of these images imply to those who contemplate them[57]. For much of Matheus’ work is based on a permanent reflection on the act and fact of painting, or on creating in general, being an artist, as if painting, in a state of shock, a restlessness that seems to reference the unlimited nature of the act of painting, an unsatiated distance. Language and presence, in his quest for meanings he conceives pieces that will be evident by the signs that seem to reveal themselves, making the spectator someone who activates the semantic field of his art, therefore his work calls for active contemplation, imagination-call out-imagination.

He goes over concepts, both about the use of different languages and about their properties, and the result is a reflection in multiple directions; in essence: “from two forms or two colors that touch or juxtapose, infinite discourses can be created”[58], in an incessant journey in which the drawings, in many occasions, were the place of origin of that disturbing journey, with some Kleeian intensity, in attentive listening. Drawings that are not episodes or a mere study of forms, but instead possess —as in all great artists— an entity and intensity of their own that makes them the essence, the same structural vocation, of their work in supports of a higher entity[59].

The encounter of the contemplator with his works seems to thus reveal a system that would have happened in previews, like a succession of syncopated moments of its present, as indicative registers, to later return to fixed moments of its narration, including unnarrated zones, suspended endings, losing the visible mark of that which was in the origin. Deep inside, a new realm of consciousness[60] in this researcher of the miracle of visuality, these are his words, frequent reminder of Klee, of his saying and his shadow. [61]I thought of these words from the man from Bern watching Matheus’ work: “Certain things can happen under our feet, there are regions where other laws are in force, for which it would be necessary to find new symbols (…) the intermediate kingdom of the atmosphere where its heavier brother, water, shakes our hands and intermingles so that we can reach, immediately, the great cosmic space”[62].

Like Klee, Matheus considers his task to be that of a mediator, in that he seems to investigate the fragility of appearances that he builds, deconstructs and proposes to reconstruct in a new/different reality. Poetry and consciousness, the world of representation challenged[63], questions about the dimensions of space; true reality which, once transformed, becomes rather a perceptive poetics, a radiance, a state of thought. From that poetic standpoint, invaded by a serenity of mathematical nature, a solitary transparency, Matheus elevates the spirit while space is transformed by the emergence of his images and, therefore, disrupted, a commotion that is also transferred to the viewer who sees to the images. Flashing images in attentive listening, Matheus’ work becomes a real perceptive experience by using geometrical forms endowed with an extraordinarily complex tension, as a constellative route to the legibility of the images: questions around the creation itself, around the structure, the position of the forms in the world, the poetic power of repetition, the variations, the encounter of opposites; questions about that which is temporary, the structuring of the visual surfaces or the incessant transformation.As in that dialectic in suspense, lightning that form a constellation[64], like cracks of understanding, it is evident that Matheus’ proposal of seeing challenges the very act of looking, the ideas inherited on the images, even the evidence of that which is real is resolved in a space populated with images that turn the place into a universe populated by an invisible light, fused with the energetic shadow, while the energy that it seeks remains erected, proceeding to the transfiguration of the space; finding meaning in a place beyond that is not so much for the eye as it is for the spirit: close your eyes and look, in Joyce’s word. Exposing the value of the exception, challenging the idea of painting, breaking free from the limits through which the history of modern art has passed. A world in expectation, art as an elevation of constructions of secret signs, not in vain the exhibition shows a triad of purple works entitled “Códice”, which will allow you to vindicate the “space arouses absence and emptiness. In the paradox that is creation, to remove is to say what is necessary and sufficient, one only needs the truth and the objective reality of the work. An element, a shape can be formed with color, where it is everything, and nothing else. Perhaps a memory.”[65] A burning space in the sense of its tense calm, a place that, like a cross-section through visible world, elevates the era in which the artist lives, but also other eras. The urge to see.

 

___________________________________

FOOTNOTES

[1] ESTEBAN, Claude. Le jour à peine écrit. En “Le nom et la demeure”. Paris: Flammarion, 1985.

[2] MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Miami: Ranivilu Art Gallery, 2018.

[3] NABOKOV, Vladimir. Gloria (1971). Barcelona: Anagrama, 2017, p. 13

[4] In the words of the artist: “Artwork must be restless and dynamic, it must change and advance. It must also be fresh. Restlessness is fundamental”. MORÓN, Jessica. Jesús Matheus en cuatro costados. Caracas: “El Universal”, 14/V/2013.

[5]”Every manifesto is fundamental.” MATHEUS, Jesus. Construcción. In “Construcción”. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Galería Manuel Ojeda, 2017, p. 5. Vid.: MATHEUS, Jesús. Manifiesto en dos tiempos. In “Neoglifos”. Caracas: Sala TAC, 2015.

