Monólogo interior

Miguell Rasero


(Doña Mencía, Córdoba, 1955 - )

MIGUEL RASERO

Glòria Bosch

 

Every day you have to take on a new challenge, eagerly and full of life’s energy, as if alone on a tightrope: “But when the Angel is announced, stand alone to receive him. The Angel, for us, is evening fallen on the dazzling arena. If your solitude, paradoxically, is spotlighted, and the darkness made up of a thousand eyes judging you, fearing and hoping for your fall, it matters little.”[1]

 

Walking above the void... Life walks above the void, an empty hole filled with time, space, earth, anxiety and desire, but we always breathe balanced on an unstable tightrope. I observe works which, like life, are created in passing. I don’t know whether you were one of those children Berger talked about who “have the habit of hiding behind things. There they discover the interstices between different sets of the visible.”[2] The challenge, he would say, is to “touch absence”, to catch it as a fleeting encounter and hold it in that unstable equilibrium, like your tightrope walker with his levitating acrobatics, obsessed with ever lighter movements. As Genet says to Abdallah: “Tu seras cette merveille embrasée, toi qui brûles...”[3] He thinks he started the fire, while others applaud the blaze. And this is where your painting begins to take on presence and you set the colour black alight.

And every day in the studio we repeat the same gestures, hoping to produce that one painting, which is never the last, at times with a sense of futility, hollowness, the sensation that the world lives among us. Feeling excluded, outside the world, with life beating fiercely; this creates an enthusiasm you think is impossible but beautiful, an energy which, like that tightrope walker, leads you to throw a rope from one tower to another and walk between them like an angel, like a demon. Come what may, you have to try and walk across the void, feeling the wind on your cheeks, feeling yourself free up high, becoming invisible to death, making yourself present in life and, just when you think you have got the hang of it, it all slips away, and you feel the darkness, blacker and blacker each time.

 

You say you feel the need to set the blackness alight until it blinds you, and every day you keep your appointment with the void to simply exist and to open up a path that never ceases to question itself. From black to white, from wood to netting, you repeat the gesture with barely detectable different tones of voice, multiple registers that make up every artwork until it captures the naturalness of a sense or the abyss created in you by its futility in a world where resistance is not held in high esteem by most people… angel and demon?

Someone once told me that being the same person somewhere else changes everything, because we repeat the same gestures day after day and let them go in the same way. Perhaps that rope or cable thrown across the void like a bridge absorbs a different experience. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are in your studio or not, because our inner space travels everywhere with us.

I am no longer in that youthful period when “every hour, even at night, is a daylight hour”, when the night would burn bright… and yet you go back to black to set it alight until it ignites you, to illuminate that part of your life that you want art to give meaning to. Or you produce meaning as naturally as a daily sunrise, and when you get to the studio every morning you keep up this inner monologue and try to talk about what affects you even though you don’t know its exact nature. We often paint without knowing what we are painting!

 

Does the world live on without us? A 1975 drawing brings me face to face with a figure who might feel excluded from the world but at the same time can’t quite bring himself to step outside, as if this would weaken any resistance.

Calvino writes about Octavia, one of his invisible cities: “Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing…” The city hangs below; we can imagine rope ladders and other objects that correspond with your passage through the work, because it is only this net that serves as passage and support. “Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia's inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will only last so long.”[4]

I did that drawing just before I turned twenty. At that time I wanted my work to turn every day into a new adventure. I had no plan, although things were getting serious. Could I make any connections between my drawings and what I was going through? I don’t think that was very realistic, but perhaps it was the only way out I had, besides going under… I had probably already seen things by Bacon, maybe Munch’s The Scream.

I can’t remember when I first read Georg Trakl’s Song of the Departed, but his short life gave off that magical aura that made me think I wasn’t alone in the world. It was the same with other books where a misfit could find ways out through creation, anguish, pain… I was searching for tools to survive.

 

I see The Architect’s Dream, from 1998, and an untitled drawing from 1975 as one of many return journeys where time has vanished, where the experience of each step has changed but not the crisscrossed registers, the human footprint linking the circus clown with the architect. While the clown hides behind a complex mesh of symbolic registers—somewhere between Ponç’s magical sarcasm and Munch’s expressionist scream—the surprised person looking out at us appeals to us for a way out into a world free from the restraints that hold him back. Fixed by his gaze, my eyes are drawn not only to his open mouth, struck dumb perhaps by the colour of anguish, but also to the hand that reaches outside his space, as if through a window, timidly reaching outside… Does he feel excluded from the world? Taking another step, I wonder whether perhaps it isn’t the other way around: whether he isn’t afraid of us, afraid of reaching out his hand to us.

