An Expanse of Forms
By Luis Fernando Valencia
The first aspect made evident in this unique series is its return to Cartesian coordinates, orthogonal axes that appear, disperse, disintegrate and, when we least expect it, become part of an organic form. It is a reference to a missing rationality that, approaching from behind, suddenly comes to the forefront. However, the oeuvre no longer speaks of reason and instinct, or rationality and intuition; what is clearly significant about this approach is overcoming those dichotomies so that it can install itself in another world far from binary hierarchies and obvious contradictions. These works now spread in a controlled planimetry that refers us to the deconstruction of traditional painting.
In this series the oeuvre lights up; it gleams in an exacerbated chrominance, giving rise to its accurate designation of “Eterna Primavera” (Eternal Spring). The disquieting brilliance gives the works new outcomes: it is no longer a background; instead it is a homogeneity that jumps and erupts within an organic form, moving about and disappearing. Mario Vélez begins questioning the modern concept of “background” and treats it as a transient element. He takes risks with a color that alludes to fertile regions but with enough care so as not to fall into the torridness prevalent in the tropical. The background-figure split disappears, thereby raising an unprecedented universe that, as Edmund Husserl would say, “should be accepted simply because it exists,” without looking for non-existent metaphysical essences.
Vélez's range of works make no concessions to the artist, nor to the work as an apparent meaning, nor to the viewer as a central character in the aesthetics of today. Instead, they touch on two aspects addressed by Jacques Derrida in his concept of “différance”: spacing and deferral. The work does not seek an identity, or origin, or anything fundamental. It embarks upon some non-narrative elements that float in their simply pictorial tranquility. This spacing discredits representative worlds and presents us with a completely autonomous universe. However, in order to perceive it we also need it to have time, (a priori categories, such as space and time, according to Kant). This deferral is given by those ellipsoidal forms that appear to pass momentarily through the painting in their nomadic meanderings, where we can only perceive their imprint, their trace, without pretensions of transcendence or essential substance.
On a splendid field that supplies the color, forms and lines glide, creating an implacable logic that produces a different rationality, far from the Cartesian rationalism that was the starting point. The process that has been unleashed is gleaned from the different pieces that make up the paintings; however, strictly speaking, we are only looking at one oeuvre. Thus, an exhibition of this series in its totality turns out to be indicative and telling of the exceptionality of Mario Vélez’s work process. The plane is irrigated by permutations, articulations, withdrawals and a large number of elements that create pictorial inscriptions, like a kind of graphic symbol that undergoes a controlled explosion throughout an expanse of forms.
After we have examined the entire series and ruminated upon it all for some time, the field of color that has traditionally been called background is what stands out in our memory. That means that there is no surface on which lines, planes and forms are inserted; instead, that surface is also a figure. Walter de María expressed it very well: “The terrain is not the scene of the work, it is part of it.” Like a never-ending horizontal band, the oeuvre allows us to look at its persistent journey; but at the same time, those flat, sharp, irregular forms also look back at us. Ultimately, Vélez's works leave us with a silent aura, some traces, some imprints, in which incoherence, far from being a defect, is an accurate affirmation of the randomness of life.
There is no order of subordination in Vélez's paintings, meaning no element takes precedence over another, and there is no formal component that acts as protagonist. This transforms his painting into a completely contemporary manifestation of Postmodern art and explains the high level of regard many have for him in the current panorama of painting, not only in Colombia, but also on the international scene. All of the elements we see refer back to themselves and to others, creating, in Derrida’s words, “non-identical sameness.” Vélez also resists the Hegelistic maneuver of using one element to refer to another so that a third element can arise in synthesis. Instead, painting simply proliferates everywhere. It is produced. It happens.
If this happens with space, it also happens with time, as the eye wants to see more—what happens above, below and on the sides, where it came from and where it goes. This disconcerting game introduces the concept of duration, since the work is deferred, postponed and continues to occur on other planes beyond our line of vision. This geography of dispersion entails time existing in non-linear temporality. There is no before or after; everything floats like a pictorial symbol. It is no longer photosynthesis as in nature, but a transformation of the painting, in which everything is fixed at the same time that it escapes.
In the end, I can affirm that “Eterna Primavera" is his most auratic series to date. With its resplendent and blinding presence, as with the intriguing yellow paintings, it produces a specifically Benjaminian aura, which "is the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.” Furthermore, there exists here what Foucault called “the productive subconscious,” in which the oeuvre is not just a reality, but also a set of other possibilities proffered by involuntary memory. Beauty bedazzles to make way for reflection.
Translation: Diana Scholtz
Proofreading: Gregg Lasky