[6] FERNÁNDEZ, María Gabriela. Jesús Matheus: ‘Painting is still a manifesto’. Caracas: “El Universal”, 10/XI/2015. That “still” is, in my opinion, (still) revealing, in its broad sense.

[7] DIDI-HUBERMAN, Georges. Vislumbres. Valencia: Asociación Shangrila Textos Aparte, 2019, p. 195.

[8] Vid. the rods of: CLAIR, Jean. Du surréalisme considéré dans ses rapports et aux tables tournantes. Paris: Mille et une nuits-Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2003, p. 196.

[9] This terminology must be linked to the titles that follow his solo exhibits: “The white studio” (Ranivilu Art Gallery, Miami, 2018); “Construcción” (Galería Manuel Ojeda, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2017); “Neoglyphs” (Sala TAC, Caracas, 2015); “The ideogram of place (Form, sign, place)” (Galería Cecilia de Torres, New York, 2014); “Square-Totem” (IdeoBox Artspace, Miami, 2013); “El cuadrado inquieto” (Artepuy Gallery, Caracas, 2013); “El cuadrado mágico” (Arquitek Gallery, ULA, 2012) or “Visual/Manual” (La Casa de la Cultura / Center for Latino Arts Boston, 2008).

[10] LEDEZMA, Juan. Sited Ideograms. In “The ideogram of place (Form, sign, place)”. New York: Galería Cecilia de Torres, 2014, p. 7. It analyses, with special intensity, Matheus’ link with Torres García’s ideas.

[11]About Alejandro Otero he will say, for example, that he is a “paradigmatic artist of geometric abstraction in Venezuela (so) I try to propose a development of the observation of nature”. MATHEUS, Jesús. Una manera de hacer en las Artes Visuales. Caracas: UNEARTE, Universidad Nacional Experimental de las Artes, 2012, p. 11.

[12]To which Cecilia de Torres adds something that will be referenced: “He was involved in studying Amerindian art in the 1990s, searching for a Latin American version of abstraction in the constructive nature of pre-Hispanic art. In his work there are many references to Amerindian signs like the ray and the totem, key symbols that he has he reworked in many variations”. TORRES, Cecilia de. Foreword. In “The ideogram of place (Form, sign, place)”. Op. cit. p. 7.

[13] DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Universo MADÍ. Madrid-Caracas: Galería Odalys, 2019.

[14]The immediate arrival of MADÍ to Paris influenced GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel) on the globalization of shaped canvas and their vindication in North America: Universo MADÍ. Ibid. p. 8.

[15] “(…) an autoreferential language, supported by his own norms: in the reasoning and logic of art”. BARRIOS, Guillermo. El evangelio según Matheus. Boston: artist’s website, 2008.

[16] “In recent years I have been constructing; I have found myself constructing: I am a constructor that adds and subtracts to join forms, things, and parts. Drawing, painting, and sculpture: constructed paintings, flat sculptures, sculptures of a painter alluding to an individual graphic heritage revealed in continuous totality”. MATHEUS, Jesús. Manifiesto en dos tiempos. Op. cit.

[17] MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Op. cit.

[18] MATHEUS, Jesus. Construcción. Op. cit.

[19] CHAR, René. Le terme épars. Dans la pluie giboyeuse (1969). In Le Nu perdu, ‘urres complètes, présentées par Jean Roudaut. Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1983, p. 451 Quoted by Chillida in: UGALDE, Martin de. Hablando con Chillida, escultor vasco. San Sebastián: Editorial Txertoa, 1975, p. 73 “When making those first plaster sculptures (…) I noticed, I sensed, that I was going somewhere, but I did not know where (…) it was a first radical step towards the unknown; as René Char says: ‘il faut marcher le front contre la nuit’ (…) a premonition that guides me in the blackness, in the unknown (…) one senses, foresees in some mysterious way”.

[20] DELGADO AGUIRRE, Marjorie. Jesús Matheus regresó extrapictórico y geométrico. Caracas: “El Nacional-‘Cultura-Escenas’”, 11/VII/2008, p. 4. “También recuerda una frase de Kandinsky: ‘Todos los medios son sagrados si son internamente necesarios’”.Vid. others: MATHEUS, Jesús. Una manera de hacer en las Artes Visuales. Op. cit. p. 133. In the chapter “Los medios y sus instrumentos”.