 

It is a stubble field in which a black rain falls.

It is a brown tree, which stands there alone.

It is a hissing wind, which circles empty huts.

How sorrowful this evening.

 

 

I am a shadow far from darkened villages,

I drank

God's silence from the fountain in the grove.

 

Cold metal stands upon my brow;

Spiders seek my heart,

It is a light, which goes out in my mouth.

 

At night I found myself upon a heath,

Stiff with filth and stardust.

In the hazel bush

Crystal angels rang again.

 

—Georg Trakl, “De Profundis”[5]

 

Obviously it wasn’t all so dramatic, Eros and Thanatos, Apollo and Dionysus. Nietzsche showed me both sides of the coin. I worked for two or three years on these ideas mixing the influences of Surrealism, Ponç’s world, experimenting with drugs, Odilon Redon, Max Ernst, a touch of pop-rock and a subjective take on things seen through innocent eyes. I stayed holed up in my ivory tower until one day I decided to set foot outside, into a world where the dictates of fashion and rationality had become Olympian goddesses: their realm was shaped by the pintura-pintura movement. Conceptual work was giving way to the abstract approaches of Louis Cane and Marc Devade, supported by French theorists, which now strikes me as ridiculous. What could I do in the face of such high-flying intellectualism? I had to express my trivial irrationality, my ridiculous ignorance next to the magnificent Structuralism and Freudo-Marxism. I saw my drawings as being devoured by this Franco-American Saturn and his acolytes in Barcelona.

 

The Architect’s Dream opens, receives, reflects and clearly diagnoses the idea of “the most difficult yet” because it synthesises all your journeys. You are well aware of this, and Michel Hubert said so some years ago. It is a work you need to keep close by in your exhibitions and he makes clear that you are the tightrope walker: “He is the one tightening the rope of art with the pressure of his mind, encircled by the mystery of poetry that gives us the same feeling of vertigo as when we are looking over the last parapet of life into the blackness of death.”[6] If we deconstruct the piece, the architect-cum-tightrope-walker is falling from his inherently instable position and is trying to stay on the tightrope by means of balancing on the objects, the wooden assemblage. This assemblage, in turn, no doubt makes up different views of a dream resting on the edge of the abyss and growing upwards between ideas that bring your creative project to life.

I don’t really know whether I liked it or not. On the one hand, I was surprised by the apparent lack of technique, a style that looked easy, that looks, as we still say, somewhat deludedly, as if “anyone can do that”. Plain ignorance, but then who hasn’t ever been seduced at one time or another when they think they’ll get a quick return on results! You jump on the bandwagon when these fashions are also backed up by weighty texts, if not self-absorbed navel-gazing. It goes without saying that artists are convinced that the entire universes revolves around their navel. I remember those paintings with broad brushstrokes of white repeated over and over again. Obviously, they alternated between horizontal, vertical and diagonal strokes, in a brilliant exercise of painting that no-one else had ever thought of!

 

In fact, the cycle of life turns through periods of absorption and transformation in order to restore your own sense of the human condition. All beginnings are easy to start out from. But then there’s always an external pressure to be or think in a given way. And you, as a member of the resistance caught between doubting what you ought to be and being nothing to no-one, soon grasped that you can only exist for yourself. Over the years, this “you-for-yourself” stood in stark contrast to the “one of many” from a group, one of those who didn’t know how to express their own space, didn’t have access to it or weren’t allowed to have one. Going out into the world meant devouring what was happening around you, but our Goyaesque Saturn, that emotional and social painting whose critical voice remains strong, would warn us of all the Saturns at large that will devour us in the future.

The followers of Trama magazine in Barcelona were, needless to say, fanatics on this point. It is true that one of their wives secretly confessed that her husband didn’t understand a word of it and that writing a one-page article for the magazine was enough to drive him to tears… This experience—which, I have to say, to someone of my cultural level was as traumatic as reading Deleuze and Guattari—simply served to make me aware that, even if you make mistakes, simply walking along the path and enjoying the act of looking at things, the landscape and people as total beings is far more worthwhile than following imposed rules, a practice that leads to assertions devoid of any natural expression, battering my nervous system for no real benefit.

