THE PAINTING HAPPENS
It is common among artists, at certain points of their careers, without really knowing why, that they are forced to contemplate the status of their work through different prisms. Used to living immersed in their work, their apparently clear perception of their work, one sometimes finds oneself, all of a sudden, with a lot of open fronts; disseminated “centres” here and there that do nothing more than confuse the artist himself/herself and destabilise something they believed to be deeply rooted. It is usually comforting to know where the centre is and what comes from it, but with time the work suffers. The plurality of centres in the work of an artist can only confirm that the work is alive, that it can advance in any direction, often unexpectedly. And for an artist, they must be passionate moments.
In Javier Riera’s work we are at one of those moments. And it is strange to see how this multi-centric situation arises at a time of climax. Approximately two years ago Riera confirmed a turnabout whereby he left painting to one side which he had been involved in for a decade. Feeding on a conceptual plot, its origins lay in the relation between what in general terms we know as “figure” and “background” and which, in this case we name “blotch” and “background”. In the paintings between 2005 and 2006 the painter deleted that duality to centre on the value and the quality of the image in itself. In fact, that new image, which floats over black backgrounds, underlying its iconic nature, seems to be made from the elements that fed the previous work and which were those that gave shape to a new idea of deeply rooted landscape in all his work since the outset of the nineties. The peak came with some large sized, black paintings over which dynamic lines that crossed the surface in a horizontal direction were drawn.
They were striking because of the intense light without losing their great refinement and having something purifying in them, as if the artist had arrived at a lucky journey’s end that was most comforting but which, as we would go on to see later, it would only turn out to be the start of what his work is today. Those pictures clearly stated the new road: a clear, sharp image, in which everything was condensed through the type of brush stroke with regular, uniform cadence, which is now one of the artist’s identifying signs.
We cannot ignore the importance of the recent incursion into photography during the last movements. Riera works, and I think he does so in an completely coherent way, on capturing images of natural landscapes in semidarkness. And he does so, significantly, through the projection of light shapes through forests.
As mentioned in the paintings from 2006, Riera shows a clear interest in the geometrical shape rather than his former blotches, more gestural and violent. And if in his photographs the image is imposed on a background, in his paintings the images arise out of it, they are extracted from the background.
In his last paintings we find ourselves before images that are found in different stages of development. There are more complete ones and more incipient ones, and it is thus his transit is visible. It is interesting to see images where different times converge, with areas that evolve from unequal rhythms. One gets the feeling that we are before the gestation of these images in a single period of time, that something is happening before us. Creation and contemplation in the same time frame.
This gestation “in real time” takes place in paintings on a background other than his usual black and he turns towards greys becoming clearer. The completed shapes are made to stand out, full, over those that are still only incipient. Spaces of contrast arise in the same way, shapes that move between reality and the spectrum. Becoming painting.
In one of the best paintings in this last series, an orangey shape appears to have taken the foreground and is confirmed as a completed shape, awaiting the arrival of the rest. And this painting in progress, painting that is happening, has its own reason to be because of the detained presence of the light. For a couple of years, the beams of light run over the surface of the paintings, and over these it is installed, becoming fully visible.
At the time Riera spoke quoting John Berger, as how the light of Vermeer filled a room like a jet of water fills a tank. The continued presence of light as a creating entity, light as an extended presence, also creates and contemplates the painting at the same time. But Javier Riera is also interested in the image as a whole. From the offering, those that arise from the crystals of water, to the new shapes we see in these exhibits, the image vibrates from the inner movement that is invisible to our eyes. An enigma arises out of these shapes. They are images that also refer to a shared time, without abandoning an unmistakable organic appearance; they work as emblems, as a celebration of their own fullness and maturity. They impose themselves, gleaming over the black background, light interspersed in their folds, as if showing off its vital energy, its creating magic.