[21]“To paint is to think, as is to construct. To think is to construct, as is to draw, paint, sculpt: to objectify the luck of an artistic object”. MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Op. cit.

[22] PALAZUELO, Pablo. Jardin. Paris: “Chroniques de l’Art Vivant”, no. 10, Éditions Maeght, 1970 “After the night, at dawn, the angles slowly changed. Then I advanced through the penumbra, in multiple directions. …Where form declines like the setting sun to the west of matter…”. Vid. DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Pablo Palazuelo. Poemas. Madrid: Ediciones del Umbral, Colección Invisible nº 2, 2019.

[23] VALÉRY, Paul. Mauvaises pensées et autres (1941). Paris: Gallimard, 1960, p. 812 (Ed. J. Hytier, Œuvres, II).

[24]Zóbel meets Philip Hofer, his friends from the 1950s will be Jim Pfeufer and his wife, the painter Reed Champion, or Hyman Bloom. Specially relevant was the contact through Champion with the artists of the Boston School, as it was named, as well as the collaboration with Pfeufer, responsible for the Graphic Design program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which places him in Providence as of late 1954, coinciding with a Rothko exhibition. In that same year he exhibits individually in Boston at the Swetzoff Gallery, while painting the landscapes of the Charles River, especially the views of the Weeks Bridge, between Cambridge and Allston.About Matheus’ residence in the United States, he wrote to me: “It is a story divided into two parts/times: it’s the beginning of an existential break-up… At the end of 1999, I tried the American adventure, a late American dream, not without risks and doubts (yet). Although now the risk is different, we feel it differently. In a first stage, the personal/spiritual and artistic dream is Native American: Santa Fe, New Mexico 1999-2000, the South West (…). By the end of 2000 I moved to Boston, Massachusetts, because of work and survival reasons, I would then find in the North East/New England a strategic place: an academic environment, proximity to NYC, multiculturalism and its Atlantic view of future connections, a systematic work project until 2002, momentarily interrupted by returning to Caracas, to continue his teaching work at the University. With trips to America 2003-2004, in 2005 I decided to return to the city of Boston. Consolidating a study and family settlement, here we are to date”.Conversation of the artist with this author, 25/VII/2020, who suggests, for more information: MATHEUS, Jesús. Una manera de hacer en las Artes Visuales. Op. cit.

[25]It was the artist’s dedication: MATHEUS, Jesús. Una manera de hacer en las Artes Visuales. Ibid, p. V.

[26]Ibid, p. 12.

[27]Ibid, p. 17.

[28]Ibid, pp. 17-18.

[29]This is the case of pieces such as “Topos” (2011).

[30] “Visual/Manual” (La Casa de la Cultura / Center for Latino Arts, Boston, 2008).

[31]“Every Mondrian” are words of the artist: MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Op. cit.

[32]McQUAID, Cate. In Hoffman drawings, a breeze vitality. Boston: “Boston Globe”, 18/XII/2013: “(…) the colors murmur softly from one shade to the next (…) like a large family in conversation, it’s filled with similarities and distinctions, affinities and tensions”.

[33]This was the case in the aforementioned exhibition: “Visual/Manual” (La Casa de la Cultura / Center for Latino Arts, Boston, 2008). Related sculptures such as “Echo” and “Lightning” (2008). Matheus will underline “the importance of spatial composition —composing space— and the exhibition site —disposition among the pieces, spatial arrangement and dynamic installation strategy— as the objective essence of art”. MATHEUS, Jesus. Manifiesto en dos tiempos. Op. cit.

[34]Title of one of his works from 2013.

[35]Interview by Harriet, Sidney and Carrol Janis in 1953, quoted by: CLAIR, Jean. L’oeuvre de Marcel Duchamp. Paris: Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre National d’Art et de Culture, 1977, p. 81

[36]The work mentioned above was, however, in an advanced stage, the article in “Horizon”: “Marcel Duchamp. Anti-Artist.” London: Vol. XII, no. 70, X/1945. The term is a self-designation of Duchamp, which can be found in the mythical, essential: CABANNE, Pierre. Talking to Marcel Duchamp. Mexico City: 2006-2010, p. 70. The version consulted. Duchamp plays with the term “anarchist” and the obvious play on words with “un artiste” and “a-artiste”, that is, an “anartist”, in the sense of bringing into the fore other issues of art that have been little discussed to date.

[37]LION, Hope. Introduction. At “Visual/Manual”. Boston: La Casa de la Cultura / Center for Latino Arts Boston, 2008.