 

How can we rise up above the conditions of this creative framework that varies depending on certain situations but which never ceases to hamper our own search for meaning? Going back to the figure in your 1975 drawing, this might have been someone scared of leaving their ivory tower and venturing out like a tightrope walker, someone uncertain of what to do after inheriting something or becoming involved in something, someone unable to remain here who resolves to fight to be himself as one of a multitude of possibilities and to salvage whatever he can use to be himself or else be condemned not to be. When you left your ivory tower, you had to elude impacts and influences, discover and discard trends at the core of your work, which helps explain this self-transcendental resistance.

I think I came to the conclusion that all this pintura-pintura and Supports/Surfaces was so interesting that I had no other option than to look elsewhere. I looked back at, among other things, Greek vase painting, simple black lines on terracotta yet with a sophisticated design, and the ancient frescos in Pompeii. Naples is home to various beautiful examples from this period and, once again starting from scratch, I left Larionov and Goncharova’s Rayonism and the whole of Russian painting behind, as well as the French and Spanish painting I mentioned earlier. I stayed with Motherwell and Rothko and forged ahead, accepting Cézanne as my guide, as well as Morandi and Spanish baroque painting. Obviously everything seeped in through so many open pores. I mean, I was still like a sponge… In a way, I see myself as a musician who likes to change outfit depending on the type of music I am playing.

 

While you are delving into Georg Trakl’s poetic world, I want to focus for a moment on Victor Frankl, the Viennese neurologist and psychiatrist, to analyse the forces and movements which, almost as the result of a collective neurosis, sweep us along in certain periods, as in the case of that fretful follower of Trama magazine faced with having to write an article… But you soon saw that the individual has the ability to rise up, you understood (like Calvino in his prophetic memos for the new millennium) that lightness masks a contrast between the corporeal and the ethereal, as made clear in the solidity of your work and your versatile use of resources, in the suggestions that often dissolve into the lightness of the represented space and the weight that anchors it.

I must have done my first painting exercises when I was about fourteen, at school. I think Picasso came first, with Dalí close behind. Dalí fascinated me. Painting was a way of getting noticed, of being different. Not only because my sexuality was beginning to take shape, or perhaps because of that, but I wanted to blur things by letting my French teacher, M. Crusset, talk me into performing Marcel Marceau’s Le Papillon and singing Brassens and Brel. To me, Dalí’s eccentricity made him someone to imitate. Obviously, to a shy boy like me he was, as I said, “pure fascination”: he represented freedom. At night, before going to sleep, I told myself to remember my dreams so I could paint them the following day, and that is how I got the material for my first paintings.

 

Dreams as material for your first paintings… If everything inside is all jumbled up, why make the effort to sort it all out outside? It is simply about the act of building, building yourself with the mixture of everything we experience, feel or dream as immediate experiences, and searching for metaphors to link the two processes: life and work. A process in which I am drawn back to some thoughts of Calvino, the idea of the empty bucket “raising you above the level where one finds both the help and the egoism of others; the empty bucket, symbol of privation and desire and seeking, raising you to the point at which a humble request can no longer be satisfied”. A whole host of reflections lead us to the final need of this empty bucket from Franz Kafka’s short story “Der Kübelreiter” [“The Bucket Rider”, translated by Calvino as “The Knight of the Bucket”], a bucket that lets us fly into the future “without hoping to find anything more in it than what we ourselves are able to bring to it”.[7] And we are back to the tightrope walker as a fire starter, with nothing more than his own ability to reach out to us while keeping his balance as he levitates.

As a teenager, I was aware of being nothing, and maybe it was at that point that I began to try and build myself. It is one explanation. It is also true that I wasn’t interested in immediate reality. I was driven by both fear and energy to listen to music, devour books, watch films and take the world by storm. This was the same life energy that opened up new things to me… and I went to the Acadèmia Baixas, at the Galeries Maldà, to study for the Fine Art exam. There I was surrounded by the memory of Nonell and plaster casts of Greek statues. I tried to draw them, but they were too old and musty for me. It was also where I met my first fellow traveller on my search for more sophisticated Surrealism while wandering the streets of the Gothic Quarter, which led to my first Ponç-inspired drawings. My first Marxist readings. I found reading Trotsky just as revealing as reading Rimbaud; I was just as interested in the origins of the Engels family as I was in Cortázar’s Rayuela. Drinking deeply from all these founts, I was influenced equally by Bacon’s brazenness as by Arranz Bravo and Bartolozzi, Llimós and Jorge Castillo, De Chirico, Cézanne and Constructivism. I would spend whole afternoons at the cinema. Endless reading, love and rock in the time of Les Enfants Terribles and Jazz Colón. I gobbled up one ism after another... until one day I decided it was time to straighten things out.

