domingo, 10 de junio de 2012
Oleo sobre lino
JORGE CHECO AND THE ART OF STILL LIFE PAINTING
By Eduardo Marceles
Critic of Art and independent curator established in New York City where he works as the Cultural Editor and Director of VIDA, the art an entertainment weekly publication for HOY newspaper
Translated by Maximo Encarnacion
Jorge Checo`s painting shows a determined exaltation of nature. His still life paintings with tropical fruits such as bananas, custard apples, coconuts, honey berries, papayas, avocados, or the appetizing watermelons and the delicious mangos are shelled on a table like coming out of a cornucopia of abundance. They are eloquent symbols of the fertility of the land, a generous mother who permits our subsistence in the middle of everyday vicissitudes. His compositions are a summary of balance and a singular taste for the vivid and iridescent colors of the Caribbean tropic transformed into humble tools for farming or in the ingredients for the preparation of an appetizing sancocho. In his work, one perceives a precise and careful draftsman who knows how to take advantage of the sensual roundness or the succulent pulps, and also of those rough or smooth peels of the fruits in a luminous atmosphere.
Furthermore, he assimilates the birds, be they the talkative small parrots or the modest hens from the backyard, which with their bright colors, provide a domestic dimension to his still life paintings. Of course, his works actualize a subject matter that has found the favour of numerous artists throughout the history of art. Still life painting dates from the most distant antiquity when artists, whose names have been lost through the passage of history, made the first illusionist compositions on the mosaics found in the ruins of Pompey, for example, in the full effect of the Roman Empire. This tradition disappears, as many others, in Medieval Times when just religious ideas prevailed, up to when, in the Renaissance, it emerges again, either as part of the decoration of a portrait or as an autonomous discipline divided by diverse trends.
Right after Luther`s Reform, in the XVI century, the moralist conception became popular in the countries of Northern Europe. This emphasized the so called vanitas vanitaes (Vanity of Vanities), and in visual arts this is translated into still life paintings, whose nucleus is a selected collection of objects for reminding the observer the brevity of life such as clocks, skulls, butterflies, books, candles that melt as life itself, or flowers as symbols of ephemeral beauty. The meaning of these still life paintings transcends its nominal value in order to insinuate a complex network of associations of religious nature such as bread and wine to represent the Eucharist, even though later, still life paintings that vindicate their decorative nature are developed in vases or in appetizing fruits, which emphasize the painter`s virtuosity.
According to the epoch, still life painting took different ways in the personal interpretation. In the XVII and XVIII centuries, for example, an ampler vision in kitchen interiors was developed in France by prominent painters like Oudry and his hunt animals, or Chardin in simple compositions of domestic utensils or ingredients for the preparation of foods. Contrary to the prodigal and lustful still life paintings of Flamencos, let us remember Pillen Claesz or Pieter Aertsen, the Spanish painters of the Baroque such as Sánchez Cotán or Zurbarán are examples of austerity, even though they have visual forcefulness in the handling of the still life painting theme.
The advent of the neoclassic period decayed, but for the academics of the XIX century and the beginnings of the XX century, it was a mere technical exercise. It was not so for the impressionists who exploited the luminous effects of color in vases overflowed with tulips, roses, sunflowers, abundant fruits like the famous apples of Cezanne, whose chromatic sensuality had a later influence in the development of Cubism. It is exactly in the full cubist peak, towards 1912, when Picasso enters in still life painting with a rattan background and sisal frame, which he systematizes later, together with George Braque in the so called “collage” , paper or pasted wastes, sometimes repainted on a canvas surface.
In a more recent epoch, during his whole life, the Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) kept loyal to the simple still life paintings with bottles in sober tones close to the monochrome. In Colombia, it has been the favourite theme for acknowledged painters like Fernando Botero, David Manssur, and Dario Morales in sculpture. At the same time, in Puerto Rico, it was a recurrent theme in the painting of Francisco Oller and Cesteros, one of the most celebrated still life painters of fruit arrangements, bottles, teapots, and domestic elements.
In the “in front of the mirror” trend that was propelled by the Biennial of Venice in one of its recent versions, that is to say, the artistic manifestations, which in present times, reflect the art from the past. Now the idea is rejuvenating that valuable heritage that has always been an artistic patrimony of humankind, and Jorge Checo is one of its sharpest exponents in the Caribbean. In fact, we refer to a painter who delights himself with the lively colors of his land and wants to share the admiration that derives from his love for nature with the world.