Javier Palacios. The Hour of the Stones
Images, in these days of mass production, do not function in the way we are used to, as our way of looking has become dispersed in the digital landscape of constant iconic flow. In this new territory there remains very little margin for contemplating painting; a medium that has had to deal with the non-place which it holds in contemporary artistic practice, coming to terms with the accusation of having become an “overused language” (1). On figurative side, painting has also had to accept the alternative of the photographic image as a tool to establish referential interplays, which has put into question traditional modes of representation.
Conscious of the complex density of the codes which today modulate the relationship between image and looking, as well as the conventions which mark the boundaries of pictorial practice, Javier Palacios (1985, Jerez de la Frontera) in his new work reflects on the new hyper-technological forms of visibility. In this sense, his pictorial output seeks to play a more lucid role than that in which it is a simple copy of reality; functioning as a palimpsest, his work is constructed from multiple levels of representation: thus, below each of his images there is always another image (2).
The construction of the model
Current progress in digital technology along with the development of commuter programs and websites to share images on the internet have completely transformed the use of photography as a source of documentation and broken with the analysis model based on “a regulated distinction between homemade, amateur and professional production, which at the same time distinguished clearly between private and commercial production” (3). Javier Palacios dives down into the depths of hierarchy-less mass production of images which are offered by online search engines to find photos which may act as a starting point in his research. Once selected, he subjects them to a digital transformation process leading him to modify forms, colours and to establish new compositional arrangements.
Thus, the computer functions as “as second shutter, as a post-production device for the captured image” (4) able to generate a new angle, which in turn is taken as a reference from which to start, now with traditional techniques and media, the creation of pictorial output. Javier Palacios’s process is has not become tangled in the strategies of appropriation and copy; the opposite is true; his position reveals the desire to dismantle the original laws of the image, bringing visual factors to the fore which until now have passed unnoticed, and to finally confirm that all image incites the principle of superposition of authorship (5).
The process which we have just described does not suppose an exclusive methodology. Sometimes his inquiry needs to start from a three-dimensional model; it is then that the artist chooses his examples or maybe makes small mock-ups which he then photographs and puts through different digital transformation processes. Pictorial creation is however always understood by Javier Palacios as a constant dialectic oscillation between the way of looking and representation, while proposing an image capable of coexisting with more than one hypothesis and where even those not expressed continue to be part of the language.
The skin of the painting
In his latest project, brought together under the title Magic Dolmen, iconic exploration is expressed, on one hand, by stones arranged as megalithic constructions and, on the other, by mysterious perforations of unknown origin. It is not complicated for us to perceive a specific thematic grouping in which it is possible to distinguish recurrent visual data. However, each painting requires its poetic to be independently developed; there are no redundancies or cacophonies, but multiple characteristics which create in each of the pieces unpredictable semantics. This without doubt, contributes to the density of the pictorial design, full of subtleties, which also function as a distancing tool for the terse surface of the digital images which the artist has taken as reference.
In Magic Dolmen there are powerful plays on scale, tension between the static and dynamic and surprising chromatic modulations; but, above all, constant displacement between the figurative and the abstract, created from the awareness that now even the most extreme forms of non-representational painting do not stop functioning, at some level, in the symbolic base of the visual arts. Modernity implied, at least in its beginnings, that everything figurative was an old-fashioned conception of the world. The abstract was a response to the modern sensibility of reality, which meant, in the end, the formulation of new laws for painting itself (6). Javier Palacios breaks loose from this binary formalism to open up reflexions on perception, understanding and the infinite possibility to generate questions through pictorial images.
In his analysis of Javier Palacios’s work, the critic Ricardo Forriols referred to pictures in which plastic bags seem to float weightlessly as a possible representation of the soul. The disturbing imaginary world of Magic Dolmen continues this exploration with these primitive monuments of stone where, as in the cromlech circle, what is not there is maybe the most important (7); a monolith that, from a distance, announces a place in which, paradoxically, there is nothing. This possible representation of the spiritual as void and absence, as a continuous transit space, becomes consolidated in these enigmatic perforations, which project an endless darkness in order to represent space in its origins, in its purity.
Carlos Delgado Mayordomo
Art critic and y independent curator
1- Lawson, Thomas. «Last Exit: Painting», in WALLIS, Brian (ed.), Art after Modernity. New Approaches to Representation. Madrid, Akal, 2001, p. 154.
2- «Formal descriptions of modern are were topographical, they organized the surface of the works to determine the structures, while now it has become necessary to think of description as a stratigraphic activity […] it is no longer necessary to say that we don’t look for sources and origins, but structures of meaning: below each image there is always another image» (Crimp, Douglas. «Images», en Wallis, Brian (ed) Op. Cit., p. 186.)
3- Ardèbol, Elisenda and San Cornelio, Gemma. «If you want to see us in action: YouTube.com. Media and auto production practice on the Internet», in Revista Chilena de Antropología Visual, nº 10, 2007, p. 3.
4- José Luis Brea, The post-media era, Salamanca, Centro de Arte de Salamanca, 2002, p. 19.
5- “An image always supposes looking: the looks of those who produce and those who observe. We may speculate that all image incites the principle of authorship” (Fontcuberta, Joan. The Fury of Images, Notes on Post-photography. Barcelona, Galaxia Gutemberg, 2016, p. 125)
6- «Abstract artists got wrapped up in the flag of an unintelligible artistic language to affirm the mysterious nature of art as such, in this way keeping its timelessness and transcendence, while at the same time maintaining that their language had the only type of modern intelligibility» (Kuspit, Donald. Signs of the Psyche in Modern and Post-modern Art. Madrid, Akal, 2003, p. 134)
7- «The Parthenon is nothing but a sacred and symbolic vacuum of your cromlech circle, but as a figurative expression» (Oteiza, Jorge. Oteiza. Experimental intention. Madrid, Fundación Caja de Pensiones, 1988, p. 247).