“Heaven is in deeds, no-one’s going to save us ...
You don’t think so? Don’t you see?
All that’s left is something that doesn’t last three
minutes, that lasts for all eternity”
Christina Rosenvinge. La distancia Adecuada (The right distance)..
The lesson taught by painting is always forgotten. “Choose only one master”, Rembrandt said, “Nature”. And in his repeated selfportraits he even sought to catch himself as a part of a real, relentlessly changing Nature. Rembrandt’s drawings of his wife on her death bed are ‘timeless’ pictures, not only in the trite sense of valuable, they also allude to the gesture of trying to make a crack in time. “Time paints, too”, Goya said. And that is how his genius was able to make figures that floated, for the first time, in a haughty, Spanish space of timeless dark, as in Christ on the Cross, painted in 1780. “Before the art of illumination”, writes Orhan Pamuk, “there was only blackness, and afterward there will also be blackness…. To know is to remember that you’ve seen. To see is to know without remembering”.
Time. Strange that in this high-speed world of digital velocities, of savage zeroes and ones, with its nearly pathological inability to pause, painting, supposedly static, is the art form that most painstakingly and precisely speaks to us of time. Could it be that not even the instant caught by photography is so exact? Painters who love painting, who are true artists, are, perhaps, those who realize that colour and form are, precisely, time.
In art, theory should not come before the artwork, that is not the way it works. Painting, like photography or action, or even inaction, comes first –stage one– and only afterwards does the intuition gained from knowledge follow –stage two–. That which is truly artistic, then, comes first in time, is more intuitive. That is why the intuition that there is something more is always present in pictorial works like those of Ignacio Burgos.
Ignacio Burgos (Madrid, 1968) took his degree in painting in the city where he was born (School of Fine Arts, Madrid Complutense University, 1986-1991), and then pursued further study with Klaus Fussman at the HdK (Hochschule der Künste) in Berlin (1991- 1993). After that, he began to hold his first exhibitions in Germany. He moved to New York in 1996 and showed his work in various American cities, studied under a grant from the French Ministry of Culture at the “Cité Internationale des Arts”, and then came back to Madrid, where he put together his retrospective book, The Book, and continued showing his work at galleries in different parts of the world (Casablanca, New York, Cairo, etc.). His works are in the collections of the Caja Granada Obra Social, the Cité Internationale des Arts (Ministry of Culture and Communication), the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the “La Caixa” Foundation in Barcelona, and others.
During his painting career Burgos has worked in different studios in different cities around the world, and as Manuel Romero notes “… this has coincided with different periods and has conditioned his work. His most recent paintings have been produced not only in his studios but also in places that his friends and gallery owners have let him use: a strange, peaceful spot located next to a farm and fields of crops (Société Inaam, Casablanca, Morocco), underneath the white roofs on the island of Menorca, an open space near Cairo, his studio-workshop in Madrid, etc., and they are certainly proof of a painterly maturity that extends far beyond the use of paint brush, spatula, and hands”. Why are we moved by his art? Maybe it is something to do with his ability to communicate with his spectators, with his desire to paint a being in a place in time, playing with both expressionism and abstraction at one and the same time. Ignacio Burgos, in a characteristic gesture that we have elsewhere called the “transcendent pause”, is able to connect his spectators to a reality that transcends the image (put together from expressionistic spots and strokes on canvass, paper, or metal) of a man or group of men, workers or flâneurs, showing us, rather, heroes (or losers), beings lost (or found), on backgrounds that could depict any intimate landscape. The power to choose that singular instant, before and after which there will, ineluctably, come infinite others, somehow represents a huge responsibility. However, contemplation of Burgos’ works leaves us with the impression not of a form of escape but rather of a timeless universality that has a lot to do with what we experience when we contemplate the works of his grand masters, Goya, Velázquez, Ribera, and others, to whom he himself has paid homage in some of his works. In Wittgenstein’s words, “If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” As in an act of personal justice, the images this artist brings before us take us back to interpretations which we, it could be said, decide that we deserve.
As Romero explains, when Burgos says that “the floor is his palette”, in some way he is talking about his studios, full of bags of pigment, pictures going to ruin, and remnants suggestive of new works, but he also means that his inspiration comes from scenes grounded strictly in reality.
And what happens in a real spectator, one who strolls through the exhibition rooms? We feel happy in front of some of these pictures of bricklayers, people walking, animals, athletes, cooks but dejected in front of others. This may have something to do with the time required of and given to these compositions, eliciting reflection, and moving us. In My Name Is Red Orhan Pamuk wrote, “Just a glance at those paintings and you too would want to see yourself in this way, you’d want to believe that you are different from all others, a unique, special, and particular human being”. A being in a time and in time, with all that implies.
by Rubén Fernández-Costa