 

I can recommend a book by Enrique Vila-Matas, Perder teorías (Leaving Theories Behind, as in one of his favourite lines by Pessoa, “Leave countries behind!”), which brings us to a question posed by Robbe-Grillet: “Is a theory a coherent set of methods which allows us to act and understand the world? In that case, I have no theories.” Like you in your art, Vila-Matas has seen theories come and go: ”All the beliefs, fashions and literary theories he had heard of came falling down from a great height.”[8]

 

Here is summer the violent season

And my youth is dead like the springtime

Oh Sun it is the time of ardent Reason

—Apollinaire

 

It all happened very quickly. Things went up and things came down again. I guess I couldn’t bear a monotonous life. Sometimes you felt like you were on top of the world; at others, you felt empty without divine inspiration, and you reached for a bottle or gin or whatever. Deep inside, you swung between quivering fear and miraculous harmony. Old jeans and long hair helped give you the courage to rebel against punishment and blame. Sometimes, your brain was just plain lazy, but you followed the dazzling deadly sins in a trance until they melted and you fused with them. But the spinning wheel of the imagination spun furiously every night, with the hope of gaining entry to the stuff of art, the universe of its salvation.

 

The sediment always remains if we know how to separate off what is valid to us, but since everything changes and we change it “without ever forgetting the natural uncertainty of our customs and opinions”, the only theory possible responds to your own invention, which offers us a hope of moving forward from uncertainty in the creative process. But, like you after creating a piece, for him formulating a theory was “akin to getting rid of it, leaving behind an oppressive gestation and being able to regain the longed-for freedom of a vacant spirit”.[9]

But who am I? Who was I then? Who did I want to be? What was my plan? “At that time, and in my condition of almost perpetual intoxication, the whole of existence struck me as one vast unity. The intellectual and physical spheres appeared to be no more contradictory than did the life at Court and that of animals, than art and non-art, or than solitude and society. I perceived nature in all things: in the aberrations of madness as surely as in the most exacting refinements of Spanish ceremonial.”[10] My life had been built without order, without method. Images had been piling up, one on top of another. I shook off as much as I could and, although I had my first exhibition in 1975, I stayed out of the art market until 1983. But that is another story...

Those early years taught me several things. First, not to hold out against influences: I could learn as much from a drawing by Klee as one by Leonardo da Vinci, as much from a painting by Fra Angelico as one by Zurbarán, as much from German Expressionists as from the Pre-Raphaelites. But the time had come for me to forge a path of my own or, to put it another way, to choose my own “subject”.

 

“I want to know who I am, where I’m going, where I’ve come from,” says Hrabal. “Who stands with me and who against me, what there is above me and what below. Both paths!”[11] With him, we can peel off the clothes of the unconscious and rummage in his repository of thoughts and feelings, or even identify with Arnold Schönberg in the talk he gave shorty before he died: “I wonder sometimes who I am.”

Painting is simply the result of developing an inner monologue, my work: “creating our own signs, modifying or reworking the ones imposed upon us”.[12] Through painting, we talk to ourselves and the world about the things that affect us in some way. What to paint? What triggers the first pencil line, the first brushstroke? Internal machinery with its own mechanism. Decisions are created by different combinations within this mechanism. In a green space, we can bring together as many colours as we like; a drawing can go off on an infinite number of paths. Why have we stopped at this green we mixed with a little ochre, blue, red, yellow…? Why did we stop drawing that pear once we had the circular base of the lower sphere, before jumping over to a semicircle on the right of the sphere that is now an ellipse? Chi lo sa? The memory of a line by Cézanne, a green from Balthus in that shaded inside where there is no object in front of us to look at or, if there is, we pass it by to create our own fusion, heading for the harmony of the whole in the style of Satie or Schönberg.

