To Paint is to Love Again
A few years have passed since Javier Arce started to explore the relationship between the image of the landscape and the materiality of the landscape per se.
With a pared-down economy of means, verging on poetic subsistence, the artist decided to use leftover firewood accumulated over the summer as improvised stretchers, engendering the organic destructured forms of his suite of paintings “Sobre lo cercano”, which we were able to see in various recent exhibitions.
Beyond the environmental aspect and commonplaces on the notion of the rural, cabins and life in the countryside, Arce’s paintings are associated more with an economical idea of the forest and the garden in the original sense of “economy” coming from the Greek “oikonomos”, which literally translates to household (oikos) management (nemein). A meaning that also serves to describe the management of fire and the relationship and the straightforwardness between bodies and objects within the family home.
In this way, his paintings kindle and give off heat in contact with the depicted object, with the valley in itself, but also with the artist himself and with the personal condition of someone who lives in and off the valley, weaving a material relationship with the environment which is more physical and instinctive than political or conceptual—even though the boundaries of these definitions are always under dispute.
On this occasion, Arce further proposes a setting with low lighting, obscuring the windows with a weft of hazel branches, typical of the area of Pasiego’s valleys, and with some of the walls painted in colours proper to the local fauna and flora. Under this tenuous lighting, the sensation of incandescent paintings gains traction, with each one smouldering like a little fire and casting light on the space like the hearth at home; like images illuminate. Paintings that somehow warm these chilly autumnal evenings exposed to the elements.
Here the romanticism of the landscape takes on a quality which is more sentimental than political or historical. There is no counterpoint to the polis nor an explicit rejection of the city: for Arce, first and foremost, these paintings advocate a love for all the things that give shape to what we call home.
It is no accident that the title, To Paint is to Love Again, is borrowed from a homonymous essay by Henry Miller, in which the writer, like Javier, compiled unconnected bold reflections in which he reminds us that his passion for painting was simply a way of loving again. Of recovering a love for things, of painting them.
“… his paintings kindle and give off heat in contact with the depicted object, with the valley in itself, but also with the artist himself and with the personal condition of someone who lives in and off the valley“.