A RAGE TO PAINT
By Cid Reyes
So obvious is the fact that no one seems to bother even saying it: an artist, in whatever field, must be viscerally, even obsessively, connected to his material, so involved with it as to constitute a passion, an obsession to draw from this substance the very spirit of his art. To wit: a writer must be in love with the use of words to communicate a narrative or ideas. A musician, using the instrument of his choice, must first take delight in sound, per se, before he can even string the notes in any melodic or harmonious sequence. A filmmaker or director must be driven by his sheer enthusiasm for the illusion of moving images. Just the touch of raw materials such as stone, marble, bronze, wood, metal, or glass, is enough to engender in a sculptor an intense desire to shape it, to release, as Michelangelo said and did, the figure trapped within it. And for an artist, a painter….
By his own admission, Cezar Arro, who is now holding his fifth solo show, “Still Lifes” at Galerie Anna, is addicted (his own word!) to paint. The fleshiness and glow of oils, the plasticity and versatility of acrylics, the delicacy and transparency of watercolor….all these mediums work their own possession, of an artist’s soul, invigorating and driving his spirit to create visual expressions until, as Arro himself describes his own experience, finally drained.
The title of the show – “Still Lifes” –might puzzle the viewer. Was it intentional on the artist’s part? As we all know, a still life is a painting of inanimate objects, such as fruit, flowers, etc., often arranged on a table. A species of still life was called the vanitas, which presents an assembly of objects that suggest the passage of time, such as clocks, hourglasses, melting candles, withering flowers, and more symbolically, butterflies, which, for all their graceful and entrancing beauty and fragility, do not live for long. All these images bespeak of a singular truth: the transcience of life, the mortality of man.
Did Cezar Arro imply this crucial message in his “Still Lifes”? For what the artist has presented is a heavy downpour, a cascading bath of watery pigments, descending, splashing, on a naked male figure, awash in all the blending polychromatic pigments. Do these works speak for the artist himself? For indeed he is dramatically portrayed with a palette of colors and a paintbrush gripped by his hand? That a work is titled “Exploring the New World of Arro” should suffice to answer the question.
Endowing his pigments with the magical power of transformation, Arro achieves a complete identification between the vocation of an artist and his medium. Through changing physical poses, he achieves various dimensions of existential struggle and turmoil, and thus Arro has entered into a very personal region, conveying the message that while an artist is inspired by the act of creation, his commitment to his art is also paved along the way with incalculable challenges. Realistically speaking, we can point to the example of Van Gogh, an inspiring precedent, who endured and struggled through extreme and maddening difficulties, and who was said to have sold only one painting in his lifetime! Alas, we, too, have been witness to a number of talented young artists, who, after years of commercial failures, finally just surrendered to life’s “injustice” and gave up painting completely.
And thus, we are confronted the question: Is an artist’s life an “unstill life”?
There are two striking works in the show: one is titled “Landscape,” which cleverly depicts the artist literally painting himself into a framed canvas, an utter consummation of his being into his art. The other, with a playfully worded title “Self pour trait of Frida Kahlo,” is a portrayal of the tragic Mexican artist, emerging from a dazzling downpour of paint, her hand wielding the brush that has caused her into existence. Veritably, this work is a “tour de force,” a triumph of visual autobiography.
And so, with these two works, Cezar Arro, still raging to paint, has justified his own unique concept of “still life.”