 

Does painting emerge from an inner monologue or is the inner monologue just a way of encouraging it? We look through works that bring together different periods in your life and yet everything emerges like the process of a dialogue that needs several settings to express itself, while you—“like a musician who likes to change outfit depending on the type of music he is playing”—use every tone of voice.

The screen, the canvas, turns, stops, listens and takes in the scene. This is created through flashback and still camera, framing in the style of Eisenstein; it can be lit like the baroque of Caravaggio or the camera of Moholy-Nagy; the painting slowly takes shape and—almost without realising it—we gradually oil the whole ineffable mechanism. That is when that “true poetic moment” can appear, when dealing one-on-one with colour, drawing or whatever we are working on, when we forget what we know and start to wander through the painting with the tools we have lifted from elsewhere, and we create in our own way free of oppressive methodological constraints. These imperatives necessarily have to be overcome, played with without warning, for fun, for oneself, to continue this nonsense process, not knowing where you are going, but in the meantime building a new image for your own universe… “All true subjectivity is a difficult achievement,”[13] according to Emerson.

 

The inner monologue inches forward along a taut thread that sags under the weight of a metaphor about human fragility, but vertigo and fear of falling into the abyss tighten it once more. The inner monologue that walks along the unsteady work is always the result of a collaboration with the painting, volume, text or score. In the same way that spaces refuse to be inhabited unless you have presented yourself beforehand. Likewise, the thread we walk along affects the collective that won’t feel excluded from your painting if, from its own core resistance, it is able to light its own flame, even if you have lit your own, because the fire goes out if there is no other fire starter to nurture the work. And so back to Genet.

On other occasions in this process, I have looked around—inside and out—in search of a place to position myself where I can see, but I haven’t managed to find it. From this inner blindness, it is impossible to say anything, shaken from one place to another, hearing the breath of the black void. The only hope of leaving comes from the heavy pain that suffocates you… Arguably, the Bible, Shakespeare and Freud show us trapped in a psychic conflict caused by our need to be everything within us, all the while fearing that we have nothing inside. And we react, and the dance of the new painting begins all over again…. But going back to the “subject”. It is hard to say what exactly is involved in finding the subject, deciding to what extent we are free to choose one way or another. Why of all the infinite possibilities did I choose a still life, De Vegetabilibus, those pieces of wood or Constructivism? You wander through the woods and stop at one oak among many, at a spot where the freshly dug earth forms an angle with low-lying thyme and rosemary, while the blue of the sky slips between the grey clouds and you feel you have always been there, a moment of harmony when you and everything are almost one and the same… How did that moment come about?

That moment of beauty is a mystery that only science would attempt to describe; the experience in itself is the crux of the matter. “Petrarch would spend hours on end contemplating the mountain, even though he reproached himself for that aesthetic pleasure.”[14] Pleasure is an important goal in my life. The opposite happens anyway, my Christian upbringing is a great support for that.

 

“Changing words” with Mallarmé or “changing your life” with Rimbaud? Images that start to speak for you and about you, the canvas that becomes a window… It doesn’t matter if you start off at a distance and travel backwards… Is it a search for answers, to hear a conflict that is always repeated or perhaps to confront our intertwined fears of finding nothing inside us?

My “subject” has always been the subjects in my work, as well as my influences. I started with those pencil-and-ink drawings, where method was imposed by Surrealist automatism. From there I moved on to other ideas which, from a certain political and social awareness, alerted me to the fact that the outside world had to be analysed and I had to take a position. They were my first attempts at combining drawing and painting, exploratory forays influenced by images from different sources, from Saura to Adami. Then I discovered the kind of painting that was in fashion when I was between twenty and twenty-five, as I said: American Expressionism, Arte Povera, Tel Quel, etc. I also took a long look at Russia, Larionov and Rayonism. This period helped me come to terms with colour: I mixed and mixed, I filled sheet after sheet of paper, I used up tin after tin of paint… That done, I emerged from the woods and build to fill my own home with my first still lifes: paper, corrugated cardboard, pigments, dyes and the private world of everyday objects. Though calm at first, this world became full of frenzied imbalances, explosions of dripped colours, disjointed supports where an apple jostled with a pear or a bottle spilled out on an unclassifiable table over a dog holding down a bone with its paw, beams of light swirling around a carved-up guitar watched over by the empty eyes of the skull of a long-dead ancestor…

 

Did you know that Hrabal saw himself as a grave robber? “I am who I am, or rather I am others”.[15] And he watched his own life pass by as he went up and down the mountain on the Grüm ski lift, exchanging tired yet deep and fleeting glances with passing chairs, suspended in Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence”, because, as we all know, what goes around comes around.

