THE ARISTOCRACY OF ARTISTIC FORMS
On more than one occasion, historically, when dealing with the subject of aesthetic forms, these have been resolutely defined in terms of perfection of relationships. This has occurred, above all, in the so-called “analytical option” of contemporary art, in the frame of which that stubborn search for perfection of relationships has not only been catapulted to the forefront but has also been converted into an explicit leitmotif, capable of presiding over the deployment of its plastic proposals, justly commending its regulation to a whole series of structural resources, with a clear geometrical basis.
No doubt this may be a simple starting point which is well worth bearing in mind when approaching the collection of works which – in a partial retrospective – José María Yturralde offers us.
However, it is, of course, not the only approach that may be called upon, above all if we wish to escape certain simplifications. For, together with the aforementioned entries of evident structural vocation, we are also presented, with no lesser frequency, with the recurring theme of pictorial space. A space which, with equal possibilities, makes room at its heart for the structuring presence of geometrical strategies in the evolution of its compositional division, just as it may itself be generated – as pictorial exercise – starting precisely from the repeated addiction of those specific structural resources, thus converted from delimiting guideline into constituent correlation, from regulating arbiter into serial modular omnipresence. And possibly, depending on the case, even assuming both functions simultaneously in the aforesaid spatial conformation, the truly compositional and structuring function, together with the correlating function that generates the space itself, saturated with rhythms, that is to say with temporal guidelines.
And it is not in vain that José María Yturralde has made such parameters clearly his own – both in theoretical reflection and in artistic practice – converting them, for this reason, into clearly protagonists of his work. In the end, all structures, when incarnated in plastic form, penetrate per se into four-dimensional interplay and assume responsibility for it. And, conversely, those same space-time coordinates – if they go beyond their conceptual abstraction – also need to be anchored, empirically, in the concrete genesis of forms, becoming an inescapable condition of their possibility.
Without doubt these are the keys to the horizon in which the various stages in the artistic itinerary of José María Yturralde have moved for many years. But at the same time, in this rapid journey that we are making, we come across another aspect which is no less relevant. We refer to the universe of colour, regarding which our insistence will not be out of place if we pay sufficient attention both to its character of “quality” and to its own “relational capacity”, since – if while is certain that its aesthetic presence may activate both facets – it is perhaps in the special treatment that it receives, in the regulated constructive language, that these two dimensions of the broad chromatic stock are most explicitly put forward and differentiated.
However, in our underlining of the aforesaid duality we do not wish to establish a theoretical opposition between quality as something immediate and sensual, and relationship as an exigency of mediation and intellectuality, although it is true that on more than one occasion this posture has been maintained in the theoretical context of aesthetics. In fact, the strength and intensity of an artistic product depends, generally speaking, on the complete interpenetration of the qualitative and the relational, on all levels. And even more so when dealing with the chromatic domain itself, whose joint action – quality/relationship – is inextricable within the specific aesthetic experience, although – naturally – it bears close analysis from other methodological approaches.
Not in vain does the action of any one of our senses include attitudes and dispositions that owe themselves to the organism as a whole. And for this reason the energies that belong to the organs of our sensibility interact causally – we could say – with the thing perceived. It is not, then only the visual apparatus, but the whole organism that is in interaction with the artistic offering – and with the environment, in every action – except in the perceptive routine. So the splitting up of quality/relationship in the aesthetic experience is unthinkable – and especially so when it comes to chromatic interplay – as a total organic resonance is already profoundly involved in perception itself. After all, are not perceptive experiences of colours always accompanied by implicit and simultaneous reactions from many other organs, such as those of the nervous system or the tactile organs, for example?
This aspect – here afforded only a mere mention – is of considerable interest, along with the other aforementioned matters relating to pictorial space and those regarding the geometrical fundament and its respective temporalization, all of them converted into fundamental points for reflection, when it comes to approaching analytically and examining some of the suppositions regarding the aspects that are rooted in the pictorial proposals of José María Yturralde.
It is true that in the approaches of a constructive character – in their many forms – can also be found latent a familiar tension; that which is established between plainness and simplicity, and that which regulates the application of these respective principles and generative norms of the series, and the complexity of their specific resolutions. Furthermore, being able in each case, according to the options admitted, to decant – in accordance with the respective programmes – more towards one or other pole of this tension, whether by making explicit the keys of simplicity or on the contrary, travelling towards increasing degrees of compositional complexity.
José María Yturralde, in the set of works now on show, offers examples that can be ascribed to different moments and intervals within that virtual conium, although – to tell the truth – he repeatedly shows certain preferences in favour of the first of the options, contriving different levels of structuring – not only geometrical and spatial but also chromatic -, but always accentuating a clear tendency towards the maximum simplicity, towards the call that the empire of the void represents.
From another point of view, it would be wrong to pass over an extreme that has already been mentioned, on more than one occasion offered as proof by some commentators who have taken an interest in the pictorial itinerary of José María Yturralde. I refer to his consistent efforts to establish an effective and intense marriage between the dimension of sensibility and the regulating manifestation of the rational.
If the normative resources establish the predomination of logic (above all through the structuring components of the shapes), it will be the chromatic instances that clearly – for their part – protect and sustain a certain preference for the harmonies that occupy and invade the surface of his cloths, populating them with a certain lyricism. In the end both the configuring fabric that articulates the geometrical structures and the chromatic changes that come to mutually converge in the direct constitution of the pictorial space, in which perhaps time and the void are nothing but determined connotations which the viewer happens upon, as an obligatory addition.
In reality, it never ceases to be significant that the analytical options, historically starting from the multiple constructive legacies, have periodically reappeared throughout the various stylistic horizons of our century. It is in this way that their contributions have been vindicated, re-read and broadened, accentuating – according to the different approaches – some or other modalities of their structural output.