[38]When asked about influence, Matheus replied somewhat omnivorously: “But how difficult it is to represent the white box again, after Malevich or, more recently, Robert Ryman. In another area, the work and writings of Josef Albers or César Paternosto (…). Spanish art is another source of inspiration: I am always admiring the Chillidas, Chirinos, Millares, Sauras [sic]; the figurative ones: Arroyo, Lopez Garcia… the total expressive vein (…) I can’t be petty with Palazuelo. From him I have the books ‘Geometry and Life’ and ‘Writings and Conversations’. I go back to it all the time, and I’m very interested in its relationship with painting and sculpture. From Latin America, I do not disregard Colombia, especially Carlos Rojas. In Mexico, Vicente Rojo. In Brazil (…) the (Neo) concrete. I had access to Amilcar De Castro, Haroldo Barroso, Antonio Días, through my remembered gravura, Adir Botelho (…) I am also interested in what comes from Povera, Kounellis…”. Conversations of the artist with this author, 10 and 11/VI/2020.In the palazuelino case, Matheus refers to: BONELL, Carmen. Geometry and life. Palazuelo Anthology. Murcia: Cendeac, Ad Hoc-Monograph Collection No. 10, 2006. Y: PALAZUELO, Pablo. Pablo Palazuelo. Writings. Conversations Murcia: Colegio Oficial de Aparejadores y Arquitectos Técnicos, Librería Yerba, 1998.

[39] MONROY, Douglas. Tiempos de encuentros. In “Neoglifos”. Caracas: TAC Room, 2015: “As a cartographer he developed ink spots and images of the Tacarigua Venus, he printed idols, snails, shapes and signs (…)”. See also, in this regard, the written explanation reproduced in: MATHEUS, Jesús. Form as place as form. In “The ideogram of place (Form, sign, place)”. New York: Gallery Cecilia de Torres, 2014, pp. 78 et seq.

[40]The examples, in international art, would be endless; it is enough to mention the transmission of the local Romanian traditions in Brancusi’s art or Moore’s look at Stonehenge. Noguchi and his link to Eastern culture is another example, which could be extended to the practice of the “Gutaï”. Or the well-known influence of the cave paintings of Altamira or Lascaux on artists such as Miró, Moore, Motherwell or Staël, among others.

[41]MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice. Le visible et l’invisible. Paris: Gallimard, 1964, p. 177.

[42]Something frequently addressed in his work. The artist explained that “I come from a period based on pre-Hispanic manifestations, where ceramics and weaving have a geometrical and abstract base (…) and from the concept of tectonics, which links to the geometrical”. MORON, Jessica. Jesús Matheus en cuatro costados. Op. cit.

[43]The cycle of charcoal drawings made by Matheus in 2015 is part of a work “of sketches/field notes made on a trip to Peru. It has “Piedras Cantadas” inscribed. In a commentary, the tour guide who assisted us at the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, spoke of these carved and rolled stones found at the site, many of them abandoned or not part of the general construction”. Conversation of the artist with this author, 9/IV/2020.

[44]JOYCE, James. Ulysses (1922). Paris: Gallimard, 1948, p. 39

[45] SMITH, Tony. Tony Smith. Two exhibitions of sculpture (Commentary to “Night”). Hartdford: Wadsworth Atheneum-University of Pennsylvania, The Institute of Contemporary Art, 1966-1967, s/p.

[46]“I think there’s no mystery about it: It has to do with chance and the adventure of creation. You have to go through all this to understand it better”. MATHEUS, Jesus. Manifiesto en dos tiempos. Op. cit.

[47]“Confirming my interest in an abstract language of geometric nature, liberation comes in the purity of its forms, its properties and mutual relations that determine the general expression of the work (every Neo-plasticism, every Mondrian)”. MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Op. cit.

[48]In the words of Adolfo Wilson: “In fact, his painting, assumed as a shamanistic ritual act, is full of spiritual resonances and allusions to Zen thinking; but it also possesses a numinous dimension, in terms of its revealing potential of a transcendental truth located above the circumstances of the world, and its inventive faculty of a poetic, unlimited and timeless utopia”. WILSON, Adolfo. Jesus Matheus, or painting as an argument. At “Square-totem.” Miami: IdeoBox Artspace, 2013, p. 36.In fact, his painting, assumed as a shamanistic ritual act, is full of spiritual overtones and allusions to Zen thought, but also to a numinous dimension, in terms of their potential developer of transcendental truth located above the circumstances of the world, and his inventive faculty of poetic utopia, boundless and timeless. Ibid. p. 5.