Shortly afterwards, I found out that our trendy contemporaries were going crazy over Sandro Chia and Enzo Cucchi, that the Italian trans-avant-garde was taking on the brutal Germans, Kiefer above all, and lording it over them. It was pleasant surprise, all that euphoria and drive hand-in-hand with that majestic, alcoholic army headed by Pollock that degenerated into affected French exercises. That group fired us up and revived a kind of painting that others were busy killing off. And those of us who wanted to paint were free to do so, so we went for it! The almost empty scene in front of us, after so much analysis of small matters, became an endless horizon full of perspective where we could ride across the canvas, enjoy ourselves, revel in it and even make ourselves feel important with unbridled freedom. It obviously wasn’t all fun and games—the market always prevails—but that didn’t stop us from having a good time.

 

I remember Jostein Gaarder talking about how our everyday normality stifles us and keeps us from questioning things, thinking about ourselves or forming part of a “journey of ideas”. It wasn’t only a question of forgetting this immediacy that obstructs us and turns us into robots, but also learning to be wary of those intellectual edifices that can “fall down like a house of cards at any moment”. Your tightrope walker never tires of setting the black alight in your paintings or searching for a transparent white, at times racing into structures like connected rooms in the air that give colour the chance to exercise its visual influence over form and space… Malevich?

“If only you could know,” wrote Petrarch to a friend, “how happy I am wandering over mountains, through woods and across streams completely free and entirely alone.”[16] It rained on Tuesday and Mount Benet had never looked more impressive. A few drops were still falling onto the house. Snails were beginning to crawl across the damp grass, pulling their shell with them, waving their stalks in the air and enjoying the late-afternoon breeze, before climbing up the stone wall, through the pile of raked leaves left lying around the fig tree, under a flat, grey sky flecked with brown and blue. Suddenly, the mountain was lit up in a fiery earthy yellow, as if a great wall made out of the same primordial clay God had used to fashion man had suddenly come into being… But paradise is not to be found in any one place, but rather, as Novalis saw it, “scattered across the earth”. For a number of years, I worked on De Vegetabilibus, a series I produced in my new house in Terra Alta. Contemplation of nature, reading María Zambrano and others, the need to make this experience one more chapter in my life. I turned again to Cézanne, Poussin, Sargent, Ruskin, but none of them held the key.

 

Why this and not that? Cézanne’s encounter with his mountain in Aix-en-Provence? Your encounter through your ties with Joan Manuel Bonet in Carta desde mi Sainte Victoire?[17] Berger’s encounter embracing the gap between appearing and disappearing? The canvas or other medium listens to and receives the scene, path or pathways you pass through in your painting, from one work to the next. The encounter forms part of this long chain of ties that let you build an image for your universe, every time, whatever the subject.

The magic of this work has its own secret and you almost never get the keys to it. When that is the case, repetition and boredom drive your efforts into a dry, barren rut; when that is the case, a glorious parade of images appear that begin to speak for you and of you, images that condense all the grammar you have taken on board, and the painting becomes a window that reflects the space where, like portraits, you see the book you read, the shady spot in the woods, the subjective geometry of the trunk through which the sap of your imagination flows, that detail of a painting you once looked at, and from all this a new sign is born, one more letter for your revived vocabulary.

 

Glenn Gould plays music like someone who doesn’t quite know what they are doing, taking faltering steps. We move through life in the same way, while André Breton, in Nadja, sets out what he has ceased to be in order to be who he is. We could continue with the recurring question that appears throughout history or listen to someone who legitimises the process of who we are, Milan Kundera, leaving to one side “the philosophies of the substantial self and the philosophies of the absence of the self”.[18]

And that is how this series took shape. Winter started its round with blacks and whites. Well, never whites, but whites made from layers of off-white handmade paper, maybe from India or perhaps from one of those artisan workshops that started up in Catalonia. They weren’t whites, or they were off-whites, but they looked white in contrast with the blacks, which weren’t black but dark almost-blacks, paper dyed with brown, black and red pigments, plus glue, lots of glue, and earth from the fields with lots of glue and more black, a deep intense black, with bits of grass, twigs, more and more glue, and more black mixed with ochres and browns and greens, until it became a black sea where multicoloured flashing fires sailed over the surface of black. Winter spoke from inside the earth, from the depths to the surface; black made itself the soul of the painting like a brave Samurai warrior. Black slit open its belly to spout blood, and from this wound blood pumped like food to the surface. And the tree, with its roots anchored in this well of life, strives to reach the light and bear fruit.

