Text for curating the presentation of the work "People" by Estartús. Criticism of Andres Isaac Santana.
I belong to a generation of critics which is ill due to an excessive abdication towards the contemporary to the detriment of what we presume as traditional and conservative. That critical attitude towards modern boasting only follows the visual approach and usually ignores the immense pleasure that other imaginary, other manners, other accounts can offer. Startús´ new series of paintings, People, reveals precisely that tension between those different impulses. They corroborate their existence as they emancipate the taste, the good taste of that exclusionary and demagogic tyranny.
On one hand they are works in small format that appeal to a “traditional way” within the visual arts context. However, on the other hand, they recover the gift of the currentness and the contemporary regarding on how to conciliate that knowledge about painting and its exquisite domain. In such a manner this is not an ordinary exhibition, it is by far a sample that deep down the conflict between that enraged contradictions is settled through a highly powerful and persuasive resource, seduction. Seduce to catch the eye, seduce to get the attention of other people´s subjectivity, seduce to possess.
We all know that an old avant-garde is much sadder that any stale academic person. The know all avant-garde is more lethal when he realizes he is aging, than any academic vision when this one can still seduce and make room for itself in the universe of the retina and the mirror. Maybe that is why, or that is especially why the extensive repertoire of Works that make up this new series means a placid gesture to restore the pictorial paradigm, an emphatic incursion in this know-how at art. This is undoubtedly a delightful gesture that does not cease to seem to me an act of love, passion and devotion. So much so the artist himself writes “I tried to reach an update my memories, taking a look back at the past, at my life experience. Human relations, love and heartbreak, old ways, black and white films that seduced us, our childhood games… All of which succumbs to the nostalgia of the memories gathered in the sixty Works that make up this series”
That surrender to the kingdom of our memories, which sometimes are placed in damaged enclaves of our memory, give a huge suggestion power to his new stage and (re)activate his writing and storytelling skills. This makes the nostalgia not to be interpreted as an anxious wish to return to the past, but as a recall. In other words, it is an efficient and also poetic updating of our memories.
People is a sophisticated tale of “the otherness”, of the outside world but also of the inner one, of the world that we built on our live lessons, on the space between dreams and experiences. It is where “the others” live, anonymous figures or cult myths that return redeemed on the surface of these delightful Works, which are richly treated with the same grace and skill the gladiator gives out in the arena when he fulfils and wins over his fractious purpose. In fact, they evolve into the chronicle of a story foretold; a story intensely and deeply lived in a past time. Many can probably notice in that sample a sign of hospitality. And they will be entirely right. People, is a hospitable gesture, an act of invitation and reconciliation with the past and with history. It is by all means a scenario of permanence and rescue, a display of recovery and salvation. But above all these necessary digressions is an impulse of honesty. “The truth –the artist stresses- is that up to a point, I have felt rebelliousness towards the trendier and trendier outrage among some artists that see abstraction as a safe refuge to conceal their limitations regarding their drawing skills. In my opinion being consistent and ending up with a serious abstraction would require a coherent artistic career which must previously include a number of premises that are not taken into consideration nowadays which detracts credibility to many of the contemporary works that are exhibited at present. To reach the point we have to evolve, the way is narrow but you can´t do it if you look for alternative ways. Anything goes is not honest nor ethical"
I have pointed out all these issues to endorse firstly the magnitude and skill of this new Work; secondly to endorse its confessed narcissistic purpose in the embarrassing materiality of paint and the disagreement that shows with the direct use of the language of art that has been given endless miss functions. When you read all this work you can discover a very daring use of the palette and of the pictorial resources per se. There were times of inner dialogues when facing the paintings in the privacy of the painter studio in which I was overwhelmed by the pleasure of emotion as a result of the elegance of the resolution and beauty they exude. I was captivated by the way each scene was extracted from films hardly seen nowadays, from that film noir that shaped a whole universe and encoded a style. It is as if each one was a part of a syntax that tells and describes a greater story that is recovered by the postcard and the testimony but pushed around by the supremacy of capitalism of brands. Maybe that is why People set up an excellent narrative that recovers for itself the atmosphere of film noir, of photonovels, of comics and even of some type of literature that without a doubt they strengthen their suggestion power and its high share of seduction. You can feel a halo of nostalgia but not in a way of melancholy as boleros do, but as an exercise of recollection.
Since we were taught that history is inventiveness, agreed conception, illusion and architecture of dreams, we have become paranoid historical writers and we tell stories nonstop. It is an obsessive way to keep and re-write life legacy itself. The idea that favors the death of art, painting and history as scriptural systems of an ended modernity, pushed us towards the recognition of any fragment of memories, towards its idealization and denial and also towards any type of strategy of location of that “past time” into the “present time”, in the distressing paradigm of the now.
The works of this series stand as summing up scenarios in which the story goes as inventiveness and avidity. The accuracy of this narrative and its own share of fiction, reduce the authority of great representations to enjoy the inconspicuous charm that everyday accidents reveal. Instead of rescuing grandiloquent representations, Estartus choses the licenses of those apparently unimportant scenes because they are the story tellers of life itself. They actually reveal the habits we inhabit, the day to day rhythm which rules and changes the mundane course of our existence. It goes from a child playing in the street; the purchase of sweets; pet care; sex and eroticism in private spaces; the man who walks lonely down the dark street; even the couple that before going to bed or after having sexual intercourse talks about their respective day. That spontaneity of the descriptions endorses the predominance of the classic not least given that if classicism praises imitation, these Works use life imitation as an excuse which turns them into a gesture postmodern classicism.
Regarding style and language, and contrary to his traditional use of abstraction as the center of his work, these Works mean a deliberate turn towards figuration and representations in classic terms. However this alleged journey to the state of the image and Paint shows to any watchful onlooker the sophisticated trick the artist uses to make converge both languages, figuration and abstraction as if they were making love. The coexistence of these two languages as sexual gymnastics boosts the seduction empowerment of this mixture of dialogue and rivalry. People is not only the stroke of figurative painting that aims to neglect the pertinence of the gestural, improvisation and fate. Quite the opposite it takes pleasure worshiping the stain and the intermittent vibration of silhouettes that give birth to extremely seducing surfaces where figures and their surroundings are not enclosed by the reactionary line but they come through in the vaporization and expansion of the horizon.
People tell us something that Luis Cardoza y Aragón used to say “the predictions of a time are the disgust of the following one”. Within the context of this axiom, it could be that this Works come to unwittingly suggest reconciliation between those predictions and the disgust. We are tired of so much parallel postmodernism, so much imposition and so many promises. People is here and now to announce something. It draws aside the blindness veil, demolish the skyscrapers of noise and create some silence in order to be able to listen to the inner whisper of all the Works gathered here. Startús voice flows through them and we look intently. Painting speaks.
Andrés Isaac Santana
Madrid, August 2015