It is precisely at the heart of this broad diachrony of transformations where – on the back of reflection, order, imagination and sensibility, the works of José María Yturralde have been contextualized and defined, along with other poetics, during the course of the last three decades.
Without a doubt this is an eloquent way to twin resistance with enthusiasm.
José María Yturralde is certainly not lavish in his exhibitions. This means that, in fact, every showing of his works comes almost to be identified with a different phase of concerns and preferences in his pictorial output.It is necessary to recall, once again, those – now almost historic – “impossible figures” of disturbing redolence along with their ever equivocal visual resolution. They seem to arise from mysterious spatial networks, generating an enigmatic multidimensional universe. They defended their rotund and fictitious volumetrics with such intensity and autonomy that they effectively ended up claiming independence from the plane of the representation to take on an existence apart, so becoming flying objects that escaped towards the interplay of spaces that so much appealed.
Then, following an excessive silence, in 1986 the Fundació Caixa de Pensions – at its headquarters in Valencia – offered us the return of the pictorial works of José María Yturralde. Fantasy and sobriety combined perfectly with the predomination of geometry and large areas of colour, in that exhibition which, not for nothing, was generically titled “spatium temporalis”. And the fact is that, beyond the appropriate quote that reminded us of the necessary temporalization that our gaze performs – and develops – upon the surface of the works, in that specific case it was also a question of appealing to an internal temporality within the composition itself, in the form of tension or staticness, contrasting or graduated vibration of light, virtual movements or balances frozen to the utmost degree.
Those curious temporal games came to be as “winks” of complicity aimed at the forewarned viewer, but without outraging him. Merely indicating to him, in this way, that behind the structures pulsated a whole coded world of multiple visual experiences that it would be fitting to de-code, as well as contemplate.
The geometry was adorned with colour. The chromatic field was structured, taking over the pictorial space, inundating it and taking hold of it to transfigure it into interminable perceptive games. So lines sprang up which were simply “limits”, meeting points that traced the unevenness between the virtual planes, scales that defined – strictly with their vibration – gradations of light or series of bands that engendered – by addition – families of forms of a stark structural charge.
In reality, only a few simple elements dared to activate those surfaces; lines converted into colours – lights capable of imposing their importance and of opening scales of chromatic gradations around them, only the occasional referential guideline – from the very titles of the works – seemed to point to certain interpretative possibilities, as a guide to snare the reader: “horizon”, “landscape”, “sunset of time”. They were like the beads of a rosary to accompany the reflection that might ensue.
Almost five years later, José María Yturralde – now connected, in those days, to the Theo gallery in Valencia – resumed the thread of his pictorial discourse, highlighting simultaneously a certain continuity and other thematic radicalizations. In fact – both at the end of 1990 and in his later exhibition in 1993 – continuity was achieved as he reassumed, almost didactically, the point marked by his preceding pieces and converted it into the starting point for later works. It is as if he wanted the spectator to understand better the meaning of his new incursions by starting conceptually and visually from his previous achievements.
Thus, the large areas of colour, more or less neutral, tempered by the fluctuating or directional order of the simple structural elements that compose them, become increasingly radical and bare themselves in order that – from there – they might establish other limits, other tensions in the field of the void, where – upon the surface of the colour – the apparition of any tension, of any relational element creates empty space.
From reflection on time to meditation on space. And from this to dialogue with the void. Such have been, putting it plainly, the particular stages of his latest itinerary, justly measured at the rhythm of his corresponding exhibitions. It would even be appropriate to give a double process-based reading to the intention that is put into practice by José María Yturralde – and which is more evident if the works are related in series - , interpreting such a process in opposite ways; the fields of colour are gradually emptied of elements to the point of tracing the limits where the void and infinity are metaphorically identified: or conversely – as a mysterious representation – the elements gradually penetrate the scene to generate forms, among equivocal or insinuating references to the square, and to postulate once more, in their analytical and constructive poetic, an intense homage to geometry and to colour, which would be impossible without the prior spatial-temporal knowledge that ensures their existence.
However, precision, which José María Yturralde is always keen to display, has never ceased, in all of these stages of his, to make room for the elusive, which perhaps only negatively could be defined as the admitted preponderance to the non-centre, the non-vertex, the non-principal directions, which - breaking loose of their role – can astutely assume other substitute or complementary functions, playing at being displaced centres, simulated vertices or vectorial directions in their respective functions. This is the game, the visual trap that is most commonly propitiated in his latest proposals.
Displacement, destabilization, evasion, a genuine trilogy of conscious and voluntary imperatives, self-imposed. But without in the least renouncing, for all that, his pictorial home territory of detailed, elegant and subtle ordering and maximum control. Giving, to be brief, another turn to the secret screw of his obsessions, seeking new directions in the space of virtual representation, which are suggested to him by that same tour de force, which establishes itself.
Is it not perhaps a question of destabilizing the points of maximum tension presented by the networks and obvious rhythms of his paintings, by lightly shuffling them? Creating norms in order to immediately be able to play at transgressing them. Perhaps for this reason the compositions of José María Yturralde always approach a desire which is in itself impossible, imperceptibly combining tensions, forms and colours, immersed in an unstable silence, but where, in spite of everything, geometry executes its dominion in the midst of that same calculated impossibility.
Yturralde has always been in dialogue with poetry, between the maximum precision and subtle divergence. Perhaps it is that simultaneous and opposite duality that is the true origin that justifies and give full meaning to the persistent aristocracy that, elegantly, impregnates his forms.
ROMÁN DE LA CALLE
Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory
University of Valencia