Spring. The sky is clear, the greens are open. They stretch and shine like endless regiments or organised hunters in pursuit of love to multiply the flowers to fashion the jubilant and promiscuous cloak-bouquet of flaming poppies and gardens where loneliness can gain no access.

Autumn. The soul shuts itself away, curls up on the edge of a mauve corner, recedes gently into itself, falling between the senses and, between them and with them, keeping pace with the decline of the full splendour of its ochres, earthy golden browns, takes on the adagio of nature and begins her dance in the wind.

 

The seasons as a circular path that matches your different creative stages. From this forest full of things that haphazardly works its way inside us…

Summer. Time here is sometimes slow, monotonous, and makes you feel like you were stuck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by a dead calm. Nothing moves, not even a leaf. The earth breathes through the cicadas and the shy song of the occasional bird—sounds of silence. The deep and even blue of the sky beats down into the dry ochres of the earth—more sounds of silence. Summer, still a delightful season in this little “garden of delights” surrounded by family and friends gathered around the pond under the splendid mulberry tree, chatting, laughing and playing in the Camp de la Badia... Belle époque! The De Vegetabilibus series came into being here, at the foot of my own Sainte Victoire, as Juan Manuel Bonet wrote one day. Mount Benet is right in front of the house, majestic and upright, standing like a giant totem that hypnotises you, changing with the hours. In the morning, the sun is on its back; at noon, it is a shining crown on its forehead that lets you discern its forms; in the afternoon, with its splendid tan, the rock is like a blazing goddess fit for adoration. Miguel, how about making some gazpacho? And summer is over. The seasons turn again, nature trapped in its round of eternal recurrence, and I want to continue my walk, but my body and soul need other sustenance.

That oak which appeared in front of me while I was out walking, like a lofty monument to nature, has already served its purpose. The caduta della foglia became detritus fit only for feeding the earth. A friend of mine now sells wild flowers, elegantly wrapped in paper vases, next to Turó Park. And the silence of summer has already become part of the piano piece by John Cage.

 

To the mixture that dissolves and clears the path. In the end, as always, after the leaves fall, it is time for painting to be regenerated and reinvented.

I am pondering the idea of depth and surface, from top to bottom, from inside to out, perhaps searching for a truth… But is there any truth? The key lies only in the work itself. Unlike in most murder mysteries, truth does not out. The deeper you get into the search for the murderer (truth), the bigger and bigger the doubts become: unanswered questions pile up and truth becomes multifaceted, unattainable. In my work, paintings are nothing but metaphors. You use them to describe your doubts, your questions, even though there may be no answers, a continuum of images that rewrite the language your walk through as hieroglyphics. Painting never stops being anything but a way of thinking, shedding light, illuminating, approaching the world, not hiding from it. Why did I choose this work? Season after season, one subject after another, one technique after another, one moment after another... What holds my work together, with all its different periods? A “certain poetry” some critics have said and there is doubtless a common thread, but where is it? What is it based on? As sometimes happens, as with De Vegetabilibus, after starting the series I came by María Zambrano’s book Los bienaventurados [The Blessed] and I realised that my roots and feelers were trying to talk about the same thing, and yet I had the feeling that there was only silence, that kind of silence where even the presence of silence is absence.

 

Sometimes I ask myself who I am, like María Zambrano when she wasn’t certain she could write about her life “unless it was,” as she put it, “what I have already created, without realising it, in my books and, above all, in my life”. The question comes back time and again, but gets lost among all those restless others that refuse to be pinned down, those others that each of us can be.

 

A parenthetical aside and aesthetic experience

It only lasted a moment. I suddenly wanted to condense the feeling that came over me in a single word. I didn’t know where it was to be found, whether to the north or to the south, further east or to the west, above or below. My mouth went dry and I felt the breath of fresh imprisonment. Freedom cast its shadow over me and I looked at it with such contemplable disdain that in a moment it faded. Something so specific—I told myself—cannot be.