[49] Mendez, Carmen Victoria. El cuadrado representa la libertad absoluta para Jesús Matheus. Caracas: “El Nacional-‘Cultura-Escenas'”, 14/V/2013, p. 3.

[50]“For Matheus, the square is the representation of that which lives between the transited space and the surrounding space, between internal and external forces. It is, in many ways, the extension of the meanings that man has attributed to the mystical and the eternal, to the connections between heaven and earth. The square is, for the painter, the city, the temple and the altar; hence the reason why these forms are the extension of the tectonic and spiritual world. His paintings prove that rigorous geometric art is not inevitably abstract or alien to reality (…) abstract pieces whose attribute is transcendence as an authentic expression of the spirit”. MONROY, Douglas. Tiempos de encuentros. Op.cit. This text also gives us a window the creative origins of Matheus. Along this lines: “In Matheus’ case, the artistic exercise constitutes, apart from a creative act imbued with spirituality and ethics, an experience”. ARVELÁEZ, Grisel. Indagaciones desde el arte geométrico (II/II). Caracas: “El Nacional-‘Papel Literario’”, 2/VI/2013, p. 3.

[51] DELGADO AGUIRRE, Marjorie. Jesús Matheus regresó extrapictórico y geométrico. Op. cit.

[52] MATHEUS, Jesus. Manifiesto en dos tiempos. Op. cit.

[53]MORRIS, Robert. Notes on sculpture. New York: Art Forum International Magazine, 1966, p. 87.

[54]“At first, the sculptures of an engraver—the prolongation of etched sign-forms into actual space—the white blocks took on a new dimension that exceeded space itself: they became a continuum, a concatenated totality. These forms began to recreate the space they occupy and in that process created themselves anew. Their whiteness confronts the viewer with a silent conundrum that prompts the associations of memory: place, site, ceremonial sign or mark. They stand as minimal three-dimensional gestures that suffice to keep an idea alive—an idea that might be as simple yet also complex as the relations of parts within a whole”. MATHEUS, Jesús. Form as place as form. Op. cit. p. 48.

[55]Artist quoted by Matheus, in which we consider one of his almost programmatic texts: MATHEUS, Jesús. Square totem (at least) two theories and two strands of my artistic proposal. At “Square-totem.” Miami: IdeoBox Artspace, 2013, p. 37 et seq., also p. 7 et seq.

[56]In the words of Matheus: “Color is a virtue. It happens randomly, like a relationship with the moment. It is part of the piece. It is the subject of the piece.” In: FERNÁNDEZ, María Gabriela. Jesús Matheus: ‘Painting is still a manifesto’. Op. cit.

[57]“What I am looking for, more than generating a reading of something, are new ways of exposing the painting (…) it must impress those who observe, who participate, who reflect and question the planes of color (…) it is to go to the essence (…)”. CASTILLO BORGO, Maria Angelina. Minimalism and depth are contrasted on the canvas. Caracas: “El Nacional”, 5/XI/2015.

[58] DELGADO AGUIRRE, Marjorie. Jesús Matheus regresó extrapictórico y geométrico. Op. cit.

[59]In the words of Matheus: “a painting can arouse deep emotion when we admire a drawing as much as a photograph or a piece of sculpture: it is the epiphany of plastic art”.

MATHEUS, Jesús. Una manera de hacer en las Artes Visuales. Op. cit. p. 133.

[60]BARRIOS, Guillermo. El evangelio según Matheus. Op. cit.

[61] MATHEUS, Jesus. Construcción. Op. cit. p. 5. His text opened with this quote from Paul Klee “The dialogue with nature remains a sine qua non for the artist. The artist is man; he is nature itself, a piece of nature in the area of nature. His progress in the observation and the vision of nature leads him to progressively access a philosophical vision of the universe that allows him to freely create abstract forms”.

[62] KLEE, Paul. Paul Klee, Cours du Bauhaus-Weimar 1921-1922. Contributions à la théorie de la forme picturale. Paris: Éditions des Musées de Strasbourg-Éditions Hazan, 2004, “Cours V” 30/I/1922, note 64, in the edition cited, on p. 96. The translation is ours. Klee underlines the terms “atmosphere” and “water”.

[63] “I’m interested in putting that kind of geometry into question, I’m looking for the questioning of forms instead of completely rational abstraction”. Mendez, Carmen Victoria. El cuadrado representa la libertad absoluta para Jesús Matheus. Op. cit.

[64]Benjamin, Walter. Paris, capitale du XIXème siècle. Le livre des Passages. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1989, pp. 478-479.

[65] MATHEUS, Jesús. Introducción. In “The white studio”. Op. cit.