Seats and paintings

If I remember correctly it was the German painter Anselm Feuerbach (1829 - 1880) who said that to look at a painting, a seat was essential. This is logical enough, given that in those days you lived amidst the public frenzy of galleries, museums and salons, where crowds would elbow for a view of hundreds of paintings hung the length ofendless halls. In a situation such as this, managing to be seated was not just finding the most comfortable position from which to devote due attention to a work of Art, but also being exceptionally isolated before it and, above all, being able to dedicate the appropriate time to it. Many of the new museums appearing during the 19th century copied, more or less consciously, the model of the covered arcades and, at least in the case of the American museums, that of the Mall, as has been demonstrated by Rémy G. Saisselin. The crowd made its way along the centre of an enormous warehouse flanked by the thousands of goods on offer which, in this case, were the paintings. In any event, the size of the crowd must have corresponded with the huge number of paintings. Everything moved, and was measured, on a massive scale. It is obvious that this way of looking at paintings established a revolutionary form of relating to Art and, more specifically, conditioned the contemporary eye.

So, how is Art viewed today? If we found ourselves in any capital of the more opulent Western societies and examined what was on offer from an artistic viewpoint during the season - in Madrid this year for example- not only would we appreciate a vertiginous increase in works exhibited- probably tens of thousands- but also the fact that they are products of the most stunningly diverse styles, techniques, periods, materials etc...With this exponential progression of what is being displayed, it is first of all obvious that our way of looking at Art will once again increase the new effects on perception that could already be seen last century; but this is perhaps of least relevance faced with the visual bombardment that the current new media have provided. All of this brings us to the conclusion that a great deal more than a chair is needed to contemplate a painting; because apart from anything else, Art today doesn´t wait for you in a museum, but rather surrounds you, everywhere and in every way imaginable, in your own home.

Need we make a list? It´s in the newspapers, magazines, books, television, on video, on the computer. It´s everywhere except perhaps (with the exception of posters) hanging on the walls. The problem here and now then is not to see Art even if you are not the least beat concerned with it.

Artists, however, must still be concerned with Art; it is perhaps of interest, therefore, to follow on what has already been mentioned regarding the observation of Art from the point of view of a mere consumer or spectator of artistic images and address the more pressing question of how a contemporary artist is capable of creating them.

How for example does César Delgado do so? To answer this question we need only to examine his work, the paintings being shown in his current exhibition. On one hand, we find neutral and neutralized backgrounds, that is, flat uniform colours objectively treated. On the other, there is a fragmentation of the composition, which in reality breaks with any idea of unity, due to a sort of insertion of juxtaposed paintings which deny any sense that the figurative perceivable in the piece responds to any sort of centre. In this sense, there is not the least configurative order with which a decorative guideline maybe developed, no information from which we might guess at the plot. Furthermore, these juxtaposed fragments or remnants are evoked by the artist in the form of patches, which are arranged in such a way that they allow no order to be stablished either.On the contrary, the illusionistic effects shatter all of our visual expectations beforehand. Finally, across the surface of the painting swarm strange figures which could be vaguely evocative of cellular microorganisms, or of pieces of Art history, as though a brushstroke of Roy Lichtenstein had suddenly appeared on the surface.Thus the painting comes to resemble a laboratory x-ray which prints, photographically or otherwise, a visual precipitate.

In a sense, these paintings could put us in mind of pictures registered by a machine that returns from an unknown cosmos to provide us with an image whose signs turn out to be indiscernible to us, the fragments of a sky we don´t know, we cannot know, is a sky. In any event, that visual chaos contrasts with the elaborate, premeditated, technique used to capture something which we cannot understand, because we don´t know how to look at it.

So, do we then need the observatory of a spacecraft to look at a painting today? If only it were that simple! In reality, as our eyes move across the canvas, what they are crossing is not just space, but also time. There are no cardinal points, no order. There is what there is and nothing is present except the presence of the image. Well, perhaps we can state with certainly that at least one thing is present: a painting. A painting then! A mere painting! Was it really necessary to buy a ticket to Venus to arrive at so banal conclusion? In reality we really only needed something even more vertiginous: Irony. The discipline of painting survives ironically in the twilight of the Millenium and that is not something to be taken lightly. Irony is not only generated in the places where spaces and senses split, but above all appears on surfaces, like the work of César Delgado. It must be methodical, with perfect technical control; cold machine-like. It must be thus so as not to leave the slightest chink of chaos unregistered, so as not to let the tiniest impression escape. In his poetic oeuvre "A season in hell", Rimbaud, who once spat the revolutionary cry that one had to be absolutely modern, asserted, just before his descent into the unknown depths of the invisible, that "One night I sat beauty on my knees. And I found her bitter. And I insulted her". But this was no more than the beginning of a leap into the vacuum of another dimension.

César Delgado is not concerned with being absolutely modern, because he is. He doesn´t find beauty bitter because she is everywhere. And his only insult is to paint. More than this in fact: to paint the vertigo of what there is. It is understandable that he cannot sit for a moment in a chair. It too is covered in fresh paint and, of course will stain.

home obras cv textos contacto links