Reality, life, is an outrageous ambiguity made up of a thousand facets, like an infinite polyhedron, like an infinite Cubist composition. The images led me to Morandi. So it was that this simple painting metamorphosed before my eyes into innocence, into wisdom: three shades smoothly painted, drawn from the vibration of an invisible line with serene and warm strokes, objects settling like a dream of silence. Morandi’s silence is like the first dream of man, unpolluted, distant and deep, without fanfare, like the realisation of the first memory of our identity. And although moving away, it always returns to what it is that makes it unmistakable and ours, to that eternal melody in which we recognise ourselves.

 

Who am I? Some years ago, after searching for creative associations in the multifaceted vision of Calvino’s invisible cities, I invited a group of artists with very different languages and concepts to share their personal visual reflections while I moved through the writings of Clarice Lispector. Angela Pralini, the heroine in her book Um Sopro de Vida [A Breath of Life], becomes a reflection on the meaning of life and the creative process, right where spoken words hide others, because the world is never to be found at the surface.

But I fear that being an “artist” entails endless uncertainty. We wander off, asking ourselves questions we don’t know how to answer, like eternal teenagers searching for ourselves in gestures, words, images. Eager for the encounter to occur, we invoke gods, angels and demons, reason, the earth, flesh, everything our civilisation has placed at our disposal, sometimes in a bout of innocent euphoria, if not the anguish Balthus was grateful for because it led him to paint. We search for the absolute, even though we find only “bits and pieces”, a certain harmony that unblocks the gesture of nausea, but the encounter doesn’t happen; it envelops you, absorbs you and sucks you up. But against nausea—today we ought to call it something else—to ease the pain there is the perfumed pose of jasmine, finely chopped onion caramelising on the stove and wild roses embracing the landscape of your neck.

Miguel Rasero

 

Transformation, mobility and, ultimately, a self that eludes us, a self that lost its way and needs a compass, while knowing that uncertainty is part of us, while knowing that it is just an excuse to point in a known direction, one sometimes used as a mask to hide questions and silence. While your rhythms fuse with those of nature, let me close with an entreaty by Lispector’s heroine: “I’m an Anonymous Society. An open parenthesis. Please close me.”[19] Your architecture—whether as a wooden assemblage or a constructive composition—never fully closes as it balances above the void.

 

[1] Jean Genet, “The Tightrope Walker”, in Fragments of the Artwork (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003).

[2] John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002).

[3] “You will be that glowing wonder, you who burn…”, in Jean Genet, “The Tightrope Walker”.

[4] Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (London: Vintage Books, 1997).

[5] Georg Trakl. Song of the Departed: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl, trans. Robert Firmage (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2012).

[6] Michel Hubert, “Las estructuras constructivistas de Miguel Rasero. El pensamiento hecho plástica”, in Miguel Rasero. Elogio de las orquídeas (Córdoba: Ayuntamiento de Córdoba / Cajasol Fundación / Fundación Provincial de Artes Plásticas Rafael Botí / Universidad de Córdoba, 2009).

[7] Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, trans. Patrick Creagh (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

[8] Enrique Vila-Matas, Perder teorías (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2010).

[9] Enrique Vila-Matas, op. cit.

[10] Hugo von Hofmannsthal, The Lord Chandos Letter, trans. Russell Stockman (Evanston, IL: Marlboro Press, 1986).

[11] Bohumil Hrabal, Quién soy yo (Barcelona: Destino, 1992).

[12] Félix de Azúa, Autobiografía sin vida (Barcelona: Mondadori, 2010).

[13] Harold Bloom, Essayists and Prophets (New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2006).

[14] Glòria Bosch, “A vegades em pregunto qui sóc…”, in Qui sóc? (Girona / Porto Alegre (Brazil): Museu d’Art de Girona / Secretaria Municipal da Cultura de Porto Alegre, 2000).

[15] Bohumil Hrabal, Quién soy yo.

[16] Ignacio Gómez de Liaño, Paisajes del placer y de la culpa (Madrid: Tecnos, 1990).

[17] Juan Manuel Bonet and Miguel Rasero, Carta desde mi Sainte Victoire (Barcelona: Àmbit, 1993).

[18] Enrique Vila-Matas, Perder teorías.

[19] Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life, trans. Johnny Lorenz (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2014).