Arturo Montoto


Arturo Montoto sculpts his paintings with the determination, hard work and disbelief of tortured genius. If finally there is no Renaissance but scarcely Manierism, beauty is not left out of the suffering of his illusion. His painting is a painting of lies, tortured, always increasing its virtues of betrayal to its presumed referent. A painting that finds joy in the suicide of its first nature. And there would be no greater problem if we analyse what, in the run of all social existence, of the transition between the millenniums, appears like a ghost some criteria of correspondence between the significant and the referent. We inhabit the era of the revolving distance between the motivation and the displacements of their orbit of significance. Seen like this, the baroque has triumphed here where Severo bet, in his ultimate days, for the return of the elegy. When just the attempt to identify the referential amongst infinite elliptic chains of meaning becomes the habit of monks, the lineal sobriety of the elegy dies. Because it is clear that the baroque, much before the surplus of what it names, is the mitigation of that correspondence, the deferment the functional concretion of communicative expression. In the baroque, more than communication there is fascination that subjugates from its estrangement, from its unreachableness. The classic communicates; the baroque perturbs and delights.

The fixedness of Arturo is flight, escape from the measurability. The space of his fixedness floats in the reservoir of suspension which divorces the ellipsis of it¿s of referent. There would be no greater problem then, he said: here is the figure of the reservoir saving it, explaining it all. The matter gets complicated with the thickness of the intent in as much as the glamour of the painting of Arturo strongly resists, is so wise, conceals so well its architecture of things past that habitually tell us that yes, it is about the fruit, how will it not be the fruit, that what we see is what we see and what it is.

In the western legacy, or in the reading practices that put into place the western legacy, he would have to localise five movements to deceive (with the appearance of usefulness) the tectonics of the prospective cube, the trompe l¿oeil, the paranoiac image of Dali, the neo-historical and anachronistic practices of post-modernity, and, point apart, the painting of Arturo Montoto. People say that Arturo has mounted an industry on the arks of Gestalt, and smile with pleasure. This means that the paradox has completed, that the game has had place. Arturo is possibly the most conceptual and cultured of our artists; his activity with painting ended up being loosely performance based. His art is an art of aesthetic behaviour, but, logically, people breathe the fruit and this is fine. Even I would like to take this guava home ¿ not like this the avocado, but what they call the guava, the guava yes ¿ now how ever much I try, a voice that comes from the base of the picture, from where a window has stayed open for centuries, as if waiting for me, appealing that I won¿t be cynical, that if anyone like me has bitten the guava, I should respect the inertia with what the art represents, consume its strategy. I go beaten, with the guava in my nose and in my pocket; total, if I had it in mind.

The fact that the excessive sense of the meaning in Arturo doesn¿t exist more than to indicate its cultural expectations, turns out in my judgement from three capital conditions in the understanding of this poetry: it has to do with an impossible work without the weight of legacy, in which all physical is a pretext for the activation of the metaphysical drama, and the work makes a play of the desire of the look.

The painting of Arturo is a painting that gravitates. And the word seems exact: more than just being, it gravitates. Resting on the historical plasma of what has been painting and, even if this tale did not exist, this work would be as beautiful as futile. The French culturalist Michael Rifaterre systemised, many years ago, the category of meaning to designate this compact quality between the texts and their cultural antecedents. In the future, all texts respond to a double conditioning: the meaning, that moves the dissimilar relationships between the text and its reference; and the meaning, that orders the ascendancy of the text in the trajectory of cultural history. All texts, really, have functioned like this, submitted to this double requirement, but it is with the strong inter-subjectivity of the 20th century that such distinction rises to the academy. To the effects of Arturo, the meaning is more important than the significance; or not, it is not quite precise: the density of the significance acquires the prominence of the meaning; this is what the planes of the signified more than refer, with linearism, to the possible motivations of the reference (reading will make unhappily fragile the work of Montoto), they absorb the thickness of the resonance of the textual chain that precedes; to the point that the double code is broken and structure an in which the signified, divided from the fingerprints of the meaning, enounces the internal logic of the production and circulation of senses in the system of the arts. The poetry of Arturo straightens out the sense since the sense.

Already in 1928, in the Orlando, Virginia Woolf underlined that "one thing is the green in nature and another in literature. It seems like nature and words have amongst them a natural antipathy; join them and that is all it takes to tear them to pieces." Arturo's paintings focus his argument in that abyss that mediates between art and life, even though modernity's mimetic project, "the era of similarity", tried to shield in its illusionism a deceitful identity. We are in front of a picture that participates in the unfathomable and estranged principle of that values itself frequently, for example in post-modern cinema, with the abstraction of the bases, the special planes lost in emptiness, the insistence the scale modelling of the scenery materials, etc. The space of Montoto is so impossibly concrete if we abide by the naturalist logic of the credible physical, rather it becomes relative with the figure of the Borgean labyrinth: its lights elude the precision of the sources, they arrive like the sudden Lezamian (something that also comes from the historic baroque, where often the visual rhythm was capriciously impeccable); it is the effect of estrangement that produce the contrast between the youth, the freshness of the fruit, and the cracked ancestralness of the architecture, or the integration of the topic of the tropic and the topic of the severe Euro-Occidental tradition. Without discounting the strangeness emanated from the artists own referentiality: the works seem obsessed with mediation, free and even happily adultered, of doubtful reproduction. I don¿t believe the inspiration departs so much from the original as the facsimile, in the way that one could speak of a third grade reproduction, far from the primary referent in two levels: part of an initial criteria that physically exists often as bad reproduction. Whoever denies that in this enjoys Pirandelian and neo-baroque, inhabits an eminently post-modern mentality.

