21 June 2007

Am I a Mexican painter?

Yesterday I started to paint a commission that I had already for a year. There had been so many things in our lives. Leaving my big and established but not so mine studio was painful even though I was moving to my very own, big and ground floor studio next to our home. Making it ready took three times more months than I thought it would. And then finally finding a place for everything was very complicated and even more tiring having to remember where I left everything. I didn't realize about this last difficulty, apart from all the other new tasks as more administration beforehand. I believe that it is in the human being not to realize in advance the difficulties of a new project because if we really knew what it will involve we would not do a thing.

Back about the painting. I changed plans about painting this 83 year old lady. As I was supposed to make two portraits of her (I made very sharp photographs of her 1 year ago), I took again a look to all the old beautiful albums that I was brought for the preparation for this paintings. And then I got it! I would make one painting as Seve was when she became part of my friend's and commissioner's family and one of her the way she is now.
As I start a painting I always try to do it with another approach and another beginning. So I made first these very curly colorful wide lines, (and as I realize now, just the same kind of drawings I did when I was 7 or 8 and I was inspired by Miro, Calder, op- and conceptual- art). As the lines were drying I thought: Oh, this is a very bad beginning, I have to paint my canvas white again! I don't know why but I didn't do it.
Just like with each new painting I need patience again. In my case there isn't a good painting without patience. Each painting has its own time of development you have to go with it not against.

Rather soon I realized this was going to be a special painting. It was flowing, just as it happened with Lying Marisa. I had the feeling of being guided by the artists I followed and I learned of specially in my younger years in Mexico. I felt the hand of Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco leading my hand very gently but very sure.
Not long ago at the lecture I gave about portrait, some one noticed how impressed she was with one of the photographs of my oldest self portraits. She said that it reminded her of Frida Kahlo. For the first time (how could it be?) I accepted that link, because it was so obvious. I just couldn't deny it.
As a child we went very often to Frida's home, which was actually very close to my own home. And I try to imaging the Coyoacan, our neighbourhood, on the times she lived there, as my mother would tell me having seeing her walking with Diego Rivera. Those paintings I all ways disliked them and liked them just as now I do. Her clothes, the surrealistic touches like the apes were pure reality, she HAD apes.

My favorite painting was the one at the Museo de Arte Moderno, where we luckily went also very often: Las Dos Fridas, I didn't know at that time but that was her biggest painting and the only one that the Mexican government ever bought from her.
Any way, for me a (self) portrait was the most natural and obvious theme of an artist, so obvious that I didn't think about it. My first portrait was a very surrealistic painting, of more my favorite objects that would represent me. Later already at San Carlos in Mexico when Nishizawa was my teacher I took my self as model being what I would call the most accessible and cheap model. I didn't think twice about the meaning of it.
Whenever we went to Museo Carrillo Gil, then brand new and beautiful, and at walking distance to our home I also came into very close contact with the three "muralistas" (Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco), but not to their traditional huge, didactic and lefty wall fresco paintings but to their private, personal (and more commercial) easel work.
There I saw many times Orozco's paintings -for long time my favorite- those made in New York.

The thick works of Siqueiros caused me in a way a repulsive reaction but I couldn't stop looking at them.

In 1986 was the 100th anniversary of Rivera and we were able to see many of his greatest portraits, not as childish as those of the wall paintings but sitters full of character (and money). Of them all you only had to go to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and see some of their best examples of their wall paintings. Not far from there in the heart of Mexico City you could drop into nearly any governmental building and find a wall painting of any of them of their contemporaries or followers.
That broad and powerful way of painting probably was tattooed into my memory and with the Seve painting it all flowed naturally through my hand.
I was very happy when I asked Elias what do you think when you see this painting and he replied: I think of Diego Rivera.
Am I finally becoming a Mexican painter?

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