Dream and decline in René Martín´s work
Sometimes dreams do get true. Or simply they change. They pass to another stage. They become incarnate.
There are many paintings that seem the incarnation of a living dream. Or the reincarnation of a dream that we already gave up as dead. In fact, all the paintings keep an intense imaginary which is comparable only to a dream. The work of the painter- and, it seems, his irrepressible tendency-is to put order, discipline and, even to a certain point, tame that imaginary intensity. Curiously, that makes a lot relative the concept of “dream” applied to certain transfigurations.
What the unrealistic dream scenes that have the painting is the accuracy with which notes its autonomy. At the end, this representations become stories about the unreal, but we all know that all story always pretends to seem for real, for true. What it has of unreal a dream painting is its own realism.
This tension between realism and fantasy is one of the aesthetic keys of the representation with a dream character. And it is which makes peculiarly related to a mythology. The painting of dreams as dreams themselves, demand an interpretation, a decipherment. “It is gods, in dreams, who give advices, announcements, and sometimes, clear express orders”, Foucault comments in the introduction of the third volume of his History of sexuality. The painting is introduced as the Home of a message that is not explicit or clear and that many times it constitutes over a base of the absurd and contradiction.
As I deeply think that it doesn`t exist as much painting of reveries but get close to the art of René Martín I make it sensing that apparent contemplative attitude which is reveries: the painter seems to be concentrated on seeing the surface of things, but he is seeing something that is further, or something that merely is not there. It is as if the exterior world was created in the inside of the artist. And that, not only grants to the painting a clear subjective tone, but also provides to it a rationality not so easy to appreciate.
We could try to locate that rationality in the thoroughness with which Martín is discussed in the exercise of the mimesis when he paints his landscapes. But the imitation of the forms of nature, even when required precision and art, always has some of instinctive, always seems to respond to a primitive feeling.
In the context of Cuban art, from which René Martín comes, there was a period in which the word “primitive” was used to refer to the painters that were usually known as “naif”. In both denominations always there has been a tone of soft condescension which shows distance between the authorized production from the art institution and the other that seems too move in his margins. Though, I appreciate to discover in the term “primitive” the implications that in one hand a certain humbleness between the relationships of reality and representation, and in the other, a energy that seems not yet completely domesticated from the dominant reason.
René Martín has two groups of work which answers to two figurative paradigms very well and defined and that represent both postures in front of the dialectic between the primitive and the rational. His landscapes are homage to Tomás Sánchez when they travel between realism and melancholy. It is a style( if there is still certain style in Cuban painting, it is this) which moves in the borders of contemplation and sublimation of nature while it opens to discursive possibilities associated with the conceptualization inclusive the spirituality of space.
In the other hand there is a group of work, also landscaptic, but in those the landscapes not seems to be the theme in the painting, but the context (and also the pretext) for the painting. In those cases, truly relevant in the paintings, it is not the landscape, but what happens in the landscape.
Curiously what happens in the landscape can be other landscape. This redundance produces uncertainty, it obligues us to take distance and warn the incongruity, the absurd situations, even the comic situations. We warn something in the painting that makes us restless, it worries the painting. We warn a mayor narrative deployment. The painting opens to fiction without ambages. It opens to the game.
This game can be very rich in textual tones, but always keeping a series of recurrent motives: the sky and the clouds, the mountain and the woods, the sea and the isles, the fruits. It is a reference scale to the islander condition, to the trip, to some of the obsessions of the Cuban culture, to other obsessions of the Cuban painting.
The allusions to Magritte or Dalí appear in many of those paintings as if to show without doubts which are his stylistic affiliations and conceptual. But the relocation of this signs in the space of the tropic creates new filiations. For example, in one of the paintings an insolent fork is supporting itself on the sand, but its teeth are stretched upwards while they transform in four palm trees. In the second plain, cut away against the sky, there is a group of bushes so incongruous as the giant fork. The relation of the fork with the different pains of the composition is strengthened by the drawing of the shades. There we have to understand that the shade is not representing as a lack of light. To say it clear, the paintings of René Martín always have shadows, but not somber spaces. On the contrary, the shadows are the evidence of the light. And the light is one of the protagonist of each scene.
Another of the unavoidable protagonists are the scale to which René Martín comes, is sober, precise and balanced. Always containing a warm element that can transform in the central area of the composition. In “The graft” it is the red of the watermelon that supports a forest. In the “Exotic sip” it is the color of the oranges that surround the cup. In “The traveler” it is the color red of the umbrella which hangs from the cloud over with whom it travels the forest. A similar umbrella covers the verdant that navigates in a open orange, in a second version of the work “Fresh navigator”.
The recurrence of the forest is very significant. The woods is the island, it is the traveler, it is a floating place and inasible. The forest is the dreamed place, symbol of utopia, ideal that gets consumed as a tropical stereotype or which he pine as the image of the origin. It appears as if flying over the sea, as riding on a cloud with airplane form, in the painting “Traveling without course”. Or we see him navigating-habiting-the egg shell, as if it was a caravel that has for flag a fried egg, in “To the conquer”.
What converts this paintings of René Martín in a strictly personal matter, it is the obsession with the multiple representations of the isle-woods. But yet, this which is part of the relation of the artist with his own individual identity, equally connects him with collective worries which have been sustained in the Cuban art with special emphasis, in the last three decades.
The image of the isle-wood, duality in itself, guards other dualities less harmonic as the one of plentyness and instability, the one of the stability and the eradication, the one of the exhuberance and the decadence . The fried egg is not a innocuous sign in the imagery of the postrevolution poverty. The crutches that support the isle in “Babalú”, are not just a simple allusion to the afrocuban Orisha; it refers also to the premonition of destruction. The isle that travels in an airplane evokes clearly the migratory flux that little by little wears out the Cuban society.
Exhuberance and decadency are also the terms with which René Martín sums up his ecological worries. His sight to the landscape has a lot of nature fertility cult. This cult is what impulses him to search in landscaping an ideal of purity, something absolute, which deeply contains the seed of a certain religiosity. To that bucolic vision the painter opposes the image of a contaminated landscape, in a painting entitled very appropriately “Decadence”, in which it seems the beginning of another line of work, now less close to positivity of contemplation and more inclined to the reflection over themes of social impact and universal interest.
Juan Antonio Molina.
- Sueño y decadencia en la obra de René Martín A veces los sueños se cumplen. O simplemente se transforman. Pasan a otro estado. Se encarnan. Hay muchas pinturas que parecen la encarnación de un sueño viviente. O la reencarnación de un sueño que ya habíamos dado por muerto. De hecho, toda pintura conserva una intensidad imaginaria que solamente es eq...|
- RENE MARTIN PINTOR CUBANO RESIDENTE EN MEXICO René Martín nace en 1952 en La Habana Cuba, desde 1996 vive en México. Estudió arquitectura y diseño gráfico, en 1979 comienza sus estudios en La Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Alejandro en La Habana, Cuba. En 1985 realiza su primera exposición individual y desde entonces hasta el 2014 ha realizado 60 e...|