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Where the artwork has a place.
Does it have a place? Where it starts. Where it ends.
Which is an internal limit. External.
And its surface lies between the two limits. 1
Jesus Matheus has developed an artistic career defined by a vocation unswervingly determined by its abstract and systematic study of the great landmarks of historical abstraction, from the Russian constructivists to the geometric artists of the School of New York; with a special predilection for Latin American masters rooted in geometry. His work has also drawn on his interest in art, architecture and the Hispanic culture, which are found present in their geometric pottery, ornaments, ethnic art and craft of some cultures in the Americas.
His current work tends to a settling of ways, to an economy of expressive resources, a synthesis of elements that denote an assumption of painting as an autonomous system of structural relationships, independent of visual reality, which operates exclusively within the picture plane. In this scope, the artist addresses issues that compete with the visual grammar, speech forms, but which also cater to their semantics and meaning, in a context fully identified within a material language. These problems seem to be related to a search of absolute harmony, the dialectic expression of opposites, a symbolic representation of complements, through the adoption of the square as a formal paradigm and the structural unit of his compositions. The square, which existence is purely ideal, mental and self-referential, associates with the idea of moderation, balance and proportion, which for the artist assumes preponderance and a valuation of almost totemic dimensions. Thus his figure emerges again and again in the game and intersection of horizontal and vertical straight lines that form austere monochrome planes, which edges intersect or overlap.
The problem behaves in his works by the definition of the form from its edges, determining the contours of the rectangles in their compositions, cutting planes of color, the dynamic relationship established between figure and ground, or silhouette and shape, seem to concentrate much of the artist’s interest (hence the seduction by the work of American painters attracted some similar concerns, associated color field painting and hard-edge abstraction, such as Barnett Newman and Ellsworth Kelly, respectively). Matheus has made a personal solution to these concerns, in works where the imprint is left by the “masking tape” (with which he previously covered part of the pictorial surface) after being removed, forms a geometric shape that acts either as edge, fringe or boundary between two planes, or as the main form of the composition, as given, or as background, such to be considered as content, or as a continent. In other works, a set of rectangles formed by plane colors, diluted and free of textures are concatenated or juxtaposed, but the slight overlapping of one part over another, raises again a perceptual paradox: the Figures alternatively are located in front or behind each other, inside or outside. This tension stimulates a dynamic relationship between the viewer and the work, that, denying having external references to it, is in itself its own theme, its own argument, through additionally, a claim of procedural aspect of the painting, of the gesture of painting, assuming essential meaning and purpose of artistic creation, as Baudrillard would say: The very act “creator” is doubled to be but a sign of his own operation: the true subject of the painter is no longer what he paints but the very act of painting. The painter paints the act of painting. 2
In these works of his, the color, monochrome, tends also to the claim of austerity, emptiness and visual emptiness. And while we sometimes can value it as extended flat and uniformed, in others is seen dissolved, glazed and transparencies equipped with a modulated light, delicate and subtle, that seems to emanate from inside the work itself. This moves the viewer to contemplate, to penetrate through the imagination, as if it were a kind of trompe-l’oeil addressed not in sight, but the thought. The notion of depth that comes from the color treatment of these works, which would aim to infinity, and incommensurability stimulating experience of the sublime (in the sense of Burke and Kant), could identify with some artists of color field painting, oriented towards the search for spiritual transcendence.
In fact, his painting, assumed as a shamanistic ritual act, is full of spiritual overtones and allusions to Zen thought, but also to a numinous dimension, in terms of their potential developer of transcendental truth located above the circumstances of the world, and his inventive faculty of poetic utopia, boundless and timeless. This condition of his work reminds us of the words of the Argentine geometric master, Tomas Maldonado: Every day, in fact, I am more convinced that certain forms used by the artists of constructivist orientation (…) are beginning to assert for sensitivity as anticipated images (or protoimágenes) of certain aspects of the world unsettled by the senses until today. 3 And, for our artist, art also involves an ethical and a deep humanistic vocation.
The ambitious space management deployed in these works leads Matheus to experiment within the three-dimensional plane, through the development of constructions and assemblies designed as a continuum of pictorial ideas. In them, he reiterates the use of a vocabulary composed of basic shapes, establishing a silent dialogue with their two-dimensional compositions, acting together as installations that interact with the viewer within the real space. It is, therefore, a body of works that attests to his active creative potential, facing the assumption of new challenges and the development of a language exposed to a constant process of renewal.
1. Jacques Derrida, La verdad en pintura, Editorial Paidós, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2001, p 74
2. Jean Baudrillard, El pacto de lucidez o la inteligencia del Mal, Amorrortu Editores, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008, p 101
3. Tomás Maldonado, Actualidad y Porvenir del Arte Concreto, citado por: María Amalia García en El arte abstracto. Intercambios culturales entre Argentina y Brasil, Siglo XXI Editores, Buenos Aires, 2011, p 166