The first obstacle that enriches the visual universe of Arturo emanates from the tension between the need for fixedness, to register, stop, immortalise pieces of the world, and a deep narrative ability that summarises itself through its contrary: the sign that rests. Debates between the fixedness and abandon, the calm and the turbulence of a tale that fights (in this sense Arturo is Magrittean), the works of the author shame themselves like fingerprints, so wrapped up in beauty like precariousness of transcendence, of the work of time. Something has been written on the density of time in Arturo, but I don¿t believe that the painter, like Wim Wenders, to give an example, is interested in the course of time but in the effect of wasting away and devaluation, the poetic solitude, that the course of time emits. Arturo documents the vestiges of reality when time has passed, what is left of beauty in abandon, the incalculable grandeur of this jug theatrically thrown on the wall. Before being a painter, much before, Arturo is a poet. And if he wasn¿t, he wouldn¿t serve for much, believe me, with everything and his skills, his painting.

To read Arturo one has to receive the mood, but before, one would have to remain in a state of the mood, show off - yes, show off, with all conscience of the privilege that size possession implies ¿ the facility to connect with this adventure of silence that opens up a thousand subtleties. While more ominously detailed in the visual and earthly environment that Arturo paints, and he abandons us to the obviousness and futility of precarious existence. In this punctual description there is service, a cruelty limit; from there the art of Arturo would never be an art of contemplations. There is service when the virtue of painting gets involved in expressing with great rigor the wrinkled texture of confinement and forgetting. Arturo¿s paintings are the expiration of the circumstance where we won¿t be anymore, the countryside after the vitality. Seen like this, in spite of his grace of style, this painting doesn¿t manage to renounce a monstrous teratological angle, that occupies nothing from everything, and with the rigour of a psychopath that examines the cadaver of a king. We already know a real artist is as much a God creator as a lost lunatic, regarding as the same the birth of the world and its darkness, its disappearance. Then they see that it is not always the fruit; often it is its ghost, the spectre in which its elevation and the excessiveness of giving themselves in, in front of the spasmodic rigour of the lie. While more physical the form, more abstract its impossibility: and here the great paradox of the Montoto signature.

In a letter dated 1944 Lezama tries to understand this mediation of the mystery that they provoke, or permit, only the great works of art. It is said that Between us and the works of Arturo is the body of the enemy, the sinuous directionality of the look, the fermentation of the poetry.

There are two games of cultural inversion that determine the poetry of Arturo: the irony with the possibility that the painting takes as its model the photograph, and the ellipsis of the man where all his attributes and steps appear. Both inversions put us up against the supposed beginning: the thirst and not the thing. Didn¿t the poetry mock méûer? After the technical arts wouldn¿t all pictorial truth have gone rancid? If the truth were to try to seize the thing, Arturo was an incunable (a pre 16th century publication): the grace of the work is consecrated on the contrary on the force of magnetism, the aura that bids goodbye to the object while it slips away. Ergo, the emulation of the photographic inclines more towards fetishism than the instant and the punctual mockery of the irreversibility of time than to the analogy of mimicry.

On the other hand, it is certain that many of the paintings connect with the compositions of hyper-realism where the ellipsis of the man denounces itself from the period left to the disorganisation in the bus, or a half open door in the ultimate business in a street and a deserted night. One must not disregard that the deserted painting of Arturo is in the man, in his eternal processes of perception and his emotional unstableness. But the omission of the subject adopts another complexity. Whatever appearance of the human figure in the visual field that Arturo chooses and fixes, would be of a grade of painful redundancy: it is this man, bewildered for the removal of his aesthetic pretexts the real and only being who cares about the painting of Montoto. I can speculate like an air of sadism, sadism at the end of what, with the acceptation of the fall, expecting a wait, possible, certain redemption.

The painting of Arturo Montoto is tantalising. Or, its subject is Tántalo, eternally punished to hunger and thirst, hanging from a tree rich in fruits and flying over a river. Within the reach of the senses, these objects for Tántalo are unreachable, and he suffers. So, to abandon us the weariness of the camps of absence, when the satiation and the surfeit reclaim the beauty like the shipwrecked person swimming towards the improbable island, Arturo Montoto proposes himself as a vehicle, a witness to the thirst, such the tortured genius that he comes close to God. And although his work is that of the ascetic and the suicide, he has to do it in the amber vines and the iris, because, as indicated Thomas Mann in Death in Venice, There is no other way.

Rufo Caballero
"Tantalo in front of the reservoir. The painting of Arturo Montoto", book Op. Cit, 2002

1 And it is clear I allude to the sense-idea or the sense-judgement, and to the natural senses of perception.

2 This matter of the topic is no less important when we analyse in the indexes of post-modernity that assist the painting of Arturo: the artist manipulates, with full conscience, the functionality of the stereotype. But in addition, his artistic referent is largely generic: Montoto works of a legacy, a tradition, a learning criteria, a school; more than on a painter or specific work.

3 This delirium between enjoyment and torture, fuss and flagellation, re-seeing a connotation of epistemology: if before we had warned that the baroque dazzles while it conceals a deep crisis (the will of historic baroque only hid the submitting of a cultural system to one of the most coercive segments of the story of humanity), here we will know that the painting of Arturo Montoto debates in the same tension as four centuries ago: the fight between the enjoyment of life, the summoning of all the senses in multiple combinations and an abysmal scepticism that is conscious of the mud at the end of the road. For that, whatever study that associates his painting with baroque has to leave behind that phenomenon of the lights and the shadows, it cannot be clearer.

4 Instability and perception turn out to be established conditions in the art of Montoto from the threat, the imminence of danger, entities that vitalize a nature that of death, nobody has: the knife always ready, the egg about to fall